Every hunter must ensure that their firearm is sighted in properly and shoots true. A special thanks to Henry Baskerville of Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club in Montpilier, VA for allowing me to do just that at his outdoor range.
Yesterday was the third time I checked my rifle for this trip. Each time to test different ammo and record where the bullet hits at 200 and 300 yards.
I have an invaluable sense of reassurance knowing that a longer range shot will not be without careful and pre-measured calculation.
As payment, Henry enjoys fresh baked goods. Yesterday's treat was a batch of blueberry swirl muffins made with blueberries my wife picked at a local "Pick-your-own" patch.
The rifle I have selected for this trip is a Tikka T3 Hunter in a .308 caliber. It's accurate, sturdy and holds a large enough bullet to humanely dispatch large game such as Caribou.
I learned a few tips that have completely changed my thinking about how I might use firearms in Alaska and will share them here with you now.
1. "Dry fire" your firearm before actually shooting at your target. Dry firing is done when your firearm is UNLOADED. First, get your sights precisely on target, control your breathing, get ready to take a shot and gently squeeze the trigger. Because your firearm is unloaded, no bullet will fire but there is a huge benefit to doing this just before you actually shoot the animal you are hunting. It takes all the anticipatory nerves right out of the equation.
It's very common for hunters to feel like they must rush the shot and quickly fire in an effort to get their quarry down. There can be a tremendous flood of adrenaline in a situation like this and it can lead to a missed shot or worse, a poorly placed one.
Taking a moment to dry fire at the animal takes all of that flustered hurry away and allows you to make a calm, well placed and practiced shot.
2. Place a strip of electrical tape over the end of your barrel to prevent rain or debris from getting in it. Doing this has no effect on the bullet's trajectory whatsoever. When a gun is fired, the gas that erupts from the bullet when fired escapes out of the barrel first. It does so with incredible force and speed, blowing the electrical tape completely off before the bullet even exits the muzzle. This is a great tip for anyone planning to hunt in rough wet country or where the weather is unpredictable.
3. Rifles are for hunting, Bear spray is for Bears. There was some debate as to whether or not I should pack a large caliber hand gun for Bear protection in addition to my hunting rifle.
Trying to instantly kill a charging Bear was described to me like this: "It's like trying to hit a target the size of a softball, charging at you at 35mph while weaving back and forth."
I don't know about you, but I'd never want to take up that kind of challenge!
Bear spray on the other hand, shoots a stream of incapacitating pepper spray at a distance of over 30ft! Nailing the Bear in the face with this stuff, will shut it down completely. The clear upside to this is that both the Bear and I get to live on without injury or permanent discomfort and I don't have to bet my life on an adrenaline charged insanely difficult shot!
I'm sure the local folks will have more advice and I hope to learn from them too.
For now, I will continue to bribe Henry with delicious baked goods and enjoy his wonderful company and invaluable expertise.