Spending Quality Time With Your Rifle

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We all know we need to practice with our rifles before the season starts (and this goes doubly for bowhunters!) It's the only way we can pull off those hard to hit shots. Without extreme amounts of luck, most shots at a moving animal are failed attempts. There are lots of factors that go into these shots and a combination of small miscalculations can result in a complete miss or worse... a poor hit.

This weekend, I used a 20 mph wind with strong gusts to see how much wind drift I'm getting out of the load I shoot in my .243. It's a sizeable amount too! The wind drift at 100 yards was approaching one Mil in my mil dot scope, which is 3.6 inches! At 200 yards, I was missing prairie dogs by FEET when there was a good gust. I learned that the effective range of my rifle is limited in those strong winds. If forced into a windy shot situation, I will have to use responsible judgement and only take shots to 200 yards max at a deer. (my 30-06 is a much different situation) whereas, in still atmosphere, I'd be comfortable taking a 300 yard headshot on a doe. I wasn't fully aware until this experience that I would have to limit my range. I am glad I took the opportunity to learn it!

I do know that I will be using both an 80 gr hornady g-max and a 100 gr hornady interlok in my rifle. In a windless situation, the g-max was THE bullet of choice, but the 100 grain bullet dominated the windy dog town... and produced carnage previously unwitnessed before in this prairie dog community.

This just goes to show me again the importance of shooting often and shooting in less than controlled circumstances. I would never have learned that at our rifle range, and I am more confident in my ability for having taken the time to shoot on a crappy day. We should all make the effort to spend quality time and develop our skills because you never know what hunt it will pay off on!

This summer, I have a list of other situations to practice as well, just to put some ideas out there for everybody.

I'm going to practice shooting with an elevated heart rate (I will do some sprinting, then run to the shooting bench and fire 2 shots and keep repeating this until I can hold a respectable off-hand group at 100 yards.)

Then I will practice shooting in uncomfortable situations (leaning heavily to one side or another) and whatever else I can dream up between now and then. Good shootin' and good luck!


niceshot_smitty's picture

I know my rifle so good that

I know my rifle so good that it gets shot every weekend, because you never know when its going to be windy, snowing, raining, hot, cold, dry, wet, ect....  I also like trying new loads in my rifle.  Sometimes you find better loads, sometimes you don't.  I like my load i have now.  120 gr bullet out of my 6.5x284 norma.  1/4inch group at 500 yards on bench and 1 inch group off hand.  4 shot groups.  I also always like to see if i can call in a coyote. 

4point_'s picture

i have had bad experince of

i have had bad experince of not siting in my rifle real good.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Years ago in my younger day I

Years ago in my younger day I killed a small buck but I had made a very bad shot.  So I had the unforuntate please of having to finish the deer off with a knife.  I will tell you that I have killed my share of animals, but that one still to this day sticks with me as I never wanted to the animals suffer so much.  From that day forward I have always spent alot of time at the gun range and even more time at the bow range.  That first summer after killing that buck I bet I shot close to a 1000 rounds between 5 different rifles to get them all sighted in real well and at the sme time to give me alot more trigger time and I must say it has heled so much.  I have not lost animal or wounded since then...all quick clean recoverys.  I still go out at shoot at least 200 rounds a summer thru my primarly guns and then a few thru the back ups.  As far as the bow goes I try to shoot atleast a 100 arrows a week.

groovy mike's picture

This is good advice all around that we should all adhere to.

Ndemiter – you are right. We all know we need to practice before the season starts. I commend you for getting out there early and checking the wind’s effect on your load of choice. It is worth noting that the wind drift will be different for almost every cartridge. I don’t plan to take shots beyond two hundred yards at all, but for those of you who do, then knowing the winds effect on your bullet is critical for making effective and ethical shots on game at those longer distances. Practicing in field conditions is something that we should all do. As ManoftheFall said – the weather can play a big roll not only when you are talking about wind, but believe it or not with the temperature too. I had planned to use Remington’s Safari Grade ammunition on my Namibian hunt. But when I tested it on a day when it topped eighty degrees Fahrenheit (sp?) I found that the cases of cartridges which had been left in the sun for more than a few minutes before firing stuck in my rifle’s chamber to the point where it was difficult to cam the bolt and extract the fired case. The heat expanded the nickel covered brass cases so much that they were too tight for my chamber. Since I planned to hunt on the edge of the Khalari desert where leopards and lion were known to roam, the last thing that I wanted to deal with was an unreliable combination of rifle and ammunition in hot weather conditions! Arrow flipper is right too of course. Shooting the same rifle while wearing a bulky winter parka, warm hat, and winter gloves, mittens, or glommits (those open fingered flip open style glove/ mitten combinations) is completely different than firing the same rifle on the bench on a comfortable spring day while wearing a Tee-shirt and ball cap. So this is good advice all around that we should all adhere to. Thanks for sharing it guys. Mike

hunter25's picture

i used to spend a lot of time

i used to spend a lot of time like stated in the tip here practicing every possible shooting situation I could think of. The only thing I did not put much thought into was really learning the wind effect or uphill and downhill shots. Those years were the most successful and rewarding when it came to the shots I was able to make. Unfortunately I have gotten lazy and no longer spend the time I need to to have the confidence I once had. After reading this I have have made it my goal for this summer to improve my real world shooting once again as well as getting myself into shape for this fall.

Thanks for the tip, it made a difference.

ManOfTheFall's picture

Being a bow hunter I like

Being a bow hunter I like what arrowflipper said. Try wearing what you will be wearing in the field. I also like to shoot from elevated heights since I hunt strictly from a tree stand. Another thing one may not think about is to shoot at different times of the day, cloudy days, sunny days, wind, rain, any condition that you may be hunting in. Alot of people don't think about the lighting situation but different light can affect your shooting. Thanks for the tip. It was greatly appreciated.

arrowflipper's picture


Thanks for the tip.  I would rather think of it as a good reminder.  It's amazing to me how little some guys spend with the most important part of a hunt.  Guys will spend thousands of dollars on a hunt and spend little to no time getting used to their rifle.  I like your idea of trying different shot situations.  I would suggest several shots at each of them.  You might get lucky on the first one and think you have it mastered.  Most guys hit the range for two or three shots off the bench and then go into the field.

Another idea is to wear your hunting clothing while you practice.  It's amazing the difference between shooting in a t-shirt at the range and in a heavy coat in the field.  I practice in full gear with my bow as well.  It just makes good sense.

Thanks for the "reminder" to become proficient with our weapon.  It could be the difference between a happy ending or a winter of frustration over a miss of the biggest animal you've ever seen.