IDAHO FALLS – Hunting season will be here before we know it. If you haven’t already, here’s why now is the time to dust off that gun or bow for the 2022 season.
Only accurate rifles (and bows) are interesting
In a 1957 issue of American Rifleman magazine, famed writer and sniper Colonel Townsend Whelen joked that “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” Townsend argued that only those who spent time observing and taking pride in their firearms – we’ll go on and assume he also meant bows – produced gratifying results as their skills and dexterity at the shooting increased. Shooters who neglected their firearms, on the other hand, found the road to proficiency long and arduous, eventually losing interest in their hobby and soon getting rid of it altogether.
As hunting season approaches, let Whelen’s remark remind you that pride in your gun or bow is just the prologue to another edition of hunting season. An obvious, but important reminder: your hunt won’t end successfully if you can’t hit a bullet or arrow at the target at the most important moment.
“Taking the time to prepare and become a better sniper is the mark of an ethical hunter,” said Brenda Beckley, hunter education administrator. “And the better a sniper you become, the better your chances of successfully harvesting an animal.”
Now that we’ve established when to start improving your aim, here’s how.
Enter range time
Fish and Game offers several options for shooting and/or archery ranges throughout the state. Blacks Creek, Farragut, Nampa and Garden Valley Shooting Range are all public ranges owned by Fish and Game, designed for the safe practice of firearms and bows by shooters of all skill levels.
In the southwest, the Nampa public facility includes both an indoor and outdoor archery range, as well as an indoor airgun range. There’s also the Boise River WMA archery range complete with 20 three-dimensional foam targets. In the begging there is Farragut Public Shooting Range, which also includes a one-mile archery range. Several state parks in Idaho, in cooperation with Fish and Game, have archery ranges with life-size, three-dimensional targets that mimic big game.
There are several other shooting ranges located across the state, some of which are co-operated by Idaho Fish and Game and the Shooting Range Development Grant program. The mission of this program is to provide funds to help organizations or agencies establish, upgrade, expand, or improve public shooting and archery ranges in Idaho.
For a more comprehensive list of shooting ranges in Idaho, see the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Where to Shoot webpage. This state-by-state shooting range directory lists contact information, available facilities, maps and more for each shooting range.
It is strongly recommended that you call before you go, as hours of operation, services, or shooting opportunities may change. If you’ve never been to a public shooting range, here’s a beginner’s guide to get you started.
Pre-season preparation tips | Rifles
For rifle hunters, many shooting experts recommend setting your initial target at 25 yards to ensure you hit the paper if you have a new rifle, replaced a scope, or are unsure where your rifle is hitting. After shooting this distance, move your target 100 yards or more to complete the sighting process.
Consistent accuracy is the ultimate goal when practicing shooting skills, so it is important that hunters consider their effective shooting range and practice at all ranges up to this maximum number.
It is also important to practice from a variety of shooting positions and not just from a bench. Think about it. When that four-point buck or six-point bull stops along the hill, you’re not going to have the luxury of a bench rest and 5 minutes of slow breathing when you’re going to take that hit.
Shooters should try to replicate the conditions they are likely to encounter in the field as closely as possible, so once your rifle is sighted, consider exercising to get your heart rate up and your lungs working harder to mimic what shooting can feel like. In the field.
“We emphasize in our hunter education courses that all hunters have an ethical obligation to know their personal limits and be prepared,” Beckley said. “Training often, at different ranges and from a number of different shooting positions, will help hunters prepare for a variety of situations they may encounter.”
Trick : Hunters should always use the same ammunition for hunting as when aiming their rifle.
Pre-season preparation tips | shotguns
Don’t be fooled by Elmer Fudd’s cartoons – there’s more to using a shotgun than just blasting a target with pellets. When it comes to preparing for wing shooting, hunters should focus on practicing different shots from different angles which may seem difficult at first.
Trick : Be sure to use the choke and cartridge combination you plan to use for hunting season. Modified chokes produce a moderately tight pattern good for rabbits, quail and upland game birds. Full chokes have an even tighter pattern and are better suited for turkeys, squirrels, and other game at longer ranges.
Modeling a shotgun before the season is a fairly common practice among turkey hunters, but it’s something migratory and upland bird hunters should consider as well. Knowing the density of your pattern at given ranges can help you determine your effective range and give you a good idea of how well your shotgun will perform with a particular choke and cartridge combination. Every shotgun is different and your shotgun will probably perform differently if you change any of these variables.
Pre-season preparation tips | Bows
At this point in the game, most archery hunters using traditional and compound bows will already be online, as the early season and archery-only hunts will kick off in late August.
But if you’re new to the sport of bowhunting, you should start by visiting your local bow shop and getting your bow tuned, especially if you haven’t shot much or at all since the fall. last.
After that, it’s time to get your body in shape and train at known and unknown distances. Archery ranges with life-size 3D targets are a good place to practice your shooting and estimate distance on the field.
Trick : Distance estimation is much more crucial in archery than in rifle hunting. To become proficient at judging distances in the field, sharpen your eye by making estimations on various landmarks or 3D targets. Once you’ve done an assessment, whip out your trusty rangefinder and confirm how close or far your naked eye was.
Fish and Game has ranges in its Boise River Wildlife Management Area and Farragut Range. You can also find archery ranges in some Idaho state parks, including Hells Gate near Lewiston, Castle Rock near Albion, and Dworshak near Orofino.
Remember that most ranges won’t allow you to shoot wide points, and they generally shoot differently than field points, so you’ll need to review your bow when you make the switch.
So whether you’re carrying a rifle or a classic out in the field with you this hunting season, proper maintenance and preparation is a must. Be sure to hone your marksmanship and take care of your weapon to ensure a fun, safe (and “interesting”) hunt.