Paul Smith: Let’s talk about something very autumn practical … shooting bullets straight and true. Yes indeed, it’s hunting time again, the season to roam the woods with rifle or shotgun in hand.
Let’s talk about something very autumn practical, not driving nails like last week, how about shooting bullets straight and true. Yes indeed, it’s hunting time again, the season to roam the woods with rifle or shotgun in hand. Thousands of us will be off in the country to harvest a moose, or maybe a caribou, although caribou numbers are way down, and there aren’t many licenses available. Most of us hunters will be chasing moose.
This fall I’m refraining any opinion on what calibre of rifle is most suitable for hunting North America’s biggest game animal, for fear of serious reprisals. I’m joking, sort of, because folks do get mighty riled up about any criticism directed towards their favorite bullet and cartridge. But I suppose nobody would do me harm, just cutting prose, calling me armchair expert and the like. I have favorites but I’m keeping them to myself for now. But wait, this is a safe one. I like the 45-70 govt. There you go. I’m feeling no one will flip about that one. Let’s see.
No matter what you choose to harvest a moose, 30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, 7-mm Remington Magnum, or whatever else, please make shore you have your shooting iron sighted right on the mark. To kill cleanly and humanely, you must place your bullet in the vital heart lung region, an area not much bigger than the cover of a gallon plastic beef bucket. Well, it’s in litres nowadays, but you get the idea.
If I didn’t mention your pet calibre please don’t be angry. There are so many good ones. Most of my moose I shot with a .300 Winchester Magnum, maybe a lot of unnecessary powder burn. It is heavy medicine I think. Why I shoot the big iron is a long story, definitely a full column.
Here’s my philosophy on shooting moose. Don’t shoot any further in the field, than the distance you can hit a beef bucket cover consistently at the range. And have this figured out for all three shooting
positions, standing, kneeling, and prone. You can hit the bull a lot further lying prone on the ground than you might while standing with no rest. The key is to practice and know your abilities and limitations. We all have them.
Equipment also affects the range you can cleanly kill moose from, or hit a beef bucket cover. On opposite ends of the spectrum, maximum killing distance might be achieved with the likes of the powerful .300 magnum, or the super flat shooting 7-mm. These are truly 300-yard rifles in the hands of skilled shooters, when properly fitted with quality optics. Diametrically opposed are the 30-30 Winchester, and my 4570, slow moving bullets with very curved trajectories. Shots might best be limited to less than 150 yards. But these guns have great merit as bush rifles, a pleasure to carry, and lightning quick to the shoulder. There’s more to hunting than making long shots.
Now is the time, if you haven’t already done so, to make a trip to the rifle range, or suitably safe isolated location, to do your final accuracy check before hunting begins. No matter how busy you are, for the sake of the gods of the hunt, do not skip this critical step in the hunting process. Do not take anyone else’s word or assurance on rifle fitness for the field. Bore sighting does not cut the mustard; neither does your own deadly shooting last season. That was a year ago. Screws loosen, stuff moves, and dung happens. The proof is in the pudding. Go out and make sure you can hit that bucket cover from the distance you intend to shoot moose, and in the various positions that you might assume while pulling the trigger. This is the only assurance that counts.
Before you practice field positions, like standing and kneeling, you should test the rifle off something steady, like sandbags. That way you are checking the rifle itself and not your own shooting ability. Shooting off a bench and sandbags eliminates most of the human error in shooting. There is still some, for instance, from the trigger pull and your breathing. A solid rest and low pulse is a good place to start. Don’t do a 100-m dash before firing your shots.
You bench rest your iron and sit your butt behind the rifle. The target is 100 yards out. You pull the trigger smoothly and it breaks crisply between heartbeats. You feel in your soul that the shot is true. You fire three more and then walk to the target for a measure. Wicked, a quarter covers all four holes. The rifle shoots well, but the tight group is three inches to the left and two high of where you intended. Your scope needs adjusting.
It isn’t that difficult to correct an accuracy problem with a scoped rifle. The most important element is the closely spaced group. Bullet holes spread all over the target is a bigger problem, maybe even cause for a trip to the gunsmith. In the scenario above the scope’s elevation turret needs to be adjusted two minutes of arc down, and the windage turret three minutes of arc to the right. Typically each click is a quarter minute of arc, so that’s eight and twelve clicks respectively. No problem, turn the turrets and fire again.
Happy moose hunting and wear bright colours. Stay safe this hunting season.
Do not take anyone else’s word or assurance on rifle fitness for the field. Bore sighting does not cut the mustard; neither does your own deadly shooting last season. That was a year ago. Screws loosen, stuff moves, and dung happens.
Shoot from a solid rest to test your rifle and make adjustments.
Nothing beats confidence in a well-sighted in rifle. PAUL SMITH PHOTOS
Find a natural rest in the woods if you can.