Advocate – Baton Rouge, La.
|Date:||Nov 4, 2004|
Warning! There are only 16 shopping days left before the hunting season.
OK, so hunting seasons have been on since early September, but for thousands of Area 1 and Area 6 hunters, Nov. 20′s opener of the modern-firearms season means hunting season is here to stay for the next three or so months.
There’s new camo to buy, new boots to break in and new scent covers to try.
There’s scouting and stand fixin’ and shooting lanes to clear.
And, there’s that rifle that needs to be cleaned and readied for that first shot at that giant buck you saw last season but could never get in your sights.
Zeroing in a deer rifle – and those slug-shooting shotguns – gives a hunter the best chance of knowing how his or her weapon will perform on opening day.
“Thinking that your rifle will be zeroed in after it sat in the closet or in a gun safe since last January is a big mistake,” Wiley Beevers said. “Scopes and rifles take a beating during the season and get moved around during the offseason.”
Beevers, a New Orleans area attorney and ardent hunter, is a regular on the shooting range this time of year. He sights in dozens of rifles for friends every year.
First things first
Make sure that rifle or shotgun is unloaded before you carry it to a firing range.
Check with hunting, shooting and outfitting shops – the chain stores carry ammo and weapons but have little in the way of expertise – about new bullets available in the caliber weapon you will carry to the hunt.
If you’re hunting with the same ammo you’ve used for years, then make sure you have enough rounds to zero the rifle and make it through the hunting season. Beevers and local gunsmith David Reynerson are big advocates of sighting-in with the same ammo you’re going to use on the hunt.
“You want to know the ballistics of the round you’re firing,” Beevers said. “You have to know what the round is doing at 50 yards, at 100 yards and out at farther distances. You have to know a rifle zeroed at 250 yards (to strike the center of the target at 250 yards), that the bullet fired from that rifle strikes two inches above center at 100 yards. That makes all the difference on a hunt.”
Bullets do not travel in a straight line but in a parabolic path to a target. Most bullets rise from the barrel for as far as 150 yards from the muzzle, then begin to drop.
That’s why veteran hunters like to have their bullets impact two or more inches above the point of aim at 100 yards.
Reynerson said having enough ammo to run the length of the season is important because days of bumping the rifle and scope on a four- wheeler ride or behind the seat in a pickup means you have to zero the rifle periodically during the season, too.
Reynerson said the biggest variable in sighting-in a scoped rifle is distance.
“You can use a rangefinder, or you can measuring distances from the target and use flags to set distances at 50, 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards,” he said. “Then, when you’re hunting you can do the same thing around the stand.” Colored tape can be used to indicate distance from the stand, or you can use natural markers and write them in your stand – the small blackberry thicket is 50 yards and the cedar tree is 155 yards, etc.
At the range
Beevers always shoots to zero from a well-supported position.
A quality shooting bench helps and so do sandbags.
And, remember earplugs.
“Some people think you need a powerful spotting scope to help zero a rifle, but you can get close with a target at 25 yards away,” Beevers said. “At that range, your scope should be powerful enough to see the hole you punched through the target.”
He said the sandbags should support all the rifle’s weight.
After that, Beevers’ and Reynerson’s tips follow well-worn paths:
“Lock” the rifle into the sandbags, then position your body on the shooting bench to “lock” the rifle to you.
Now, with the rifle locked into you, Reynerson said “dry firing” – squeezing the trigger without a bullet in the chamber – allows the shooter to “reacquaint you with the trigger pull (the amount of travel and pressure you have to apply to the trigger to get the hammer to snap onto the firing in).
Dry firing also allows you to determine if the scope’s crosshairs move from the center of the bull’s-eye.
Reynerson said if you have to pull hard on your trigger to get the rifle to fire, then the trigger is “too tight” and trying to squeeze the trigger is impossible.
A tight trigger pull can pull a bullet off target: Trigger pull is measured in pounds.
“I’ve seen some rifles with an 11-pound trigger pull, and that’s way too strong,” Reynerson said. “We try to adjust trigger pull to around four pounds. But I have to warn hunters that most gun manufacturers will void a warranty if work on the trigger mechanism is done by anyone except a factory-authorized dealer or gunsmith.”
Although old timers talk about how dry firing hurts a rifle, most modern rifles can handle this technique.
Continue to dry fire the rifle until the sandbags support is firm enough so that when you pull the trigger, the crosshairs do not move off the bull’s-eye.
“This is where you make or break at deer season,” Beevers said. “The steps are relatively simple.”
Old U.S. Army marksmanship techniques suggests adopting B.R.A.S.S. when getting ready to pull the trigger on a rifle – Breath, Relax, Aim, take up the Slack in the trigger, Squeeze the trigger.
bull’s-eye. The best tip next is to squeeze the trigger. If you “pull” not squeeze the trigger, odds are you’ll pull the shot off the target.
Sight the bullet hole through the scope, then lock the rifle into the sandbags and center the crosshairs on the bull’s-eye. Without moving the rifle, adjust the scope until the crosshairs move from the bull’s-eye and are centered on the bullet hole. Fire another shot at the center of the target. You should be pretty close to dead on at 25 yards.
If you’re not on target with the second shot, then repeat each step until you do.
“It’s real important that you don’t touch the rifle except to pull the trigger,” Beevers said. “Lots of guys think they have to hold the rifle to zero it, but putting the left hand on the rifle will move it, and you don’t want to do that.”
If the gun has some recoil, Reynerson suggests using a pad on your firing shoulder. It can be something as simple as a folded towel or a trip to a quality shooting shop for a new recoil pad.
Next, move to 100 yards from the target, and take the shooting bench and sandbags with you.
Put the scope on its highest power setting and shoot from a solid rest again.
Fire a group of three shots, unload the weapon, and make sure it is, then go to the target.
Modern telescopic sights have two adjusting screws to move the crosshairs in the score. The adjusting screws are for “windage” – side-to-side movement of the crosshairs – and “elevation” – up-and- down movement.
Most scopes’ crosshairs move one-quarter of an inch per click up, down or side to side on a target at 100 yards on.
If your target doesn’t have grid lines, mark a cross with the intersection of the lines on the center of the bull’s-eye. Then, find the center of the three-shot group and measure straight to the vertical line. This will give you the amount of windage adjustment you need. Then, measure up or down to the horizontal line and make the adjustment to elevation.
After firing the three-shot group and making adjustments, allow the rifle to cool. That’s because bullet paths are truer from a cool weapon, and because the shot often taken on a deer is through a cold barrel.
Though most shooters brag about their prowess if they can cover their three-shot groups with a quarter, having all three shots inside a two-inch circle is more than accurate enough to take a trophy whitetail.
For Warranty Repair or to order guns and accessories, go to http://www.Reynersons.com or call 225-261-4860.