Hunting Season: 5 Tips for Preparing Your Rifle
With big game seasons quickly approaching, now is a great time to start to prepare your hunting rifles for the field. Here are a few basic but always important tips for getting yours ready for the season.
1. Set the sights. Even if your rifle was zeroed in perfectly the last time you used it, you need to get on a range and dial it in, because even minor jostling in storage and transport could have knocked the sights out of true. Scope or iron sights, it doesn’t matter; make sure the rifle is zeroed in between 1.5 and 3 inches at 100 yards to help ensure the big one doesn’t get away when you’re hunting. Many whitetail hunters prefer a 100-yard zero while those who hunt elk or mule deer in more open country might choose a 200-yard zero.
2. Clean it, then foul it. There’s a reason soldiers obsessively clean their weapons. A well-maintained rifle will be more accurate and reliable. Residue left from shooting in the field can allow dirt and grime to work their way into every part of the rifle. Be sure to clean the barrel and all moving parts and coat with a protective gun oil. Then, be sure to fire the rifle a few times before heading into the field for hunting. Most rifles, especially mass-produced ones, are more accurate with a bit of discharge in the barrels to smooth over imperfections in the metal.
3. Use the proper load. Ammo isn’t the place to be looking for a way to save a few bucks. Use premium bullets to make sure you get the knockdown power, and accuracy, you need to optimize your rifle. It’s also important to match your load to the game you’re hunting. Thin-skinned game like deer and antelope need a bullet that expands rapidly yet holds together on impact. Bullet choice for larger game like moose or elk should have a thicker jacket and a bonded core to help with penetration and ensure a clean kill.
4. Weather-proof it. Rust is any rifle’s greatest enemy, so make sure the action is well-protected. And cover the end of the barrel with electrical tape to keep water out and protect from wear and tear while hunting. Avoid duct tape, because the adhesive leaves tacky residue that attracts dirt and can impact bullet path.
5. Check the extras, like slings and stocks. Be sure to make a good visual inspection of the entire rifle, including the stock and sling mountings. Even a minor crack in the stock can be a sign of bigger problems. And the last thing you want is a sling disconnecting and sending your finely dialed sights crashing into some rocks while hunting. While you’re at it, make sure your rifle case is in good shape, too.