“In times of peace, prepare for war.” Many of us have heard that at one time or another but what does that have to do with hunting and the shooting sports?
The end of June, by and large, means that the spring turkey season in the U.S. is over. In effect, it's a time of peace and a perfect time for preparation for our next hunting season.
For some turkey hunters the end of the season means a cursory cleaning and putting the gun away until the next season either in the fall or spring. That's what they've always done, the gun worked as it should and there's no need for anything else to be done, right? Well maybe.
Cleaning is certainly a very good thing to do before any gun is put away for any length of time. Dust, dirt, unburned powder, plastic from shotshells, lead streaks, gunk, sweat, rain, snow, acid in our fingerprints, the list goes on and on, can all damage our guns. So cleaning is a good thing.
While we're cleaning we can also do a very thorough inspection to look for damage of any kind, such as scratches, cracks, dings, loose screws, damaged choke tubes, rubber rings, shell followers and springs. Really taking a look at our gun can pay great dividends and prevent a problem during the season.
So, is cleaning all that's needed during this time of peace? It could be but I'd make the case that more should be done to prepare for the next time we take our gun hunting.
The “off season”, let's call it that rather than a time of peace, means there's no pressure to get to the woods and fields. There's no need to be up before dawn each morning, no long hike to a roost tree and no deadline to fill a tag. We have time to consider things.
How did my gun perform this season? Did it balance well in my hands? Was it too heavy? Did the sling work well, or do I need a sling? Was I comfortable and steady waiting for that gobbler to come within shooting range? Was I completely confident of my shot?
A basic of turkey hunting is knowing exactly how your gun performs. That means of course, how does it pattern at a given distance. That distance may be 15 yards, 20 yards or out to 40 yards. The off season is a perfect time to find out exactly how your gun, choke and shotshell work together at these distances and in differing conditions. Heat, humidity, barometric pressure and wind can affect performance and the off season is the time to see just how much effect these factors have on performance.
It's a time to accumulate some big paper, some large pieces of cardboard, maybe a different choke or two, some shotshells and go to the range. A cool morning or evening, mid-day and just after a rain might be good times to see how weather affects performance. Make it fun, go with family and friends, exchange chokes and shells, maybe even try a new gun, it's all really a part of the hunting experience.
These range trips can also become an excellent time to introduce a new shooter to the sport. A spouse, a son or daughter, that neighbor that you'd like to get to know better, Dad, Grand Dad or an older relative who used to hunt but hasn't in a while, would all be good choices for companions.
The more familiar you are with your gun, the more it will serve you. Using that gun between the seasons can be of great benefit and who knows, may be just what's needed to get you on target the next time a big gobbler comes your way.