Hunting Tips for Northern California and Southern Oregon hunters
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How to Stay Sharp for When the Shot Counts

By Jesse Bible
I would like to share a method for honing shooting skills. Here in Northern California, the odds are that you will be taking a close shot at a deer that has more than likely seen you first. Once you have determined the deer in question is a legal buck, you very well might not have the opportunity to find a suitable rest. You may not have time to kneel for steadying a shot. The only option you may have is to shoulder your rifle; take aim and squeeze the trigger before that buck bolts.

Brisk target acquisition through a scoped gun and shooting accurately from a standing position is very important in our region. A way to increase these two skills is simply to shoot more. The problem with that nowadays is who in the heck can afford ammo to shoot a couple thousand rounds before the 2014 season opens?

The way that you can shoot a lot is to acquire a break-barrel, single shot pellet rifle. A .22 rimfire is a good way to get a lot of shooting in but even that is expensive now, so I am going to focus on the pellet rifle avenue.

There are many pellet rifles available today in the .177 caliber. Most break-barrel rifles will be around 1000 feet per second. You can purchase one of these rifles for around $100. Many of the guns come with a matching scope in 4 power; sometimes you can find them with a matching 3-9x40 scope. It is important to note a basic rifle scope is not a good choice for a break-barrel pellet rifle because it has a "double recoil" (the plunger release, creating air pressure to launch the pellet makes a separate recoil from the pellet moving forward and out the barrel), which will only allow you to take a few accurate shots before the crosshairs are off. It will be in your best interest to purchase a pellet rifle that has a factory matching scope.

Daisy Pellet Rifle, Powerline 1000S
Daisy 1000S Powerline Pellet Rife. Photo courtesy of Daisy Manufacturing Co.

I have shot many of these rifles and I have found my favorite to be the Daisy 1000S, made in America at the Winchester factory, which is very consistent in air pressure, which translates to great groups at distance.

Crossman Premier Pellets, .177 caliber

One side note that I would like to mention is that lead pellets for these rifles are by far your best option. There are alloy pellets out there that claim a higher velocity by about 200fps, but that is simply a muzzle velocity increase. Alloy pellets are lighter, less accurate and do not carry much of an impact. Crossman makes very good pellets and they are available at a variety of stores.

<< A tin of 500 pellets is less than $10! Photo courtesy of Crossman Manufacturing

Now that you have a pellet rifle, what do you do with it to increase those skills? Shooting from a rest can be fun, but it is not often applicable in a real hunting scenario, other than taking away your flinch reflex or sighting in the gun.

Shooting live targets is the best way to get good at shooting live targets. Find some public land that has a high ground squirrel population. These rodents are considered vermin and with a basic hunting license, they can be taken year round. I like to find a trail to walk and look for squirrels, focusing on taking standing shots only; in fact, standing or kneeling shots are the most accurate way to shoot a break-barrel pellet rifle because of the double recoil.

This scenario will allow you to shoot many times an outing. It will allow you to shoot at live targets. Because you are shooting so often, you will find that your target acquisition speed through a scope will increase up to ten-fold. You will also steady your aim during standing shots. You will get good at scope adjustments in the field. These are all basic skills that can be obtained or increased during the off season that will certainly roll over into deer season. It is an awesome way for kids to learn under adult supervision how to shoot without much recoil or noise as well.

When you are walking along a skidder road next season and see a nice buck, pull up quickly behind his shoulder and squeeze off before he can flinch, you will be glad you had that pellet rifle to shoot!

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