Off-Season Blues?

Head to the Gun Gym

For most outdoor pursuits there’s generally a down-time, a time in the year when the activity you enjoy most is at a lull. For handgun hunters there are certain times on the calendar when most hunting seasons are closed. I’m not collecting stamps or knitting then — so what do I do?

Got a new optic you want to try? Now’s a good time to replace the old one. I don’t know about you but I neglect cleaning my guns thoroughly during hunting season. So, I drag them all out and give each one a good cleaning to keep the Hoppes smell strong in the gun room. Make sure all the mounts and scope rings are tight while you’re at it.
Replace any parts, add new grips perhaps and mount a different scope. You name it and the off-season is a good time to make certain all your guns are ready for action.

We often spend an excessive amount of time and money getting ready for a hunt and we’ve got the latest and greatest everythings. But here’s one factor never to be overlooked or taken for granted — yourself. Are you physically and mentally prepared to go the extra mile? I know hunters who’ve hiked for hours on the first day of the hunt — and were hurting so bad the next morning they couldn’t move. According to guides, many hunters are out of shape and can’t shoot — period. This is not music to your ears, I know, but is harsh reality. Take steps to assure you’re in shape, before the hunt.

The off-season is the time to get caught up on loading, from making custom loads to
bulk ammo for targeting. Plus it’s just plain fun.

Hit The Loading Room

During down-time, I like to hit the man cave for some reloading. For me, this is a good time to reload all my empty brass. It’s a time to roll out some practice ammo for every handgun I shoot often. There are new bullets to test, different powder recipes, along with different loads for experimentation. Heck, it’s downright therapeutic. You can customize loads for your specific gun, with the bullet of your choosing. Handloading has many advantages and I can’t think of a better way to spend a miserable, windy, freezing cold winter day.

Redding’s T-7 Turret press works well for me. Once the dies are adjusted, you can begin cranking out loads. I really like Redding’s 4-die pistol set for seating and crimping in separate stages. The loading bench and shelves are home for reloading manuals, Starline brass, primers of all sorts, Nosler, Sierra, and Hornady bullets along with a multitude of loading accessories. It’s all good — it’s all enjoyable — and reloading is a great way to make valuable use of downtime in the off-season.

Don’t let off-season blues get you down, expand your horizons. Hog hunting is available
year-round. Mark took this boar with a Freedom Arms Model 83 in .41 Mag.

Forming Good Habits

Unless you’re Spiderman, practice becomes an essential component of skill and accuracy. I like punching bug-hole groups in paper just as much as the next guy but in the real world of hunting, I need to emulate hunting situations. Banging away at steel targets is fun, providing instant gratification. Shooting off of a backpack, a tripod or resting the gun on my knees, mirrors real field conditions, paying dividends later.

You can even go a bit further and take a short jog, do a set of push-ups, or any physical activity increasing your heart rate before shooting. You can easily simulate shooting under stress, rattled nerves or buck fever. I wouldn’t say I’m a picture of relaxation when a big, mature whitetail buck steps out of the woods and presents a shot. Nor am I calm after climbing a steep mountain to find a ram on the adjacent peak. Let your imagination take over and shoot from unorthodox shooting positions. If you hunt long enough, you’ll find yourself shooting from an uncomfortable position — I guarantee you.

There really isn’t a good alternative for quality trigger time. Knowing your gun and load is critical. Accepting our own limitations is equally important. Just because your buddy can hit a tin can from 100 yards off-handed doesn’t mean you should be attempting a shot at big game under the same conditions. Proper practice is essential and will give you the confidence needed when an opportunity presents itself.

The off-season is a good time to hone your shooting skills. Take advantage of the opportunity to have fun and get in shape at the same time!

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