Tips on shooting and fishing

If you’re like many deer hunters, the last time you touched your shotgun was several months ago, at the end of deer season, when you gave it a quick squirt. gun oil, wiped it off and put it in your gun cabinet. If you take a quick look at your trusty rifle, it will look like new on the outside, but what about the bore of your rifle.

Have you taken the time to completely remove all the fouling (carbon and copper) that has accumulated throughout the season? It is the bumps and grooves inside the barrel that stabilize the bullet as it spins through the barrel. If these are clogged with residue, the ball simply does not spin properly and accuracy cannot be achieved. If like many Texans you have shot and hunted your rifle over the years on hog and exotic game hunts, regular cleaning is very important.

There are many factors that cause a rifle to lose accuracy. Lack of cleaning is the main culprit, but there are a host of others such as warped stocks, trigger pull that becomes too heavy (usually due to a varnish like residue caused by use too much oil) or poor tightening of the screws on the action screws.

Granted, most of us aren’t adept at completely disassembling our firearms and thoroughly cleaning them, but we can all learn how to properly clean the bore and action. Best results come from a good carbon or coated cleaning rod with a wire cleaning brush of the correct diameter to fit the bore of the rifle. Oversized or undersized brushes just won’t do the job.

There are several things a skilled gunsmith can do to make an old gun shoot as well, and better, than when it was new. Factory trigger settings are often too heavy to allow for maximum accuracy. For the average shooter, the best setting for the triggers is between 2.5 and 3 pounds and this is easily achieved by a trained gunsmith. It is not uncommon for triggers to come out of the factory with much heavier pulls, sometimes as heavy as 10 pounds.

Bench shooters need to get the most out of their guns to be competitive. They learned all the little tricks to get the best accuracy possible. After adjusting the trigger pull, the next step for better accuracy is to free float the barrel and push down the action. The pressure of a swollen wooden stock on a barrel can adversely affect accuracy and it is imperative to remove excess wood so that the barrel/stock does not touch for good accuracy.

Luke Clayton

Accuracy is also lost at the very end or at the barrel (muzzle). This problem can be solved by lapping the muzzle crown and also the locking tabs that hold the cartridge head in place. A thorough cleaning and polishing of the barrel is next and nothing can replace good old elbow grease and a quality bore solvent to ensure a barrel is completely clean.

Even with a completely clean bore and a properly rigged stock and proper trigger pull, a rifle can only fire as well with a properly installed and adjusted sight (scoop or iron sights). The scope ring and base screws should be properly tightened and the scope properly aligned with the rifle barrel. Most gunsmiths use a bar to make sure the front and back rings are properly aligned.

Shooters should experiment with different loads until they find what shoots the best in their rifle. After a good cleaning and adjustment, most shotguns will shoot a 2 inch group at 100 yards with just about any brand of ammunition. With a little experimentation, they can often cut those 2-inch groups down by almost half. For many years I fired Hornady ammunition in all my shotguns and found them to be very reliable.

So if you happen to have a gun or two in your gun cabinet that has lost some of its “edge driving” ability over the years, chances are it could greatly benefit from a competent gunsmith.

They say that choosing a quality scope is even more important than the brand of rifle you hunt with and I believe that to be true. Most eyewear manufacturers today offer eyewear that is light years ahead of what they were a few decades ago. But even today, some of the rifle/scope combos come with scopes that just won’t hold their zero. Nothing is more frustrating for a rifle shooter than trying to achieve accuracy with a scope that just doesn’t fit properly.

No boat? No problem

Many people assume that to be a successful fisherman you have to fish from a boat. I’d be the last to say that a boat’s mobility doesn’t stack the angling odds in its favor, but I’ve caught plenty of fish while fishing offshore. Now is the time when 90% of the fish are really in 10% of the water, especially crappie.

The precise timing of spawning for any species cannot be accurately predicted, there are too many factors involved. But if you want to catch fish and you don’t have a boat, NOW is the time to invest in some waders, equip yourself with a good jig pole, grab a handful of crappie jigs and direct you to the shallows.

For the next few weeks, crappie fishing will be good in waters often 3 feet deep or less. Anglers relaxing along the shore or wading and throwing jigs or minnows vertically around shelter such as poles, standing timber or reed beds will put plenty of good food in their basket to Pisces.

Another method is “fan casting” from the shore. A jig or minnow placed about a foot below a float and thrown at bits of fish that could attract cover can be deadly at this time of year. The trick is to cast past your target area, then slowly spin the reel to move the bait into your intended strike zone. Once your bait is in position, wiggle the rod lightly and keep the bait next to the lid for as long as possible. Luke Clayton

To learn more about outdoor writer Luke Clayton, visit his website