Don’t wait — Sight in your hunting rifle now

Don’t put off sighting in until the day before elk season opens. Get out there now and poke some holes in paper.

Take an evening after work this week and go sight in that hunting rifle. I know most rifle seasons don’t open for a while, but that’s the whole idea.

If you have a problem you can’t get worked out, now’s the time to find out about it, while you still have time to take it to a gunsmith. Also, if you take a few shots and figure out you’re a little rusty, you’ll still have time to hone your skills before the season starts.

If you get out to the range and find that your scope’s been knocked more than a little out of alignment, don’t waste a bunch of ammo trying to find the paper. Set up your rifle on a pile of sandbags, or better yet, a gun vise. This only works with a bolt action, but it’s a handy trick. Take the bolt out, and look up the barrel. Line the barrel up with the bull’s-eye, then adjust your scope until the cross-hairs are also on the bull.

Obviously, the closer you are to the target, the easier it will be to bore-sight your rifle this way. You’ll want to do this step at about 25 yards. When you put everything back together and take a shot, it should be close to the center of the target.

Now, move out to the 100-yard target. Fire a three-shot group, and see where it’s centering. You want to adjust your scope so it’s hitting about 3 inches high at 100 yards. Depending on your rifle, caliber, and ammo, that should put a bullet dead-center at about 200 to 250 yards.

The reason for sighting in high at 100 yards is simple. If you’re hitting three inches above where you aim at that distance, you’ll still be in an animal’s vitals. If the critter is farther out, again, you’ll still be in the kill zone.

When you shoot your three-shot groups, give your barrel enough time to cool down between groups. When you’re hunting, you’ll be taking that first shot with a cold barrel. You want to sight in with a cold barrel, too. If you sight in with a hot barrel, you may be several inches off when you take that shot at an elk or deer.

After you sight in, get some practice with different stances and distances. Do it now, well in advance of the season. Come October, you’ll be glad you did.