Look at your calendar…the hunting seasons are here. You’ve probably got your shotgun tuned up by now, so let’s talk about rifles for other hunting opportunities. It is time to get the “ol’ shootin’ iron” ready. Now is the time to head for the range. A little practice now will help insure you can make that once-in-a-lifetime shot you need to.

Since the majority of hunters in the field today use rifles equipped with telescopic sights, we’ll focus on that. And since the majority of the readers of this article are experienced hunters, I will not bore you with things like how to remove the dust caps from your turrets or which way to turn the set screws to move your point of impact up, down, right or left. You’ve all done it before.

Rifles scopes are one of those things that you need to buy the best your budget can afford. There is a reason you can find one 4-power scope for $50 and another brand for $250. Do your research!

You need to think about the hunting you will be doing. You don’t need a 36-power scope to hunt the river bottoms or heavy timber. You probably can’t see more than 75 yards in such a dense environment, so a lower power scope is in order. I have a 2.5-power scope on one of my slug guns. For where I hunt with this particular gun and the capabilities of this slug gun, the 2.5 power scope is a great fit.

Problems can arise when a new scope is mounted on a rifle. Here are several pieces of advice for anyone adding a scope to a rifle.

1) Verify there are no loose components in the rings or bases. Everything must be tight! If anything moves, your point of impact may change with every shot.

2) Proper eye relief is critical. Having the scope to far forward will cause you to see shadows or a tunnel effect. If the scope is too far back, you may run the risk of getting whacked in the head when the rifle recoils; a condition known as Magnum Eye with veteran shooters.

3) Another problem that occurs is with the hunter who has a new rifle and assumes that he has taken care of everything because his rifle has been bore-sighted. Bore-sighting is a method used to align your scope by looking through the bore at a specific point and then seeing if your crosshairs are set on the same point. This procedure may get you close, but never consider it to be good enough with out testing the rifle on the range. I’ve seen bore sighted rifles that shot great and others that could not hit a full sheet of plywood at 100 yards.

When you do get to the range, I recommend that you begin your test firing at 25 yards. Your target is easier to see at this distance and you are more likely to see where the bullets are hitting than you will be at 100 yards. Beginning at closer distances also allows you to be much more precise with your aiming.

Once you get your rifle shooting nice groups at 25 yards, move the target out to 100 yards, and try to do the same thing. If it shoots well at 100 yards, then practice at whatever range you expect to be making your shots when hunting.

Here is a caution concerning ammunition…use the same ammunition for hunting that you use when sighting-in your rifle. You can’t sight in your rifle with 150 grain bullets and expect it to shoot the same way and hit the same place if you use a 180 grain bullet for your hunting.

Your sighting in process needs to be done from a real shooting rest, not lying across the hood of a pickup. And use real targets to actually see where you’re shooting. Launching rounds across the pasture at a cow pie while lying across the hood of a pick up is not the best way to determine the capabilities of your rifle.

As soon as you are dialed in with your rifle, practice a few off-hand shots. What if you see that bug buck while you are walking in or out from your stand? Can you make a 50 or 100 yard shot without being braced against anything? Practice, practice, practice!

Good luck on all your hunts this season.