(Originally posted Wednesday, January 02, 2013 11:58 PM)
Now I know what you’re thinking. What is up with this guy – talking about something that is almost a year away? But stay with me for a moment.
People who hunt with archery tackle and with firearms are a distinctly different breed in my experience. First and foremost, they usually are passionate about bow hunting and a little less so about firearms hunting (gun season). Thus, preparation for gun season often takes a back seat. Sometimes it barely makes it into the bed of the truck.
Let’s be realistic. After late bow season, there comes shed hunting time. Then it’s early spring planning for the food plots; then actual planting; then scouting, mounting trail cams, maybe adding another tree stand location. The next thing you know, archery season is here and you haven’t even given your rifle a second thought. So while the rifle guys are thinking about some fall range time, you are already hunting with your bow. And that’s why I choose this time to encourage you to do the preparation while the winter is preventing you from being in the woods.
First priority is a thorough cleaning and preservation of the barrel and action (Break Free ™ is an excellent preservative). While doing this, make sure you check the tightness of the scope mounts and rings. Make sure nothing feels loose and the scope lenses have been cleaned of any debris you may have picked up during your hunting sessions. Then when you store the rifle, store it in a muzzle down position with a soft cloth to protect the muzzle crown and absorb any oil that runs out of the barrel. Most folks store rifles in the upright position. This is the way a gun safe is constructed. But, if you do this, then oil from the action and barrel flows downhill into the stock and bedding area of the action. Over the years if the stock is wood or even some polymers, the oil (or solvent) seeping down will weaken the stock and the rifle will not shoot consistently. This can happen over time and may not be immediately noticeable.
Next, examine your ammunition. Hunting season can involve a lot of loading and unloading of the rifle. This could do some nasty things to your ammo – damage the bullets, drive them deeper into the case (thus producing higher pressures when fired), exposing unsealed primers to moisture (you remember when you emptied the magazine into the snow drift!) , etc.
I prefer to measure the overall lengths of the cartridges to assure they are still in good condition and even fire a few to verify the zero of the scope. If you hand-load, you might want to load a full batch of fresh cartridges and shoot a few to confirm that the scope (or sights) is still properly zero’d.
Then store the ammo in moisture resistant ammo can to protect it from moisture and make sure it is stored in a temperate environment. Temperature extremes are harmful to ammunition.
Having done all this and having inspected and stored your sling and ammo carrier, you should have a properly sighted rifle (or handgun), a sufficient batch of good ammunition and well stored gear, which will enable to get all this out next November, fire a few shots to confirm zeros and head out to your stand for opening day of rifle season in 2013.
Of course you could use your rifle for coyotes or varmints all year, but that’s another article.