Hunting Season Is Here!

By Ian McMurchy (1944-2008)

Driving throughout Saskatchewan, the predominant color is golden. Harvest is in full swing. The sign-in book at the range has more names in it every day. Many people are talking about hunts, both open and draw season activities. Gun dealers are frantically calling for back orders and organizing their inventory. Days are getting shorter, leaves are turning. No frost yet, but that will not be long.

Before hunting season we should give our firearms a good check-over. Look for loose bolts and screws, and accumulated dirt and grit inside actions. Double check that rifle barrels do not have any accumulated copper fouling that will hurt accuracy.

Wade Hull, President of Shilen Rifles, recently shared some great advice about trigger maintenance for any firearm. Clean your trigger regularly with Rosinol lighter fluid. Rosinol is an excellent solvent and it leaves a lubricant film with no varnish residue. I mentioned this to a couple of gunsmith buddies. Both laughed and said they had Rosinol on the bench right in front of them.

Generally, shotguns do not require as much maintenance as rifles. Wipe down with an oily rag, leaving a light film to protect from rust. Also apply a light coating of oil to the moving parts of the action and you are good to go.

Rifles require more attention because of barrel fouling, bedding and the generally tighter tolerances in their moving parts. Barrel cleaning is the most time consuming aspect of rifle care, simple as that. I have simplified my life by using Wipe Out spray for some barrels. Wipe Out works, that is all there is to it. Shoot it into the receiver until the white foam comes out the muzzle and set the rifle aside. The next morning the job will be done. Just push a patch through the bore, oil the bore and you are finished.

Many shooters do not realize that bolt action rifles require additional maintenance. One headache is cleaning the lug recesses inside the receiver. I use a special tool from Midway Arms for swabbing those recesses. I also use the tool for cleaning and oiling the raceways in the receiver. The simple plastic holder uses dental swabs to clean inside these difficult to reach areas. Use a small brush on the bolt face, particularly in the area of the extractor, to remove brass shavings and dirt. Always lube the rear face of the locking lugs of rifle bolts.

Check your scope mounts and spend a few minutes cleaning your lenses. There are amazing cleaning products available for lens maintenance. I use a spray to moisten the glass, then a micro fiber cloth to remove smudges and dust. Never rub a dry lens, period. If you do not have proper lens cleaning fluid, simply breathe on the lens. Moisture from your breath will soften dry material on the lens so you will not get scratches. Best to use a fine brush initially, such as the great little Lens Pen.

This is also the time to check your rifle for accuracy. Perhaps it is time to try a different load to get old Betsy shooting her best. Recent ammo developments such as Federal's Fusion, Winchester's XP3 and Remington's CoreLokt Ultra are worth considering. Some of the new Premium ammo is amazingly accurate, but we really do not need ultra penetration to kill a whitetail deer. Bonded bullets are usually intended for big critters. Probably ninety percent of ammo expended annually is shot at whitetail deer. The fact is, the average buck is not that big of an animal, particularly in body width. We need bullets that open up within three or four inches of impact for reliable deer killing.

Having said that, there are bullets that have reputations for meat grinding. Some of the problems relate to high impact velocities from close shots and poor shot placement. By and large, I trust most of the plain Jane factory loaded bullets such as Winchester Power Points and Remington CoreLokts. They just plain work.

If you are planning to hunt elk or moose, then the tougher, deeper penetrating bullets are superior. I particularly like the Swift A-Frame, Trophy Bonded and Nosler Partition for larger critters. Check out Winchester's new XP3 for an all around bullet. The Barnes bullets are also very reliable. Matter of fact, they work about as well on deer as they do on bigger critters.

Prior to hunting season is also the time to assess your binoculars and laser rangefinders. Bottom line? The more money you spend, the better the performance, to a point. I use a lot of optics in a year, and I find that the big dollar optics are not always the best performers. I recently compared three top end spotting scopes and was amazed at the difference in resolution from scope to scope. Everyone's eyes see differently through optics. I am not going to tout any particular brand, but I do suggest comparing two or three manufacturers carefully if possible.

Then there are the little things that can make a hunt more enjoyable. I found a company called Texas Hunt Company that makes incredible carry bags and accessories for hunting. Their rifle slings are the best I have tested. They also sell great ammo holders that will hold anything from a .223 to a .460 Weatherby.

Another tip I can share about hunting accessories is to check out the tactical suppliers for neat stuff. I have become dependent on Eagle Industries and Blackhawk stock packs on all of my hunting rigs. These packs enable carrying spare ammo, compasses, and other small items PLUS they place your face in an ideal position on the stock. This is particularly true if you have a fairly large scope mounted. I have also learned that the tactical companies make gun cases that stand up to hard use many times better than hunting grade cases.

I would like to end this column on a serious note. We are truly blessed to have the freedom to hunt and shoot. We cannot forget there are forces throughout the world that would destroy our freedom. Please remember the members of our armed forces who will not be at home this season. Say a prayer that they will be home safely. Canadians are fighting and dying so we can enjoy this wonderful freedom.