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It’s time to get those deer rifles ready

November 7, 2009
By Kenneth Cobb

The deer buck gun season opens on Nov. 24. According to the forecast, we are going to have some good weather in the next few days. This would be a good time to get out to a shooting range to zero in your favorite deer rifle(s). The three public shooting ranges in this area are usually less crowded this time of the year.

Sighting in a heavy centerfire rifle may seem like a difficult task for a new shooter, particularly a rifle with a telescopic sight. To ease this burden, the new shooter should take his or her rifle to someone who has a bore collimator or bore scope.

Before going to the shooting range, people need to get themselves prepared. Try to stay as calm as possible. Avoid drinking large volumes of coffee, tea and certain soft drinks that promote anxiety. When a person aims at a target, they should simply try to relax. I have found out that being comfortable is necessary in order to shoot a tight group.

After getting the riflescope bore sighted, it is time to make that trip to the shooting range. The vast majority of deer taken with a firearm in this state is usually under 100 yards, and most deer hunters will usually try to sight in their rifles at this range. The first few rounds should be test shots at about 25 yards. After three to five shots, check where the bullets are grouping. Make the necessary adjustments with the crosshairs on the scope. After adjustment, if the shots group at the point of aim, then it is time to move out to 100 yards.

From my own experience, I have found out the shots will still be off somewhat. On most riflescopes, one click is equal to 1/4 inch at 100 yards. If the rifle is grouping one inch to the right and two inches low, then adjust the scope four clicks to the left and eight clicks up. As long as there are no fliers and a group of three to five shots can be covered with a nickel, the rifle should be considered ready for hunting.

One big mistake a large number of deer hunters make is their choice of ammunition to hunt with. I do not know how many times I have heard this statement, "I sight in my rifle with reloads, but I only hunt with factory ammunition."

When a person sights in their deer rifle, they should use the same ammunition they plan to hunt with. Not all ammunition performs the same I every rifle. Ballistics can vary considerable with bullet designs, weights, different manufacturers, even lot numbers on the ammunition. I know some hunters like to sight in their rifles with military ammunition. This is a big mistake.

Several years ago, I was trying out some old military ammunition in a 30-06 semi-auto rifle. The week before, I had sighted this rifle using Winchester's 125-train pointed soft point bullets to be used for groundhog hunting. The rounds were really shooting well. The military rounds were grouping about ten inches low and way to the left. At first, I thought something was wrong with my scope, until I fired one of the 125-grain rounds. The light bullet load was right on target. This is just a mild example of what can happen when a shooter changes to a different type of ammunition. Now before I go any further I need to say that I do not recommend using military ammo or the 125-grain factory loaded bullets for deer-sized game. This factory load is just too light and a deer hunter could easily end up having to chase a wounded animal.

For deer hunters, there is one thing they have no control over, and that is the deer. The one thing they can control is their shots. By going to a shooting range to sign in their rifles and practicing, it will make all deer hunters better shots and better sportsmen.

The three public shooting ranges in this area are:

1. Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area - This is located six miles north of Philippi, off U.S. Routes 219/250 on County Route 10.

2. White Horse Center - This is located 10 miles north of Buckhannon, off State Route 20 at Peeltree.

3. Stonewall Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area -This is located three miles east of Interstate 79 from Exit 91.

Another public shooting range is under construction in Kumbrabow State Forest, but I do not think it will be completed before the deer season due to all the inclement weather we have had this past summer.



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