Five Gun Mistakes to Avoid When Hunting
Derrek Sigler 10.20.20
For most of us, hunting season is in full swing. It’s the best time of year if you’re a hunter and many of us look forward to it all year long. You get into the groove of operating on little sleep, waking well before sunrise, filling up the thermos full of coffee and heading out to the blind, stand, or just into the wild for a spot and stalk hunt. People talk of the fall color, but until you experience it at the first crack of daylight, or the last few moments as the sun sets, there are not enough words to describe it. While we often think nothing can derail one of these perfect days, that simply isn’t the case. If you’re hunting with a firearm, there are some simple mistakes that can lead to big trouble. All it takes is a momentary lapse and you can make a big gun mistake that can ruin your whole season, or more.
A few years ago, I got to go to Gunsite Academy, the premiere firearms training facility in North America. From the moment you walk in the door, you are drilled on gun safety. It is posted everywhere throughout the facility and even in the bathroom stalls. One of the instructors said that we might all think that it was overkill, but he added that everyone, even professionals in gun safety like themselves, needs to be reminded. It needs to be second nature to always accept the responsibility of safety whenever a firearm is around. As a reminder:
- All guns are always Loaded.
- Never point your muzzle at anything you do not wish to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Always be sure of your target, and what is beyond your target.
Simply put, you can not afford to slip up. Not once. The consequences can be dire. Yet, every year, we will all most likely hear of an accident with a bad result. If we all just worked a little harder to avoid gun mistakes, those with agendas would have much less fuel for their scheming fires.
Proper sight in
For the rest of this article, just know that everything resorts back to the number one topic of gun safety. That said, you need to make sure your firearm is properly sighted in. Many years ago, I was working at a gun shop the day before the firearm deer season opener. It was late, well after dark, and I expected that most would be coming in looking for a few last minute things, like extra ammo. A guy came in and wanted to buy a 30.06. He then bought a nice 3-9×40 Leupold scope and asked me to mount and boresight it for him. You can see where this is going, right? When I said that he needed to be careful sighting in the rifle because deer season opened up the next morning, and sure enough, he told me he was planning to hunt. He was confused when I asked where he was hunting, so that I could make sure I was several miles away. Sure enough, Mr. Genius came back the next day and yelled at the store owner because that “punk kid” didn’t know how to sight in a rifle. He’d missed a big buck, too.
Boresighting is a great way to get the rifle and scope to be close. You still have the responsibility EVERY year to make sure your rifle is sighted in and you must know exactly what the bullet is going to do at the ranges you will be shooting at. Get the ballistics data off the box of ammo you intend to use, and then verify it at the range. There is no excuse not to do this, plus it’s fun!
A clean gun is a happy gun – and a safe gun. Who here has heard of, or seen the ill-effects of a firearm that needed to be cleaned, but wasn’t? It can jam, freeze up, or worse – blow up. Clean it on a regular basis. There is no excuse. There are hundreds of options for keeping your firearm clean, and I’ve found over the years that a simple pocket kit taken afield can save the day. Ever fall and get dirt or snow packed into the barrel? Yeah, that is a truckload of not good. Unless you’re a writer goon like me, and you’re torture-testing a firearm to see if you can get it to fail, clean it and keep it that way. An easy gun mistake to avoid.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was deer hunting on my farm. I accidentally stepped into a hole and screwed up my knee. It was bad enough that I had to call in my wife to help me out of the field and I was laid up for quite some time. I had unloaded my rifle and my wife shoved it back in the case for me before driving me to the hospital. I had asked her to take it out of the case when we got home, but in her rush to, you know, help me walk and get into bed, it slipped her mind. It ended up being two weeks before I realized it was still in the case, and when I got it out, it was rusty. It took some work to get it back to normal. Now, I could blame it on my wife, or even on the painkillers, etc. But in the end, the responsibility was mine, and I own it. The two biggest threats to firearms are rust and politicians, as the saying goes. You can control rust by keeping your gun oiled and dry as much as possible. Wipe it down after every hunt and take it out of the case! Even the best case can trap moisture.
Don’t rush the shot
This one can be kinda hard when your veins are pumped full of buck fever. It can happen to anyone, really. We all can say we won’t make this mistake, but. The resolve to not rush the shot and accept that we may not get that buck, bull, bear, etc. comes from discipline. The biggest buck I’ve ever seen on my farm stepped out partway into the field at the end of a swamp one season. It would have been a 300 yard shot, one I would have taken as I have practiced at that distance and much further. I sat and watched this deer for what seemed like hours. My scope was dialed in and I could make things out pretty clearly, but… The buck never fully stepped into the clear. As much as it pained me, I never even took the rifle off safety. Rushing the shot leads to breaking the rules mentioned above. You can’t have gun mistakes when hunting.
Cover Image: Shutterstock/Kosolopov