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I titled this article Sighting In Your Rifle For Big Game Hunting but the same concept applies if you’re hunting with a bow or even a spear! Whatever method you choose, you need to sight in your choice of weapon PLUS become proficient. If not, at best you will miss and at worst you will wound an animal.

Nothing kicks you in the stomach like wounding an animal and not finding it. That makes you feel like wrapping your gun/bow around a tree and quitting hunting.

Once I took a buddy black powder hunting to my honey hole. He missed 10 or 11 shots. I finally figured out that he hadn’t even sighted in his rifle. It is crazy to spend all of the money, take vacation, and work so hard to get into the position to take a shot and not be prepared for it. It surprises me how many people don’t really sight in their rifle so let’s cover that today.

* To begin, you need to have a good rest so you can obtain a good group. Leaning over the hood of the pickup won’t cut it. You may be thinking well, I don’t have a bench while hunting. Duh, no kidding. What we’re talking about right now, though, is getting your rifle sighted in, not how to shoot free handed.

Take a card table, chair and some Caldwell sand bags to shoot off of and go out to the desert and find a good backstop. It’s best to not have any wind but that day will never happen so try to go when there are minimal winds. If you have a rifle that kicks like a mule use a Caldwell Lead Sled or a Caldwell Hydro Sled. That way you won’t flinch. Also wear double ear protection to prevent flinching.

Shoot three shots to determine your group and then adjust the scope/sights. If you’re not getting a good group then you need to determine the cause. This can be caused by multiple things so you have to systematically eliminate each cause.

1. Scope is loose.

2. Scope mounts are loose.

3. Rifle is no good.

4. After multiple shots a thin barrel will heat up and you’ll lose your accuracy.

5. You could be using the wrong brand/grain of ammo.

6. Rifle barrel is dirty. Non gilded metal bullets shoot best out of a clean barrel. Your groups will widen as the barrel gets dirty. Clean the barrel and watch your groups tighten up.

7. You’re a horrible shot (OK, had to throw this one in for humor).

8. May be other causes but this list is pretty inclusive.

Let’s say you’re getting a good group but it is off to one side. Make adjustments and shoot again. Or, to save ammo have someone hold the rifle steady on the rest. Have them hold the crosshairs on the bullseye and you click the adjustments until they are on the bullet hole. It should now be on target.

Ammo can vary greatly between manufacturers. Brand X may be 2 inches low and Brand Y is 2 inches to the left.

You have to sight in your rifle for whatever brand of ammo that you’re going to be shooting. Also, for whatever reason, some rifles like certain ammo. I’ve had good luck with Hornaday and Nosler. For pellets JSB is the best with Sig Sauer & Benjamin right behind them.

Also, you need to figure out which grain bullet shoots best in your rifle. For instance, everyone will tell you that 165 grain is the best size for a 30-06. Sure, 180 or 220 grain is better for moose as far as killing properties but they won’t be as accurate. But is it still accurate enough to shoot in your rifle? Maybe for up to 150 yard shots? Experiment. In your .223/5.56 according to the twist of the rifling certain grain bullets will shoot better.

Don’t be bashful. Call the gun manufacturer and ask them which brand of ammo and what grain is the most accurate in your rifle. This may save buying a lot of different brands of ammo. It constantly amazes me as to how ammo varies. I remember one time I was testing out different ammo performance in a Mossberg Patriot 30-06. I had 15 or so different boxes of ammo to test. It varied widely but a couple were definitely the most accurate.

Next, set up targets at 50, 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. How long are you comfortable shooting? The rage now is long range shooting but in all actuality, 400 yards is a long shot.

Figure out what you are comfortable at and limit yourself to no further shots. Practice so you know how much to hold over and either carry a range finder of learn to judge distances.

My buddy Ron Spomer teaches a system he calls … I can’t remember the exact terminology but it is something like “Point Blank Shooting.” He teaches to sight in your rifle at 200 yards then if you aim at center mass — anywhere from 50-400 yards — you will have a dead animal.

You have to come to the realization that just because you can see them doesn’t mean you can shoot. Especially when hunting down in the Owyhees. I’ve seen a lot of elk wayyyyyyyyyy out there. There was no cover to sneak closer so I was sunk. That’s life.

Well, there’s a lot more that we could cover but that’s some of the basics to get you started. Good luck.

  • A good rest is a good stable table to shoot off of and sand bags (when sighting in your rifle at the range). If you’re up hunting a good rest can mean you had a strong limb to lay your rifle on or a rock and you laid your backpack on top of the rock and were able to get steady so you could make a good shot.
  • The group means the bullets all are close together. So let’s say you take 3 shots. You don’t want one on the bullseye, the 2nd shot 6 inches high and the 3rd shot 10 inches to the right. Then you’d worry where the bullet was going to actually hit. You want them all w/in 1 inch of each other (or better yet, all bullets touching). Even if the group is 4 inches low, no big deal if it is tight. Just turn your scope 16 clicks and it should now be on the bullseye.
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