Practice your shooting in the worst conditions

When the mercury’s barely visible in your thermometer and there’s a foot of fresh snow on the ground, don’t just curl up by the fire. Go do some target practicing.

There’s a lot to be said for a roaring fire, a batch of fresh cookies and a warm cup of hot chocolate on a blisteringly cold day. But there’s also a lot to be said for getting outside in weather like that and heading for the rifle range.

If you have an elk hunt planned for late October, and the night before you head for the hills, the weather reports call for two feet of snow and below-zero temperatures in the high country, you don’t call off the hunt. You know that snow’ll push the critters toward you as you work your way into the mountains.

The same’s true if you plan to go coyote hunting on the weekend, but Mother Nature decides to turn the landscape white. The snow actually helps you out, because it records the passage of every animal heavy enough to leave a track. You don’t put the rifle back in the gun safe and put a fresh pot of coffee on. No, you bundle up in your white coveralls and go out anyway.

So why don’t you practice shooting in weather like that? Sure, it helps to have good weather when you’re sighting in your rifle or getting a feel for a new gun. But once you know you can make a bullet land where you want it, get outside in all sorts of weather and see if you can reproduce those results in less-than-optimal conditions.

Shooting in crummy weather can help you with more than just your aim. It also gives you a chance to see if your scope truly is fog resistant, or if it’s going to become useless when the temperature drops and the humidity rises. It’ll also give you an opportunity to practice shooting in the same coat, coveralls, gloves and hat you’ll have to wear when it’s too cold to be outside in anything lighter.

And maybe most importantly, it’ll help you get used to being outside for extended periods of time when it’s cold enough to freeze the coffee inside your Thermos. I don’t know if you can ever get completely used to sitting still for hours on end in below-zero weather, but the more time you spend doing just that, the less it’ll seem to affect you. Go get some practice in the cold. If nothing else, it’ll make coming back in to that hot fire and warm cookies all that much better.