The fall hunting season is just a few weeks away, and now is a good time for hunters to sight in their firearms and be sure they are on target when they go afield, according to Paul Johansen, assistant chief of game management for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section.

“Early fall is a pleasant time to visit a shooting range, and public shooting ranges are normally less crowded during this time of year,” said Johansen. “I encourage adults to use this time to introduce youngsters to the enjoyment of shooting, and use this opportunity to instruct them on safe gun handling.”

The proper sighting in of a firearm involves the use of a safe shooting range, a solid shooting support and a few basic shooting techniques. A shooting range should have a safe backstop and be at least 500 feet from any residence or place where people gather. DNR maintains many shooting ranges statewide, and these facilities are excellent places to sight in a firearm.

Locally, ranges may be found at the following sites:

-- Bluestone Wildlife Management Area Public Shooting Range;

-- Panther State Forest Public Shooting Range;

-- Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area Public Shooting Range;

-- R. D. Bailey Wildlife Management Area Public Shooting Range; and

-- Montgomery Public Shooting Range.

Also, there is a public archery range at the Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area.

For more information, call Larry Berry or Colin Carpenter at 256-6947.

Sighting in your firearm

While sighting in a firearm, the rifle should be supported solidly on a sturdy shooting bench using sandbags or a commercial shooting rest. Always place the stock of the firearm, not the barrel, on the rest. Stock and sight mounting screws should be checked for proper tightness. Be sure the ammo is the correct caliber for the firearm, and sight in with the ammo that will be used for hunting. Several different brands and types of ammo may need to be tested to determine the one best suited for a particular firearm.

Always wear proper eye and ear protection when shooting, and be sure others nearby are also wearing this protection. Try to time your sighting in sessions so the sun is not shining directly into your face or onto your sights. A sandbag placed between the rear of the stock and your shoulder will greatly reduce felt recoil of heavy recoiling firearms. Assume a comfortable shooting position so your muscles are relaxed. Position the firearm’s sights on the target by adjusting the rest so the rest holds the firearm on target and little or no support on your part is required.

Relax, take a deep breath, slowly let the breath out about halfway and then smoothly squeeze the trigger with the pad of the shooting finger when the sights are properly aligned on the target. Be careful not to use the joint area of the shooting finger, and do not jerk the trigger in anticipation of the firearm firing. After firing the shot, follow through smoothly and relax before looking at the target or firing another shot.

Fire a three- to five-shot group, determine the center of the group and make sight changes if necessary. Follow the firearm or scope manufacturer’s instructions to make the necessary sight adjustments. Fire several more groups, allowing the barrel to cool between groups, and determine if the firearm is properly sighted in. When you are confident the firearm is properly sighted in, practice shooting several groups from the various unsupported field shooting positions that likely will be used when hunting.

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