You’re ready to hit the great outdoors this fall and bag a big buck, but there are some steps that you need to take before you start packing your truck for hunting.
Sighting in your deer rifle will help you avoid a messy kill — or missing completely. Deer are notoriously cagey creatures, and can often hear the slightest sound or scent — sending them heading off in unpredictable directions before you’re able to complete your shots. This makes it critical to ensure that your rifle is accurately sighted in before you head out.
Fortunately, there are only a few steps that you need to take on the range and at home before you’re ready for a relaxing morning of hunting. These step-by-step instructions will have you hunt-ready in no time!
1. Calculating Maximum Point-Blank Range
You may not realize it, but each weapon has a maximum point-blank range, the range at which you can hold the center of your sight on a target in order to achieve a lethal hit. The average vital organs area of a deer that allows you to get a clean kill shot is approximately 10 inches in diameter. The simple way to sight in your scope is to place an X in the center of a 10-inch diameter light-colored paper plate, and then adjust your scope so you’re hitting the X at 200 yards (or your preferred shooting distance).
2. Determining Your Zero Distance
Do you prefer to go for a close-up shoot, or are you more comfortable with up to 300 yards? Your comfort level distance also helps determine where you should sight in your rifle. Many hunters stick around the 200-yard distance, where a bullet stays within 3 vertical inches of dead center. As bullets travel further from your gun, they will drop slightly due to the pull of gravity towards the earth. Flat loads work particularly well when aiming for the 200-yard to 250-yard range. If you’re shooting with a 30-30 load, you’ll find that the steep arc of the bullet will have you significantly off the mark at only 250 yards.
3. Watch Your Benchrest
If you’re using a benchrest, even the most subtle pressure can throw off your bullet as it speeds down the barrel. Be sure that you don’t have anything that could clamp a free-floating barrel — a sandbag is best to rest your barrel on to reduce the possibility of warping, which could impede the bullet’s path. Clamping your buttstock could also cause some problems, so keep it resting gently against your shoulder or on another sandbag. Hold your weapon securely, but loosely, as unwanted pressure from a firm grip can also be disastrous to hitting your bullet’s final destination due to the torque involved with a tight grip. Finally, breathe when you’re squeezing the trigger to reduce the possibility of a painful jerked reaction to a recoil.
That’s it! Once you’ve stepped through these tips, you should be ready to enjoy a day (or early, early morning!) of hunting. Don’t forget your reflective clothing, and always stay on the lookout for other hunters and civilians.
~ Firearm Daily