Get Your Gear In Gear

Get Your Gear In Gear

By: J.M. Hruby

After a busy summer that for many of us includes other deer-hunting-related activities like finding new properties to hunt, planting food plots, running trail cameras, and other activities, it seems like the early fall is a good time for firearms hunters to take a break.

Not so fast! One activity that all hunters can benefit from is getting the mission-critical gear ready and doing it early.

What’s the rush? Lots of good reasons, but really it’s to avoid the real rush right before the season. Investing a little time now will help you avoid big hassles and big lines later on.

Choose your weapon. And then go over it with a fine-toothed comb.

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First, if your rifle or shotgun needs to be cleaned (and shame on you for putting it away dirty last year), clean it now before you sight it in and then leave it alone. Cleaning a rifle’s barrel can impact the point of impact. Not always, but I’ve actually seen this happen enough that it’s worth pointing out. Why take the chance? Clean the barrel once and then don’t mess with it again until the season is over.

Next, check the scope, rings, bases, and mounts. Make sure all screws are torqued to proper specification. If in doubt, check it out. If you need to, take the scope off or do whatever is necessary to make sure everything is tight. As long as you’re there, I’m a big fan of Loctite Blue or other thread-sealers to provide an extra measure of protection against mounts coming undone.

Believe me, now is the best time. About 5 years ago, on the opening day of deer season, I noticed that somehow the scope mount base on my Thompson Center Contender handgun had worked loose and now there was a perceptible wobble. I had put in dozens of range sessions with this particular handgun since mounting this scope and it had always performed well. Now I was confronted with a loose scope base and the timing wasn’t good to say the least.

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Of course, this required a total tear-down to re-tighten everything, followed by an impromptu range session to re-zero the handgun. All of this took up a considerable amount of time on opening weekend, but it could have been worse. I could have discovered the problem by missing my shot at Mr. Big. Don’t be that guy.

As long as you have Ol’ Betsy out of the safe, clean your scope lenses and apply anti-fog if you so choose.   Checking all the little details now gives you a big edge in terms of having time to fix anything that’s wrong or to order and install parts if needed.

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Secure the ammo supply. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you will have noticed that ammo has, at times, been in very short supply. In most cases, big game ammo has come back, but the shortages introduced a new reality: you can’t always count on being able to get any ammo you want, at any time. Add to this the fact that some premium hunting ammunition is always in high demand, and therefore tends to disappear from the shelves quickly as we get closer to the season opener and that makes now a great time to find your load and stock up. When it comes to seasonal ammo like shotgun slugs and big game rifle ammo, many retailers only fill the shelves once. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

As long as we’re on the topic, don’t shortchange your ammo supply. While you may only actually shoot one or two rounds at game during the course of a hunting season, there’s no downside to having an extra box of your favorite ammo on hand. One accidental drop of the rifle, one unintended hard knock, one daypack forgotten in a tree stand, and we can easily see how extra ammo comes in handy and provides cheap insurance. If anything, it will keep you from having to look for ammo again next season.

Avoid the crowds. Anyone who has been to the gun range in the weeks immediately before deer season will attest to the fact that the “sight-in weekends” are a madhouse at many public gun ranges and clubs. People everywhere, long waits, lots of muzzle blast from neighboring benches, all kinds of other distractions. And when you do get to the bench, the hurry-up-buddy gaze of the other hunters waiting in line tells you not to linger.

All of this pressure is less-than-helpful when it comes to the productive range time you need. Especially because big game hunters should focus on not one, but two separate things at the range.

First, you want to shoot your best from the bench and really focus when sighting in.   This is especially important if you’re also trying out new types of ammo and need to establish which load is your best performer.

The second thing every hunter should be doing at the range is obvious. Yet many still don’t do it. We should take a cue from the archery guys and gals out there and practice in a realistic way! Yes, that means you, deadeye. I have yet to meet anyone who was too good of a shot.

Unless you have a concrete bench and a stack of sandbags in your deer stand, benchrest shooting does not provide realistic practice for big game. It’s time to break out the shooting sticks, do some prone or sitting position practice, and even fire some standing shots. You just never know what you’ll need to do in the field. There is no substitute for trigger time with your chosen rifle or slug gun. While shooting rimfires and other guns throughout the season certainly can’t hurt, when it comes down to your one chance at that non-typical you’ve been watching all summer, there is no such thing as having too much practice with the firearm that will be in your hands during this wished-for encounter.

Practice the way you play. Whatever equipment you intend to use in the field, like GPSs, rangefinders, hunting apps, and so forth now’s the time to make sure they’re complete, powered up, tuned up, and ready for action.

As long as you’re at it, now’s the time tune up that other critical component–you. For today’s technology-rich hunting gear we need to invest the time to actually learn how to use it beyond the cursory basic features.

Last year I moved a stand just before the season started. Rather than try to describe the new location using vague landmarks, I just took out my GPS and punched the “waypoint” button. Then I told my hunting partner (and father), “I just sent you the GPS coordinates, punch them into your GPS and finding the stand will be easy.”

Problem was he had never used his GPS to enter a waypoint from coordinates. He was also not familiar with the fact that GPS coordinates come in several different formats, so his GPS default setting made the coordinates that I sent him look like gibberish. It will not surprise you to learn that the manual for his GPS was still in a sealed plastic bag.

Get out the toys, boys and girls, time to play. And learn! If you’ve never read the manual, I can almost guarantee that you’re missing something that you’ll find useful.

While we’re at it, now is also a great time to make sure we have power cords, batteries, and mounts, and accessories that are needed to keep everything running.   Batteries are the Achilles heel of today’s high-tech hunting equipment. I even carry a battery pack that can recharge my phone other devices via a USB cable. Where I hunt, we are on the edge of cell phone service so the phone tends to drain batteries very quickly and extra power comes in handy.

Avoiding the rush and making good use of the time before hunting season gets goo close will help in a number of ways. Once you have your gear in shape, you’ll free up time for the more mission-critical pre-season tasks like scouting and stand placement.

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Get in Gear Firearms Hunting Checklist


  • Clean once (if necessary). Do not clean barrel again until after the season.
  • Check scope, rings, and bases. Make sure everything is tight.
  • Buy or order anything needed well before season.

Ammo Supply

  • Buy early for best selection and to give time to test new loads.
  • Have enough ammo and a spare box for emergencies.

Home on the Range

  • Avoid the crowds. Go now!
  • Benchrest shooting is not realistic practice. Practice using realistic field conditions.

Gadget Tune-up

  • RTFM – Read The Fun (and interesting) Manual. Devices are only as good as your ability to use them.
  • Check the batteries, power cords, mounts, and accessories. Make sure rechargeable devices hold a charge and that the charger works.


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  1. Great article, Grouse, with a lot of good points to remember! It seems the end of summer comes so fast and the time to prep for hunting season flies by too quickly.

  2. Nice job Grouse… The preparation you noted also will serve to give one confidence to close the deal. My pet term for Rifle or Bow shots…”Surgically inserted” in the boiler room.

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