Time to get ready for hunting season

In my last column I stated that the hunting season for this area (greater Randolph County) will start on Sept. 8, with the opening of the statewide squirrel season. This is just a measly five weeks away.

Chances are, when this day arrives, we could still be in the heat of the summer. The leaves will be heavy, which will make the bushy-tails difficult to locate, and the biting and/or stinging insects will be prevailing.

Now is the time for the bow hunters to be getting their archery skills tuned up. The best time of the day to be practicing would be in the early morning (7 to 9 a.m.) or the late evening (7 p.m. to dark). This is when the temperatures will be the coolest.

The same also holds true for the small-game hunters who enjoy hunting with a .22 rim-fire rifle like myself. My favorite squirrel rifle has not been fired since November. In the next few days I would like to get this rifle to the shooting range to check out the sight-in along with one or two other shotguns to see how they pattern with the ammunition I would like to use this fall.

It was about two weeks ago when I was talking to a father and his high school teenage son. The young man was very eager to get to a shooting range to try out his great-grandfather’s .270 Winchester rifle that he had just inherited.

The boy’s father then told me in a chuckling manner, “I doubt if he will have enough time to do a lot of hunting this fall, because he is active with high school athletics.” From just looking at the young man it was already obvious that he is football and basketball material.

The father went on to tell me that the old rifle had not been fired for several years, but it has been well taken care of since it was purchased in the mid-1950s. I recommended that they take the rifle to a sporting goods store and have the telescope sight checked out with a bore collimator or bore scope.

When we start getting these cool evenings in August, it is an excellent time to think about sighting in your center-fire rifles for big game hunting. In four of the southern counties in West Virginia, the black bear gun season will open Sept. 1, and will run through Sept. 16. During this special early bear season, bears may be hunted with or without dogs.

Once the telescopic sight has been bore-sighted in for 100 yards, it is now time to go to the shooting range. Start shooting at the 25-yard distance. Try to mount a 100-yard paper target that has a large black bulls-eye.

From my own experience I have found that being comfortable is very important to being able to shoot tight groups. Try to relax so your muscles don’t cramp or tighten up. During the Summer months bring some insect repellent in an aerosol can so the mosquitos and gnats don’t start being a problem.

When seated and comfortable, I usually fire three shots to see how the rifle groups. At 25 yards using a center-fire rifle, groups should be tight to where they can be covered with a penny. If they are off-center, make the necessary scope adjustments and try again.

When I get the scope to where the shots are grouping in the center, then it is time to go to the 100 yard range. Here is where I use a standard 100-yard paper target. Always sight in the rifle using the same type of ammunition that you plan to hunt with. Sighting in a rifle that is chambered for the .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, or a .30-06 Springfield using military ammunition and then hunting with another brand of sporting ammunition will often lead to sight-in problems.

Always remember that various types of ammunition will sometimes group differently in certain rifles. For example, I have a .30-06 semi-automatic rifle that is very partial to hand loads using military casings and it does not like Winchester factory loaded ammunition at all. There is no known explanation for this. Here is one of the reasons why I have hunted with a .308 Winchester butt-action rifle in the last few years.

If the shooter can keep his or her shots inside the 9 ring at 100 yards on a paper target, chances are the rifle is ready for the deer firearms season. Keep in mind that the vast majority of whitetails taken with a firearm in West Virginia are between 50 to 75 yards.