Meet­ing moose

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Smith Paul Smith, a na­tive of Spa­niard’s Bay, fishes and wan­ders the out­doors at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. He can be con­tacted at fly­fishthe­rock@hot­mail.com or fol­low him on twit­ter at @fly­fishthe­rock

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.

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