When the fall of 2018 arrived, I planned to shoot the rifle I would be using during the firearms portion of the Missouri deer season. For many years, I would spend the weekend before the season’s opening day practicing a few shots with my deer rifle of choice. Because it has always been an annual tradition, I use the short practice session to ensure everything is dialed in. However, in 2018, I decided to change things up, using a much smaller caliber for whitetail deer. I had my .22-250 rifle dialed in and shooting great due to using it throughout the summer and early fall while predator hunting. Because I spent most of the hunting season coyote hunting, I was confident with the rifle and decided to continue using it on a mature buck.
On Thursday of the season’s opening week, I was awakened to an inch or two of unseasonable snow, with beautiful fall leaves covered with a thin blanket of white snow. A couple of hours into the cold, snowy morning, I used the white ground to my advantage as I spotted a mature buck trying to cross the field. Against the stark white of the ground, he was easy to see. At approximately one hundred and fifty yards, the buck slowly made his way through the snow with his nose to the ground. Although snow covered the ground, giving the scenery a wintry look, the mid-November rut was still in full swing. I quickly moved my bipods in place, aimed behind the buck’s front shoulder, then gently squeezed the trigger, as I had on several coyotes in the past months. The buck flinched as he was hit, then ran forty yards down the hill before crashing nose-first into the wet snow.
I knew I made a successful shot, even before the buck hit the ground. My confidence level was much higher because I was familiar with my gun and how it performed, along with having a lot of practice before the season. Even though I continue to enjoy the weekend before the season’s annual shooting session, I now spend several days throughout the summer going to the shooting range or at home shooting a few rounds with my preferred deer rifle.
Why do many bow hunters spend most of the summer shooting their bows to be the best archer possible? Yet, the same hunter only shoots their rifle once or twice, the weekend before the season.
As hunters, we are responsible for making the most deadly and ethical shot at an animal possible. Shooting the weapon used during a hunt periodically throughout the summer can reap benefits for the hunter. Hunters often say, “I shot my gun before the hunt,” yet they missed an animal and immediately blamed it on their scope or the gun. Unfortunately, ninety-nine percent of the time, they just needed more practice.
During the heat of the summer is the ideal time to purchase a new rifle or scope for the upcoming fall season. Having several months before the season begins allows the hunter to know how the rifle and optics perform, what adjustments need to be made, and how to shoot that setup to the best of their ability before the season.
Less Crowded At The Shooting Range
After everything is in perfect working condition, the hunter can visit the shooting range periodically throughout the summer to practice their shooting skills. I have always enjoyed shooting a few rounds the week before the season. Yet, I typically must shoot at home because all the local ranges are filled with last-minute hunters trying to get ready at the last minute.
Instead, I have taken range time and made it more enjoyable as a family. My wife, son, and I often go to the local shooting range and enjoy several hours of practice. Recently, I have been using the Walkers Disrupter Electronic Ear Buds to keep my ears protected. Yet, I can also safely communicate with my family due to the hearing enhancement while having only the loud muzzle blast be muted for protection. By the end of the summer, we all have experienced fun family time while sharpening my fall skills.
After spending spare time throughout the hot summer to improve my shooting skills, I have found that my confidence level as a hunter has improved dramatically. I have harvested deer from my treestand and Hawk blinds for the last two years. When a deer has made its way into shooting range, I no-longer second guess my shooting abilities or waste less time before making a successful shot.
In the fall of 2021, I sat inside my Hawk Down & Out Blind on a 5-foot tower. I encountered a mature buck chasing a doe nearly two-hundred yards down a steep hill. I would have doubted my shooting ability in years past and psyched myself out. However, due to spending more time during the off-season practicing instead of only shooting a few times the week before the season, I made the long-distance shot with no problems because my confidence was much higher. Taking aim and making the shot quickly allowed me to bring home an excellent ten-pointer in southern Missouri for another successful firearms season.