Our Outdoors: Scope It Out
By Nick Simonson
There’s nothing so clear and so adrenaline inducing as seeing a deer through the reticle of a scope. The movements of the animal are magnified, and if from the right position of concealment at a distance, natural and without knowledge, until the last moment, that the hunt is on. In those seconds leading up to the shot, knowing a scope is dead on can make all the difference between success and failure and these days ahead of the firearms deer opener give one final chance to make sure that both it and the shot are aligned for the upcoming season.
While I’ve missed deer with my rifle a handful of times, it’s safe to say that it was not the scope that was the problem, but rather user error brought on by buck fever, or in those early days, during deer drives trying to keep up off-hand with a sprinting animal that had just burst from cover and driven my heart rate aloft. While the rush of the hunt is always expected, the movement imparted on a reliable rifle and the shakiness in the lens of the scope can be difficult to avoid in both situations, but more so in the latter. I’ve corrected that problem by become predominantly a still hunter, finding those places that deer visit frequently, and watching for activity taking in the November dawn, day and dusk and tallying my sightings for the season. In those long peaceful sits, punctuated by flashes of excitement, I have found no solution for the rush of endorphins that contribute some to my scope shake, and likely never will. If I did, I’d probably quit hunting.
Time at the range in the summer, and certainly just ahead of the firearms season, ensures that the only error – if any – will be that user error. From a seated position on a bench, or with my trusty monopod which I have turned to in recent autumns, I establish a solid foundation for each shot to determine the level of cooperation between scope and barrel. Most years, the first sample trio of bullets are within an effective grouping and on target with the previous season’s practice and results; but some years, I’ve found them to be off center by six or even eight inches. Who knows what causes that? It could be a slight bump during the haul-out of the previous season’s deer, or perhaps it was an unfortunate bounce in the truck that jostled the rifle in the case while traveling. I still haven’t ruled out gremlins living in my gun safe either.
Entering last chance territory on the calendar ahead of the firearms deer season, now is the time to get everything set up for a successful hunt, and through the view of a scope take in the imagined scene of a deer on the hoof wandering quietly into view. With each shot through the orange-ringed paper, confidence for a successful season grows, and the odds of missing due to some mischievous off-season misalignment decrease. Even through the process, knowing all is ready for the hunt helps remove some of the concern and nervous energy which may negatively influence a shot when that scene comes to be, and the target turns from stapled paper on plywood backing to an animal moving into range.
Block off one last afternoon in the coming days to sight in your chosen firearm, and take a look at the world through the narrow view of a scope, knowing that the next time you might do so, the buck of a lifetime may be on the other end of the reticle. While your heart rate may increase and hyperventilation may occur, you can breathe a bit easier knowing that everything is ready for that moment. Exhale and squeeze the trigger with the awareness that all the preparation put in ahead of that moment will likely help you find success…in our outdoors.