In the weeks leading up to rifle season, you can hardly find a range that doesn’t have a waiting line—most hunters are pretty good about checking their zero from season to season. But after that pre-season bench session, many of us will hunt the rest of the year without visiting the range. That’s a bad idea.
A couple of years ago, I was hunting with a good buddy who is an exceptional shot. We were a half mile apart and it was a great morning. When a rifle shot rocked across the bottom, I knew my buddy had scored. Three shots later, I unloaded my rifle and headed over to his stand, thinking we had all the dragging and skinning we could handle. When I arrived, he was standing there with a very perplexed look on his face. He had fired four shots at three different deer without cutting a hair.
“I have missed a deer in a decade,” he said, looking at this rifle the way Caesar must have looked at Brutus. Missing a deer, the entire deer, was so anomalous, we made a trip to the range that morning. He fired three shots and we couldn’t find them through the spotting scope. The rifle was shooting nearly a foot and half high at 100 yards.
This and a couple of other bad experiences have led me to believe that a mid-season check of your rifle’s zero is a good thing. Scopes, mounts, ammunition and rifles are as good as they could possible get, but sometimes things go wrong.
You wouldn’t think of skipping a range session after flying with your rifle. Airplanes and baggage handlers are tough on your guns, but so is the average hunting trip. Just this weekend, I was working my way up a tree in my climbing stand and needed to get pretty high to see over a small sweetgum. In my zeal to obtain this lofty perch, I didn’t realize that I had climbed up higher than my pull-up rope was long. I heard a solid “thunk” and looked down to see my rifle bouncing off the base of the tree. Not good.
A checking your rifle’s zero probably takes just 30 minutes. You will know if you are still perfect with just two or three shots and the practice will probably do you some good. I really enjoy shooting, so this gives me an excuse to go shoot some more.
If you can’t stand the thought of punching paper, there are several companies that make laser boresighters which can be used to check your zero. But remember, where a boresighter points and where you point are usually two different places. It’s best to zero the rifle, then see where the laser hits the target. Make a target card that shows where the laser hits the target in relation to your crosshairs and you can easily check your zero without firing a shot.
Misses happen, but you can certainly eliminate the some of the variables that can cause them. A quick check of your rifle’s zero from time to time will help.