Enquirer Herald

Brad Harvey: Are you sure of your rifle?

Although we’re just now in the first full week of this year’s rifle season for deer, I’ve already heard stories of one person’s misfortune of “not finding” a buck they shot.

I also overheard another hunter who had “missed a nice one at about 100 yards.”

Despite the fact that I now hunt primarily with a bow, I’ve spent many a season with a rifle, and I’m willing to bet that, in both instances, the fault lies with the hunters.

For whatever reason, far too many hunters don’t take the time to head out to the range before the start of deer season and check to be sure that their firearm and scope are still dialed in.

They simply pull their rifle from the case and head to the woods on opening day without giving any thought to firing a round or two to be sure that everything is as it should be.

Not surprisingly, many hunters don’t know how to sight in a rifle properly to begin with, so all it takes is one small bump during the course of a season to make matters worse.

Let’s take a quick look at how to do it properly.

Unless you just love throwing money away on ammunition, using a bore sight to be sure that you’re “on the paper” is a must, even if you’re going to start the process of sighting in at a mere 25 yards.

The way that this little tool works is that it aligns the crosshairs of your scope with the center bore of the rifle’s barrel to ensure that both are pointing straight at the same spot.

Although you can carry your rifle into most any sporting-goods retailer and pay them to bore-sight your rifle for you, it’s worth the expense to have your own so that you can carry out the task of sighting any time you wish.

Make sure all the ammunition you’ll be using is exactly the same. Just because it’s a .270 load doesn’t mean that every round of .270 from every manufacturer is going to give you the same result; they won’t.

Sight your rifle in with the same rounds you’ll be hunting with, or there’s really no point to this whole process.

Getting a steady rest

Making offhand shots, as we’re often forced to do in a hunting situation, are definitely not the way to go about taking shots when sighting in.

However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll need to run out and spend a bunch of money on one of the many contraptions in the stores that will hold the rifle steady. Using nothing more than a fold-out card table and several gallon-size freezer bags filled with sand or dirt will do the trick just fine.

Once you have those bags filled, it helps to heavily tape the sealed end with duct tape to keep them from constantly opening.

Simply set your table on solid ground and make sure it’s not wobbling. Place something under one of the legs if need be, and you’ll find that your end results will be just as good as someone who has spent a ton of money on a shooting table.

When it’s time to shoot, you’ll be positioning the sandbags under the rifle so that they cradle it while holding the crosshairs of the scope dead on target.

There’s really no need to purchase targets for this process, but I’ll be the first to admit that the store-bought ones make seeing where you’ve hit much easier from a distance.

You can do just as well with nothing more than a sheet of printer paper and a black magic marker that you’ll use to make a heavy dot in the center.

Keep that marker handy, though, as you’ll be needing it again.

Don’t forget that you need to be sure of everything that lies behind your target. Shooting into a hill or mound of dirt is always safest, and the perfect place for carrying out this process should be found first.

Despite most people considering the 100-yard shot to be the standard for sighting in, resist the urge to start at that distance. Twenty-five yards is plenty to begin with, and making your adjustments at close range is much easier anyway.

Fire a shot at the center of your target and make the needed adjustments on your scope until your bullet is hitting dead center.

Now here’s where that marker comes in handy: If you’ll walk out to your target after each shot and label each bullet hole as one, two, three, etc., you’ll keep yourself from getting confused as you make your adjustments.

Remember: The closer you are to the mark at this short distance, the closer you’ll be when you move out to 100 yards, since any inaccuracy becomes exaggerated as the distance is increased.

Once you’re comfortable with where you’re hitting at 25 yards, slide that target on back to 100 yards and continue shooting, making adjustments as needed.

What you’ll more than likely find at this distance is that, if you were spot-on at 25, you’ll be several inches high now. Unless you’re just incredibly lucky, you’ll still be hitting a bit left or right, but it shouldn’t be so far off that it needs to be moved too much.

Finish up by leaving it an inch or two high at 100 yards, and you should be good for any shot that you take out to about 200.

That’s all there is to it.

Get on out there and make sure yours are hitting where you’re aiming, so that the stories that you’ll be sharing will all have happy endings.