Well, it's that time of year when the average deer hunter takes his deer rifle out of the closet and off to the range to see if anything has changed since the end of November last year. I went to the gun club Sunday and served on the line in weather that varied between rain and wind, drizzle and breeze, or cool gray stillness. Still we have sixty some guns show up.
My first client was a fella with a 300 magnum bolt gun topped with a $40 variable scope which fell apart immediately. The 25 yard target looked farther away through the scope than with the naked eye and if you looked through it just so it seemed one of the lenses turned sideways inside the tube. He left to buy a quality scope and returned a happy camper (he asked for a Leupold VX-1 but Burris is giving aways a binocular with their 3-9x for the same price).
There was the usual plethora of Remington 76XX and 74XX rifles - true to the rule pumps did fine and the selfl-loaders did not. Some of the best shooting we saw was a father-son team using Browning BARs - 7mm Rem Mag and 30'06 respectively - topped with low steel mounts and quality optics. Both had BOSS blast enhancers [muzzle brakes]. They shot one inch or smaller clusters at 100, acquitted themselves at 200, and went home.
The Hmong hunting crew numbering a half dozen brothers and cousins returned for their annual verification. All but one are running the Mossberg 500 rifled barrel package guns in 12 or 20 gauge. They chew up the bull at 25 and 50, verify the point of impact at 100, and say "See you next year!". They use the fanciest sabot slugs from Federal and Hornady and reported that all but one of them filled the freezer last year. He's the standout in the crew, running a Winchester self-loader rifled bore 12 ga. He missed a magazine full of shots at spitting distance last year and found that his original scope had fallen apart. His luck was no better yesterday; the soft alloy rings on his new Bushnell red dot wouldn't stay tight for more than three shots so he was planning to visit Gander Mountain for a remedy.
Unlike years past there were no pistols or handguns and only one muzzleloader (this shot by a club member who can actually shoot a group at 100 [yards] with a roundball flintlock).
As usual there were a few stern men making life miserable for their wives and sons. One fella insisted his wife pound her way through three boxes of full power 30'06 ammo from the bench at the 50 yard line. She shot as well as he did but did not appear to be enjoying herself at all. Who would? There were a good many dads who said the iron-sight family heirloom was good enough for their first hunt so the boy will make due with it as well. There's something to be said for tradition of course, but why berate them for minute-of-buck groups at 100 yards their first time to the range shooting a center-fire wearing nothing more than a round bead and a U-notch sight set-up? Perhaps these coaches were yelled at while being taught to shoot (which might explain why they, as a rule, are not hotshots themselves) but why can't they figure out that if they make the experience enjoyable and the hunt successful they have a much better chance to make a lifetime hunting partner of their spouse or child? [More on recoil management in a forthcoming post.]
Half my club's annual work requirement is out of the way now. I'll serve at least one more Sunday this month. Seems the closer to the season the stranger the problems become. We'll keep you posted...