Learn your firearm before you go hunting

Published 5:12 pm Saturday, August 17, 2013

Each year many hunters prepare for the hunting season by checking their favorite hunting stores and surfing the web for new hunting gear and the latest gadgets.They may also start preparing wildlife openings and fields to be planted, hanging treestands, repairing/building shooting houses, practicing with their calls, and focusing their minds and energies on participating in the upcoming hunting season.

These preparations are important for a successful hunt, but a hunter must also know and understand their firearm to be a good marksman, and therefore a good hunter. This is true for all types of firearms whether using a rifle, muzzleloader, pistol or shotgun.

Knowing your firearm involves more than just caliber. It is also important to know the specifics such as grain, type/design of bullet, and most consistent brand of ammunition for your particular firearm. Hunters should take the time to learn what bullet types are available and which will suit their specific hunting needs. For example, ballistic tip and other thin-jacketed bullets may be extremely accurate and fast at long ranges, but they have a tendency to disintegrate at close ranges, which can reduce penetration.

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As most deer hunters know, deer often run after being shot, even when the shot is perfectly placed. Without an exit wound, there is often no blood trail to lead the hunter to his harvested animal. Understanding the performance of your ammunition will increase your confidence when making a shot.

The importance of knowing the type of ammunition that is best for a particular firearm and hunting situation is not limited to deer hunters. Most successful turkey and duck hunters routinely pattern their shotguns with different shot sizes, shot types, ammunition brands, and choke tubes to create the desired shot patterns at a variety of shooting distances. Good hunters will test the different types of ammunition and determine which pattern is best in their particular firearm for their own hunting situation.

One of the best ways to learn and become familiar with your firearm is through practice. Many hunters fail to utilize the offseason to practice shooting under different scenarios and conditions. It is helpful to use a shooting bench to reduce human error when sighting in a firearm. However, practicing from different hunting positions will allow the hunter to see how he and his firearm perform under different conditions. And finally, before completing any final sight-in adjustments, it is important to check the screws on scope rings, bases, iron sights and the stock for proper tightness. The condition of the sling and sling mounts should also be checked to prevent a potential drop.

The best way to get familiar with your firearm is to go to the range and shoot it. And not just once before hunting season, but as often as you can throughout the year. Every firearm is unique and it is important for the user to become familiar with it before he or she takes it to the field. Knowing your firearm and ammunition will help give you the confidence you need to make a good clean shot and have a successful hunt.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Article written by Daniel G. Toole, area wildlife biologist, Lauderdale and Seven-Mile-Island Wildlife Management Area.