This is the last of a two-part series about preparing for the upcoming hunting seasons.
Get in shape
The single most important part of hunting-season preparation, for some, is being/getting in shape. This is my downfall or at least my most difficult aspect of the preparation process.
My plan is to go for a walk every morning. Although, my wakeup time of 6 a.m. may be desired, there is a cat or two jumping on the bed and heading for the window at my head between 5 and 5:30. This cat is followed by the 4-pound chihuahua, Brenda Starr, running full blast along or on top of my entire body.
This action gets me out of bed, as the two animals will continue to joust until my feet hit the floor. My feet need to continue into the hunting boots and on to a 2- or 3-mile walk/hike around the neighborhood.
At some point a full hunting pack should be on my back and my shooting sticks in hand. This daily walk will do much to get me in the direction of being in shape. Of course, throwing an additional 10-pound of sugar in the backpack would provide additional exercise.
My rifle will not accompany me on the neighborhood walks. Can you imagine the calls to 911 about a man walking through the neighborhood carrying a rifle?
It is necessary for all hunters to go to the gun range and make sure their rifle is sighted in and hitting in the proper spot. The Boyd Mordhorst Shooting Range near Ephrata is an excellent range, with 25-, 50- and 100-yard ranges for sighting in rifles.
My rifles, a .243, .270 and a .30-06 are sighted in at 3-inches high at 100 yards. This will allow the bullet from each rifle to hit within the kill area of a deer or elk out to 300 yards without holding over the chest of an animal.
Elk hunting in Eastern Washington can call for long-distance shooting. This was experienced a couple of years ago, when my elk was downed with a 390-yard shot from my .30-06.
There is also a long-range location nearly 500-yards long at the range. This is a place for the hunter to practice at ranges past 300 yards. I will spend time on the long range after making sure my rifles are sighted in at 100 yards. External ballistics software is available for rifles online. This information will show the path of a bullet from the end of the barrel to the target at various distances.
Plus, this software will show the effect of temperature, wind and other atmospheric conditions on the bullet. Wind is especially damaging to the path of a bullet by pushing it left or right. It is worthwhile to spend time studying external ballistics software for the bullets used in your rifles.
Shotgun hunters should spend time breaking clay pigeons, but for some realistic practice, they could check with local farmers and go after pigeons and Eurasian collard doves before Sept. 1.
Rock doves are also known as a rock pigeon or just pigeon. Most people think of them as dirty city pigeons, but think about this a minute.
There are rock doves or pigeons at many farms. They eat the same thing as the mourning and collared doves, such as wheat from the nearby field. Why not consider them as a target for you to eat?
The collared dove is an invasive species, with no season or limit. Just be sure of your target before the opening day of mourning dove season on Sept. 1.
It is time to empty the hunting pack and check each item. Is the knife sharp or does it need to be honed a bit? Is the candy bar old and need to be replaced? Is there enough twine or rope? What could be eliminated from the pack and what items should be added? Is there a fire starter and match of some sort available?
A set of shooting sticks are now a part of my hunting equipment. Hunting buddy Rudy Lopez let me use his when on the elk hunt a couple of years ago. Not only did they steady my rifle for the shot, but they also assisted me when walking up and down the steep hillsides.
A rangefinder is not essential for hunting big game, but is a most useful tool. Friends most often judge a distance as longer than in reality. When asked how far a rock formation is in the distance, a friend may say 600 yards, when the distance was actually 300 yards.
This may be the reason for some hunters to miss animals, as they judge the distance incorrectly. My neck holds a binocular and a rangefinder when big game hunting.
Good luck to all during the 2017 hunting season.