Most big game rifle hunting seasons are several months from opening, however, hunters have been planning for the upcoming season for just as long. Testing the odds of the draw system and the weight of preference points with the hopes of being a big game tag recipient. Some hunts require what feels like a lifetime of application in order to draw the tag of a lifetime. Familiarizing yourself with your weapon system components and personal marksmanship ability is the best investment that you can make to notch that tag during hunting season.
Perfecting Your Equipment
The firearm and caliber that you select will deliver a finite amount of accuracy. This level of derived accuracy can at times, be manipulated by your choice of ammunition. Varying ammunition brands, bullet weights, and types can perform differently in each rifle. Now is the time to do your research to determine what bullet performs the best out of your hunting rifle and is appropriate for the game animal that you plan to hunt.
Keep in mind the following:
1” group at 100 yards equates to a 5” group at 500 yards.
2” group at 100 yards, at best delivers a 10” group at 500 yards.
If your group is larger than 1” at 100 yards, consider trying out another bullet weight or type that is acceptable for the big game animal that you are pursuing or simply try another brand. Consistency with your ammunition is critical for precise bullet placement. Every time you press off a round, you want to know that the all of the components of your cartridge and bullet are the same. Hornady ammunition is manufactured with exacting standards, meaning that every bullet is exactly the same, which ensures consistent trajectory to your target.
Each caliber is going to be available in a variety of bullet weights and types. How much your bullet weighs will have a direct effect on velocity. You can either select a bullet that flies very fast and has a lower ballistic coefficient or select a heavier bullet that is designed to retain their energy better at longer ranges making them less susceptible to wind drift due to higher ballistic coefficients.
Select the bullet that is suited for the twist rate of your rifle barrel. For example, if you are shooting a heavy bullet and you are not getting the accuracy that you would like from it, try a lighter weight version of that same bullet. Your twist rate may be to slow to stabilize the longer, heavier boattail projectiles. If you have the option and your barrel twist rate will stabilize a heavier bullet, always select the heaviest bullet offered for your caliber.
If you do some ammunition testing and your groups never reach an acceptable standard group size, then it may be in your best interest to simply purchase a new firearm or have a qualified gunsmith evaluate your firearm to determine what might be causing it to shoot poorly.
Firearms today are manufactured with precision and modern rifles are capable of delivering extremely accurate and repeatable shot placement without spending a ton of money. For example, the Ruger American retails for around $500.00 and often delivers sub MOA accuracy.
The level of accuracy that is derived from your firearm and ammunition combination will be a limiting factor in the ethical distance that you hunt. The other limiting factor is shooter proficiency. (Please refer to my June article for more on this topic.)
Selecting an optic for your intended purpose has never come with more options than it does today. When it comes to selecting an optic for your hunting rifle, we must start with the end in mind. The terrain and type of hunting will help you select the ideal optic for your upcoming hunt.
The rifle scope that you select is going to vary depending on the application to which you are selecting your riflescope for. Taking into consideration if you be hunting in heavy woodlands with close targets, or in vast mountain terrain with steep angles, wind, and possible long shot opportunities. The best optic choice for you will be based on the terrain and conditions of your upcoming hunt.
With optics, you get what you pay for. Always purchase the best optics that you can afford. Inexpensive optics often track well at close distance but somehow seem to fall off track as distances become greater in yardage. Select an optic that has a reputation for delivering repeatable and consistent turret adjustments for both wind and elevation and that provides clarity during low light and/or poor weather conditions. If you are looking for a top-quality rifle scope, take a look at Nightforce Optics new NX8 line-up, featuring ED glass or the price friendly SHV line-up.
Most optics are offered with various reticles. Do some research to ensure that your end use matches the intended use of the optic reticle. If applicable, develop a full comprehensive understanding of the units of measure (MIL or MOA) that each subtension dot or line represents within your chosen reticle.
When it comes to hunting, terrain features can make the reticle within your scope appear crooked on your intended target causing you to adjust the cant in your rifle. Assuming that you have mounted your scope level to the action on your rifle, the addition of an optic mounted bubble level will ensure that prior to breaking your shot, you verify that your bubble is showing level, even if your crosshairs do not look level due to terrain, you are actually sending your bullet downrange level. This will ensure the greatest amount of accuracy possible from your weapon system.
Whether you are at the range or afield, all of the components of your firearm and accessories must be kept in good working condition. When things go wrong, having a well-stocked tool kit is critical to getting you back on target and afield.
A supportive gun case is a must for transit of your rifle. This holds especially true when transporting your rifle to and from hunting areas on bumpy roads into the backcountry. Air Armor Tech’s scope cover protects with air making them easy to take afield protecting your rifle scope in the harshest of terrain without adding a bunch of weight to your system.
There is nothing that will ruin a hunt faster than loose parts with your rifle or scope. If for some unforeseen reason, you have a mishap with a Picatinny rail, action screws or scope rings coming loose, a torque wrench will achieve and maintain factory torque settings. Also, don’t forget to bring along your specific manufacturer recommendations for torque specs on action screws, scope rings, and bases.
Placing a piece of electrical tape over the barrel of your rifle will help to keep it dry and prevent debris from jamming up your barrel. Should you need to remove a barrel obstruction or remove moisture, bringing along a compact cleaning rod and cotton patches to remove moisture or debris from rifle barrel is cheap insurance while in the back country. Also, wrap electrical tape around the butt stock of your rifle a few times. It can later be peeled off and placed over your barrel after you have fired shots removing your original electrical tape.