Be prepared for deer season

Range days and rifle regimens pay off in deer season

— Gary Lewis / The Bulletin /

Sighting-in a deer rifle

Sight-in with the ammunition you will use on the hunt. Don't bring bargain-basement bullets to the range when you plan to use premium projectiles in the field. Use the cheap stuff in practice if you want, but to establish accuracy, use the hunting bullet to sight-in.

Set a target at 25 yards and fire three rounds. Adjust the scope for windage and elevation to center the group around the bull's-eye. This may take several adjustments.

Next, set a target at 100 yards and fire three rounds. Bring the bullets into the bull's-eye by making adjustments in windage and elevation.

— Gary Lewis

It is no secret the cost of ammunition has gone up. A few years ago, the cost of a box of 30-06 ammunition started at about $15. Today, you're lucky to find 20 rounds of ammo for twice that price. Still, the price of ammunition is one of the least of the expenses on a deer hunt.

Consider the fellow that called me last week. His wife, he said, had drawn a coveted buck tag. They were looking for a rifle range where they could “sight the gun in” and get her ready for her hunt. I told him about both the public range and the private range at the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association park east of Bend.

“She only needs to shoot one bullet,” he said.

“One bullet?” He probably had to pull his phone away from his ear.

“Ammunition is expensive, you know.”

Not as expensive as the 10-plus years of $6 application fees it took to draw that tag. Not as expensive as not making sure your wife is ready for a deer hunt. How much should it cost to know that you are ready for that moment when a buck stands still in a patch of aspens at 178 yards? Not as expensive as not knowing where the bullet will impact at that range.

Shooting is athletics. The skill it takes to put a bullet on target at long range is no less impressive than the ability to sink a three-point shot with two seconds on the buzzer, to see the stitches on a fast ball, to throw a pass for a touchdown.

Flick the safety from “safe” to “fire,” align the pad of the index finger with the centerline of the trigger, take a half breath in, hold it, three pounds of pressure ...

A grasp of fundamentals is important, as is the muscle memory it takes to make the shot time after time.

Practice hones the skills in the brain and muscle. Take time off from practice and your skills degrade, and the dreaded “flinch” returns. That is why the best shooters practice year-round. And they never complain about the cost of ammunition.

Saturday morning, I picked up 16-year-old Tommy Brown and we headed to the range to sight-in my Ruger 357 Magnum. What I really wanted to do was try out my new digital optics from Bullseye Camera Systems in Eugene.

It was an early morning with no wind. We framed a warthog target on a piece of cardboard and then I looked at my watch. I wanted to see how long it would take to set the thing up.

Open the box. Attach the weatherproof camera to the tripod. Turn on the laser and align it on the center of the bull's-eye. Turn off the laser. Plug in to the router. Power up and plug in the signal booster. Walk back to the bench, boot up the laptop, insert the flash drive. Click on the program. It took me all of five minutes and the image of the target was transmitted to the screen.

The system creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows for the operation of a remote wireless target camera at the target location with the image transmitted to the laptop, which can be up to 1,000 yards away.

Fire a shot, hit the space bar and the camera records a second image that toggles back and forth from the last shot to indicate the new punch, or string of punches in the paper.

Images and data are recorded for record keeping. Individual shots can be tagged to identify groupings, ammunition and individual shooters.

We learned right away that a white, yellow or orange target provides better contrast. When we hit the warthog outside the orange circle, the bullet hole was barely discernible. Later, when we put up white paper targets, the black holes provided great contrast.

That's when the camera system shined. We saved walking back and forth to the target or squinting through a spotting scope, because that last shot, or series of shots between images, flashed on the screen. It worked great to sight-in a handgun at 25 yards. It will save a lot of time at 100 yards and beyond when next I sight-in a new rifle and scope.

It is true that ammunition is expensive; it is also scarce. But not so scarce a hunter should not spend a few rounds to get accustomed to a deer rifle, and to make sure a premium bullet is in the chamber at the moment of truth.

For those who need assistance at the range, the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association will host a hunter's sight-in workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Range officers will provide assistance to adjust scopes or iron sights. Targets, benches and a covered firing line are provided. There is a $7 fee per gun for nonmembers, $5 for members. Bring eye and ear protection.

To find COSSA, travel east on U.S. Highway 20 from Bend. COSSA Shooting Park is a half-mile past milepost 24 on the north side of the highway.