Pre-Season Scouting is Important
The fall hunting seasons are underway, and now is a great time for hunters to scout favorite hunting areas and to sight in their firearms to ensure they are on target when they go afield, according to Paul Johansen, Assistant Chief of Game Management of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR).
Most species of wildlife change their behavior and movement patterns in response to the availability of food. Hunters who take the time to scout their hunting areas and locate food sources before the season opens will greatly increase their chances of successfully harvesting game. As the highly nutritious acorns and other natural wildlife foods ripen, wildlife will concentrate where these food sources occur.
During the 2010 fall season there was an abundant acorn crop and deer, turkeys and bear left the fields to feed on acorns on the far ridges. Hunters who depended on watching fields or feeders did not have much success. Hunters who scout early and locate sources of natural wildlife food will have a much greater chance of success. Pre-season scouting is an excellent way to spend days afield with a young person to teach him or her about the outdoor wonders of West Virginia.
“Early fall is a pleasant time to visit a shooting range, and public shooting ranges are normally less crowded during this time of year,” said Johansen. “I encourage adults to use this time to introduce our youth to the enjoyment of shooting and to use this opportunity to instruct youngsters in the methods of safe gun handling.”
To properly sight in a firearm, hunters should use a safe shooting range, a solid shooting support and a few basic shooting techniques. A shooting range should have a safe backstop and be at least 500 feet from any residence or place where people gather. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) maintains many public shooting ranges statewide, and these facilities are excellent places to sight in a firearm. The location of these ranges can be found on the WVDNR website at www.wvdnr.gov.
Preparation Important for Upcoming Hunting Seasons
While sighting in a firearm, the firearm should be solidly supported on a sturdy shooting bench using sandbags or a commercial shooting rest. Always place the fore stock of the firearm, not the barrel, on the support. Stock and sight mounting screws should be checked for proper tightness. Be sure that the ammunition is the correct caliber for the firearm and sight in with the ammunition that will be used for hunting. Several different brands and types of ammunition may need to be tested to determine the one best suited for a particular firearm.
Always wear proper eye and ear protection when shooting and be sure other persons nearby are also wearing this protection. Try to time your sighting-in sessions so the sun is not shining directly into your face or onto your sights. A sandbag placed between the rear of the stock and your shoulder will greatly reduce felt recoil of heavy recoiling firearms. Assume a comfortable shooting position so your muscles are relaxed. Position the firearm’s sights on the target by adjusting the support so the support holds the firearm on target with little or no effort on your part.
Relax, take a deep breath, slowly let the breath out, and then smoothly pull the trigger with the pad of the shooting finger when the sights are properly aligned on the target. Be careful not to use the joint area of the shooting finger and do not jerk the trigger in anticipation of the firearm firing. After firing the shot, follow through smoothly and relax before looking at the target or firing another shot.
Fire a three- or five-shot group, determine the center of the group, and make sight changes if necessary. Follow the firearm or scope manufacturer’s instructions to make the necessary sight adjustments. Fire several more groups and allow the barrel to cool between groups to determine if the firearm is properly sighted in. When you are confident that the firearm is properly sighted in, practice shooting several groups from the various unsupported field shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting, prone) that likely will be used when hunting.
“Proper pre-season scouting and going afield with a properly sighted-in firearm will enhance your enjoyment of hunting in the Mountain State,” Johansen said.
For more information about hunting seasons, visit www.wvdnr.gov.