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Hunters reminded to sight in rifles before deer season

Ruth Wittrock of St. Cloud adjusts the sights on her 30-30 lever action in preparation for deer season. The Lakeshore Rod and Gun Club and other groups with shooting ranges often open up their ranges for non members to adjust their sights before deer hunting opener. Photo by Travis Grimler.1 / 3
Shawn Thayer of Baxter is a member and volunteer with the Lakeshore Rod and Gun Club. Here, he helps adjust the sights for a 30-30 lever action for Ruth Wittrock of St. Cloud. The conservation club, and other local group owned shooting ranges in the area, often open up their shooting ranges to non members just prior to deer season. Photo by Travis Grimler.2 / 3
Ruth Wittrock of St. Cloud sights in her 30-30 lever action in preparation for deer season. The Lakeshore Rod and Gun Club and other groups with shooting ranges often open up their ranges for non members to adjust their sights before deer hunting opener. Photo by Travis Grimler.3 / 3

Keeping hunting rifles accurate is not only important for saving ammunition, it's also the responsible thing to do.

"It's not only right, it makes us look better as hunters to do it right," said Dave Sheley, owner of the Backus Corner Store and Gun Shop.

Injuring deer can be seen as inhumane and reflects badly on hunters, especially if those deer are not recovered. It's also an issue of pride.

"When you get a deer in your sights, you want it to drop when you shoot it. Anyone knows, when you miss one, you live with it for a year. Let's get the gun on target and we know it's up to you," said George Carlton, five-year member of the Lakeshore Conservation Club.

According to local gun experts, spending time sighting in a rifle is also important in recognizing rifle problems with enough time to get them repaired before the season opens, which this year is Saturday, Nov. 8.

"Go out, and that way you can make sure everything works fine. The clip works well. The bolt works well and the action," Sheley said.

"When it comes to sighting in a rifle, do it plenty early so if you run into a problem with the gun you have a month to take it somewhere and have it fixed and reshot before you take it back to the woods," said Mark Young of Young Guns Gunsmithing of Lake Shore.

In the worst case scenario, Young explained that a broken gun discovered just before deer season can leave a hunter sitting out the season opener waiting for it to be repaired, unless the hunter decides to borrow or purchase a new gun.

Sighting in guns doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor. It doesn't require expensive equipment and it often can be done without a professional shooting range, so long as there is some way to guarantee bullets aren't being fired into an area where people could be.

"You need a safe place to shoot with a berm (sand pile)," Sheley said.

Additional gear can make the job easier. Shoot-and-see targets make it easier to see where bullets hit and eliminate the need for expensive spotting scopes or lots of walking. For those who want a little more without the additional expense, local shooting ranges often open up to non-members just before the season opener. At the Lakeshore Conservation Club shooting range, there is a spotter, a gun rest and ranges from 50-100 yards complete with safety gear.

"That's a nice thing because you have solid benches. Leaning over the side of your truck, rolling up your coat isn't your best option. It's better than no option at all, but there are a lot of different vices and gun rests, and those are a lot better. It makes it more solid for you. You get kicked a lot less, and it takes a little of the human error out of it," Sheley said.

Sheley also suggested that hunters practice with the exact same brands and types of ammunition that they plan to hunt with. Using ammunition with varying grains of powder can make bullets shoot much higher or lower. There can be variation even in ammunition with the same number of grains but a different brand.

In recent years, Sheley said specific ammunitions, particularly 243 ammunition, can be hard to find in stock, so hunters should also purchase ammunition early to make sure they don't run out during the hunting season.

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