Things To-Do Before You Hunt

The best place to learn safety before heading out in the field is first at a hunter’s safety course, then out on the shooting range.
If you’re looking for a hunter education class in your area, go online to Hunter-Ed for a start. The site allows you to inquire about classes in your state. Most states offer several courses with a higher number occurring just before spring and fall hunting seasons.
After you’ve completed your hunting course, you should have an awareness of firearms. To be most successful, and of course safe, in the field you now need to get to know your hunting gun.
  • Familiarize yourself with your firearm before you head to the shooting range. Learn how to operate and check the chamber to see if it is clear. Then learn how to load and unload it. There are manuals that come with every gun. Read through it prior to operation.
  • Practice shooting your gun at the range. You’ll want to make this a force of habit because, when shooting a big game animal, your adrenaline will be pumping and you could make an errant shot. In turn, the more you practice the more prepared for any situation in the field, adrenaline or not.
  • Rehearse your reload. After the initial shot, you need to steady yourself and reload. This if you haven’t rehearsed, is where a jam can occur. Practice taking your shot and then quickly pulling the bolt back, ejecting the cartridge. Then rapidly, yet smoothly, slam the bolt forward. As most hunters know you aren’t always going to make the perfect shot and you might wound an animal. With that said you can see why this is an essential skill in making a follow-up shot(s) and being an ethical hunter.

It’s important to practice these steps at the range because, in the field, you’ll need to keep an eye out for what’s beyond the animal you’re intending to shoot. Unlike at the range, there could be other animals near the one you are going to shoot, and you need to be careful not to shoot them, too. Also when they hear your shot, they may jump, run or shift positions. Your re-load needs to be second nature so you can keep your attention on your target as well as not shoot another unintended one.

Always cycle the bolt with authority so as to ensure you get the spent casing out and the new round into the chamber. A lackadaisical cycling, or even hesitation, of the bolt, can cause a jam. Practice, practice, practice, for safe, accurate shooting.

If you don’t have someone to help you learn to shoot your gun, look for a certified, reputable, shooting instructor in your area. One place to find these is through your local gun store. Additionally, you can look online using the Find A Course page at NRA.

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