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I enjoy all things hunting. From the actual hunt itself to the preparations that go into the hunt. Putting out trail cameras, setting up treestands, blood trailing a deer, and everything else that a hunt entails. The prepping is something that I look forward to mainly because I feel the devil is in the details. Success in the field hinges upon how familiar you are with your equipment and your setup.

Last year I harvested a nice 3.5 year old buck that I kept tabs on throughout the summer. He slipped up in late October and I capitalized on his mistake. However, I was not pleased with the performance of the bullet I was shooting. For that reason I decided to switch up brands and try something new. I took to the range last week and was surprised when the new bullets were way off compared to the older bullets I was using. If I had not patterned the new bullets, and just accepted that “my gun was on last year” then I would have missed any deer past 50 yards.

When sighting in a rifle or shooting a different brand bullet than before, it is best to start off at a 100 yard target or sometimes something even closer. If you have recently cleaned your gun you can expect the first few shots to be “flyers” and probably are inconsistent. After a few shots you will hopefully see your groups begin to take form. Make sure you have a solid, reliable shooting rest as well. If not adjust your scope to what the target is telling you. Once you have your groups dialed in to a consistent grouping, you can begin practicing at longer distances. Be sure to check the chart on the ammo box to see how various distances effects the bullet drop. Keep in mind that while this diagram probably accurate, it’s best to practice and see the result firsthand.

When sighting in a gun it’s best to purchase a couple boxes of ammo. Let’s not forget that after you get your rifle dialed in you need to practice. The most consistent gun in the world is practically useless in the hands of someone who only fires off a few shots once a year. The same applies to shotguns (various brands of buckshot and slugs pattern differently), archery equipment, and muzzleloaders.

You owe it to your quarry to hunt ethically and practice enough that you’re competent with your weapon and can harvest game quickly and ethically. Take a couple of hours one afternoon and ensure that your weapons are dialed in. Remember, the devil is in the details.

Practicing shooting is also great time to introduce young hunters into the sport. Teaching them firearm safety is imperative and practicing at a range provides a chance to enjoy the outdoors before hunting season starts. Using tin cans, shoot-n-see targets, clay pigeons and 3-D targets (for archery) can add even more fun. Never pass on a chance to take a youth into the field and teach them about the lifestyle we love.

Andrew Walters