It's July, have you hugged your rifle lately? I haven't, and it's high time I did. Despite what the calendar says deer season is right around the corner. Soon, the heat of Labor Day will give way to cool mornings, cooler nights and the anticipation of days on stand we crave all year. Though spring presented me with innumerable warm days without rain, I passed up too many opportunities for a tune-up at the range.
I need a little recoil in my life.
What rifle should I carry into the woods this year? I could dust off Dad's old Marlin. It's not only good for deer, but the .35-caliber slug it throws is ideal for bears that appear seemingly out of the blue (and with greater frequency than ever) in the Blue Ridge Mountains each November. The view through the Marlin's Redfield Widefield is a bit milky these days, but the last time I shot the rifle the scope still held zero; no reason to expect anything different now. There's my trusty .270 Featherweight. Of course I'd need to mount a new scope on it, because I pulled off the Leupold Vari-X II years ago and put it on my understudy gun—a Remington 504 rimfire. Or I could opt for my latest favorite, the Kimber 84M in .308 Win. After all, that rifle and I go together like peas and carrots.
There's nothing like a day at the range in mid-summer to remind a rifleman why he shoots. The weather can be blazingly hot, but beneath the roof at the range it isn't so much the heat but the cacophony of sounds that begs my attention. I watch as benches are positioned just so, as rifle cases are unzipped, ammo cans opened and staplers tap-tap targets to backboards. Blasts ring out from rifles new and old made for sport and for war. Old-timers chew the fat. Youngsters exclaim, "That wasn't too bad," while rubbing sore shoulders.
This season I'll use the Kimber again. But first, I'll tune up with the Remington rimfire. There's nothing like the absence of recoil to expose bad habits that crept into my mind with Old Man Winter.
Amid the clamor I begin my work in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt. Steadily, surely I breathe, relax, squeeze and fire. Then I fire again and again until I'm convinced it's time to move to the centerfire. I don the recoil pad and follow through on a promise I make to myself every year—to pay the bill now that will come due in November.
I love July almost as much as November. Where else on Earth besides America can a guy hear the sounds of freedom represented by the fireworks of Independence Day and gunshots at the local range? Do yourself and your fellow patriots a favor this month: Annoy anti-gunners by sending well-placed rounds downrange every chance you get.
Tips to Lay Out Ol' Tom
Fly-down time at dawn
is, quite naturally, assumed by many hunters to be the best time all day to bag a tom. Trouble is, the hen or hens that old fella is visiting at that time of day may not let him off the hook long enough to pay attention to your calls and come anywhere near your setup. But during the peak of the breeding season, those hens are apt to visit their nests by noon. Your best shot at calling him close may come then, when old tom is lonely for attention.
Many times a tom hangs up
not because of an obstacle, but because he's walked far enough toward your call and, having not seen a hen, walks away. Your mistake: setting up too far outside that all-important range and never seeing him. When you call, be sure of a good line of sight through terrain and vegetation, and depending on cover, try to get within 100 yards of him before plopping down.
If you hear a gobbler moving away from you,
don't waste more time and breath trying to call him back. Instead, get up and hustle in a wide circle around him. If you need to hear him for reference, use a locator call. When you feel you are ahead of him, quickly set up and give a series of aggressive yelps with a call you haven't used yet. Many times this "fresh hen" tactic will prove successful.
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Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »