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How quickly we’ve come to the end of October! Blame it on the rain, but it seems that far too many leaves are already on the ground and the trees are looking decidedly bare. Haven’t got your firewood in yet? Now might be the time to get started!
As always, there is a bright side to every situation. Maine deer hunters are hoping that all the foliage will be off the trees by Saturday (the opening day of the firearms deer season) and, if at all possible, add about 6 inches of good tracking snow to the mix. Mountain hunters may get their wish, but even if it does snow in time for opening day it won’t last long!
I always begin the season with a reminder to hunters that there are two simple things they can do to increase their odds for success: Spend more time in the woods and be able to shoot straight when the time comes.
Year after year I hear the usual sob stories from sports who couldn’t find the time to go or who missed their chance at a nice buck. I just shake my head in wonder. It’s next to impossible to tag a deer if you don’t go hunting, and you won’t hit your target if you haven’t sighted in your rifle. I learned these simple truths when I was 12 years old. Excuses won’t get the job done – you have to make good things happen.
I actually re-learned the “truth” last season when I didn’t get a chance to pull the trigger till the last morning of the rifle season. After a full month of hunting all day every day I had seen only a couple of does. I was seriously thinking about sleeping in that last Saturday but I knew I’d feel guilty for doing so – besides, who am I to give advice if I won’t take it?
As if to prove an old point, I arrived at my chosen spot before daylight and, by 7 a.m., I was heading back to camp with a nice buck at the end of my drag rope.
I have killed many a nice buck on the last day of the season, and I have tagged many more on days that kept most hunters huddled close to the wood stove and the coffee pot. I don’t like being cold and wet any more than the next guy, but I like seeing my deer on the game pole, and that’s what keeps me going out right till the last day.
Phase 1 of successful deer hunting is being there, rain or shine, wind or cold. It’s not always easy and it’s not always tons of fun, but when you do finally end up in the right place at the right time there’s nothing that compares to it. Spend an hour or stay all day, but hunt every chance you get. It can happen any day of the season but it won’t happen if you don’t go!
I congratulate every hunter who puts his time in, but it’s equally important to be able to make the shot when you get the chance. Sometimes the target of opportunity is no bigger than your fist, and if you can’t thread a bullet through the saplings and brush your season may end with a white flag waving goodbye.
The simplest method for sighting begins by tightening all sight and stock screws before you start shooting. Next, fire three shots at 25 yards from a solid, comfortable rest. The holes in the target should be nearly touching regardless of where they strike the paper. Make the necessary adjustments, fire three more careful shots and continue the process till your bullets are hitting dead center. For most “deer rifles,” this will put you on target out to 250 yards if you aim at the middle of the deer directly behind the shoulder. The bullet may rise or fall about three inches within that distance, but you will make a killing shot.
Many hunters consider pie-plate accuracy to be “good enough” for deer, what if you can’t see 8 inches of vital area in your scope? There is too much room for error, especially at longer range. With luck you’ll miss the deer, or worse, injure it, sentencing both of you to a long, arduous day of tracking. I like my deer to be dead when I get to them, and when I place my shot tight behind the shoulder there is no need for tracking or for a second shot.
Sadly, every year I bump into hunters who don’t bother to sight in, forgot to or accepted sloppy results and the outcome is too predictable. They missed, they think they may have missed, they got a little hair and blood or they saw the deer hunch up and run off. None of this is good! We’ll track, we’ll guess, we’ll search high and low till, at last, the hunter gives up. There is no worse feeling than leaving a wounded deer in the woods, and yet the entire drama could be avoided by spending 30 enjoyable minutes at the range.
Each year I sight my rifles to be spot on at 25 yards. It may take two shots or it may take 20, but I don’t leave the bench till I’m satisfied that any miss I make will be my fault, and that any shot I get can be made if I take my time and send my bullet to the right place. Responsibility for poor shooting rests solely on the rifleman’s shoulders, so don’t let anyone else tell you what’s “good enough” for deer. Knowing that you can hit a quarter at 25 yards is a great confidence booster, and when your deer finally shows up you won’t have to wonder (or explain) where your bullet went.
I would love for every reader of the Rolling Thunder Express to tag a deer this season. Hunt every chance you get and be sure your rifle is sighted in. That’s all there is to it!
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