Hunting season is on the way! I don’t know about you, but this old boy is ready.
Now all we need is some cool weather. You might notice that I said cool weather and not cold, because I don’t do cold. We have had about all of the summer I can enjoy for this year. Now I would like about five months of fall before summer comes back next year.
One thing that can be extremely difficult to get through to a new hunter in the field, or even some of us seasoned huntsmen, is to always know what is behind your target. In the excitement of seeing the game and trying to remember all of those details about lining up the sights properly — breathing correctly, squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it, and the tunnel vision that can accompany the hunter in his total concentration on the target — it is easy to totally forget to look past the target and see what lies behind it. I don’t mean just immediately behind it, but way on back.
If you’re bird hunting and have a mental lapse as to what is a mile down range it is generally not too critical. If a shotgunner shoots at some doves or quail and the fall out of number 7 1/2 or number 8 shot showers down on a fellow hunter a couple hundred yards away, there is no real harm done, although such an event does tend to irritate and unnerve the shot fall recipient.
So bird-hunters: when you get out into the field take a good look around and see what lies all the way around your potential field of fire so you know where everything and everyone is. Make a mental note that if a bird comes in from a given point where a hunting companion is held up in the brush waiting for his opportunity at some doves, you will not shoot, but wait until the birds are clear.
Now let’s get to rifles. A rifle will shoot a very long way. If you pick up a box of .22 caliber long rifle ammunition, open the end and look at the flap, you will note that it says “Caution: Dangerous Within 1 1/2 miles.” To put that range into another perspective, at two thousand yards a .22 long rifle with a 40 grain bullet still has a velocity of three hundred feet per second and that is enough to seriously injure someone or some property.
I would tend to believe that if one caliber is more likely than any other to have its range treated lightly it would be the .22 long rifle. They are physically small cartridges, have virtually no recoil and the report is light, especially in rifles. It could be hard to believe that small, mild-appearing, .22 LR is still dangerous at over a mile.
Let me point out to you a few more popular calibers to help bring forward a perspective of the potential danger that can arise if proper attention is not paid to what is behind your target.
For means of example, let’s say you decide to do a little plinking, so you go out with your handy 9mm pistol and chase some cans around a field. A 9mm Luger with a standard 120 grain bullet has a maximum range of 2400 yards if pointed up at a forty five degree angle. The velocity at impact is still three hundred and fifty feet per second.
Let’s take a look at the popular .223 Remington with a 55 grain Spitzer Boat Tail bullet. The maximum range is 3875 yards and the velocity at impact is still 545 feet per second.
In the woods, safety gets a break in the fact that a bullet has a lot of potential obstacles in the form of trees that can soak up an errant shot. Trees are by no means a cure all for thoughtless actions, but they can help. In case there is some overconfident opinions about the effectiveness of trees totally stopping bullets, I can assure you that a 150 grain, Speer, Grand Slam bullet, will go completely through a ten inch pine tree at fifty yards, when fired from either a 30-06 Springfield or a 308 Winchester, and still have enough energy remaining to do substantial damage after it exits the tree.
I am sure everyone is also familiar with the term ricochet. A pencil size limb on a tree or bush can send a high power rifle bullet easily into the next county, instead of where it was intended to go. Keep that in mind the next time you see a portion of the head of a Whitetail deer peeking through some brush, with the rest of the animal lost in a cover of undergrowth, and you get the urge to try and figure out where to place that bullet through that brush cover and into his vital organs. That would be an iffy shot at best but that question should be answered by the hunter before pulling the trigger.
So folks, before you head out for the hunt and as part of your pre-hunt preparations, take a look all around your intended hunting area for anything that you do not intend to shoot and make note of any direction in which a stray bullet could cause damage.