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Take your best shot into the deer season opener

The stage is set.

You have paid a hefty price to lease a prime piece of Texas real estate in the heart of deer country. You paid another heavy toll in money and sweat setting up a superb deer stand on a ridge overlooking a well-traveled game trail.

On the opening morning of deer season, excitement runs high as you settle into your hunting stand. Just at dawn you look up to see the big buck step out of the brush and stand broadside not 80 yards away. A view of his raised head and wide, gleaming antlers make you realize he is a buck of a lifetime. The cross hairs of your rifle scope settles just in front of the big buck’s thick shoulder. You slowly squeeze the trigger. Boom!
To your horror, the last view you get of the trophy buck is wide, bobbing antlers and his white “flag” as he bounds into the brush line on the next ridge. It had been a clean miss!

Equally humiliating is the long walk back to the hunting camp and having to answer questions like, “I heard you shoot; where’s your buck?” Then comes your feeble answer… “I missed.”

Your next step is to test fire your rifle. Only then do you discover that the scope is off and it is shooting to the right and high . . . really high! At this point, you have to sheepishly admit to your hunting partners that you failed to take the time to sight in your rifle at the shooting range.

It happens dozens of times every deer hunting season.

Many well-meaning deer hunters don’t take the time to take care of one important detail —making sure their favorite rifle is functioning properly and accurately. All the expensive details and hard work of setting up a hunting lease is lost if your rifle is not on target. Other elements such as poor lighting, bad angle, or a nervous condition called “buck fever” can cause a miss. However, making sure your rifle is fitted with compatible ammunition and accurately sighted in can eliminate one potentially blown shot.

Time is short. If you are planning on sitting in a deer stand on the November 3 opening morning, you only have a few days to visit the nearest rifle range. This visit is a vital step in the preparation for deer season.

Most scoped rifles stored since last season in a closet or gun safe will still be accurate, but don’t chance the possibility of an unseen blow to the scope while getting out of your deer stand or a mounting screw that worked itself loose during a bouncing ride in the ranch jeep. A trip to the shooting range can also reacquaint you with your favorite rifle and its recoil after a year s absence.

On a trip last week to Carter’s Country Shooting Range, it took several shots with the Weatherby .270 bolt action before I settled down, regained my composure, and placed a tight group about A” from the bull’s eye at the 100 yard range. This shooting exercise helped restore confidence in my rifle as well as in my shooting ability. A trip to the range will do the same for you.

Before taking your rifle to the range, a few preliminary steps are in order. When you retrieve your rifle from its storage space, be sure to work the action to make sure it is unloaded. A gun owner’s worst nightmare is a forgotten live round that has been hiding in the gun’s firing chamber all year.

Also, take a screwdriver and check all the stock screws and scope mounting screws to make sure they are tight. Next, clean the scope lens of any accumulated dust or spots. In fact, now is a good time to give the whole gun a thorough cleaning and oiling to make sure the action is working smoothly.
The idea of taking your rifle to the firing range is to be able to shoot it in a controlled environment. The typical shooting range set-up provides the shooter with a comfortable and sturdy bench rest, sand bags and earplugs. I prefer the ear muff style-hearing protectors and supply my own. Spotting scopes are also provided so that you can check out each shot and see where it struck the target.

The acceptable range for sighting in a rifle for a whitetail deer hunt 100 yards. With most popular deer calibers, most shooters try to sight in their rifles at 1”-1 1/2” high at 100 yards. This allows the hunter to hold “dead on” for shots to 200 yards.

The concept of bench-rest shooting is to eliminate as many of the human nerves and shakes as possible, snug the rifle stock into the sand bags, and align the cross hairs on the bull’s eye. The idea is to see where the rifle is shooting, not the shooter.
With your rifle properly sighted in, you will be able to make a calm, accurate shot when that big buck steps into the clearing. Unless, of course, you are afflicted with that nervous condition known as “buck fever.”