In many states, deer seasons begin and end with primitive-weapons hunts. If you plan to use your bow or muzzleloader on a late-season outing, don’t make the mistake of assuming that it will function the way it did in early fall. Follow these expert suggestions to ensure reliable shooting.
Steve Puppe, an avid blackpowder hunter and promotions manager for Knight Rifles, has seen that rifles sighted in under hot, humid conditions will shoot as much as 3 inches high or low in cold weather. He deals with this disparity by checking the zero of his muzzleloader whenever weather conditions change. “This is especially important if you haven’t shot the rifle in a while,” Puppe says.
Many hunters trust their loads to memory, and that’s fine if you’re blessed with perfect recall. If not, Puppe recommends that you keep a chart to track the optimum load for your muzzleloader and how the gun shoots under varying conditions. “I jot notes on my targets, recording the load, the bullet, the date, and the weather conditions. Then I save them.” This way, when the weather changes, Puppe knows exactly what adjustments to make to keep his muzzleloader right on the mark.
Ron Gehrke is a diehard late-season bowhunter and pro-shop staffer who knows that the whisper-quiet, easy-to-draw bow he carries in October can turn into a creaking, stubborn monster come winter. Consequently, Gehrke makes a few modifications to his setup when the weather turns frigid.
“First off, I drop my draw weight by 5 to 10 pounds,” he says. “Those early-season draw weights can be tough to handle when you’re bundled up and your muscles are cold and cramped. Of course, it’s important to sight your bow in again, and wear your hunting clothing when doing it.” If bulky cold-weather duds interfere with your draw, slip on a compression vest, like the one made by Neet (660-826-6762; www.neet.com), which will keep your clothing tucked tight to your torso.
“The bow doesn’t need a lot of attention,” Gehrke continues, “but I do like to lubricate any moving parts with a lithium grease or graphite lube, which won’t freeze up in cold weather. And if the grip is metal or wood, installing an add-on foam grip can really help keep your hands warm.”
Finally, Gehrke recommends storing the bow indoors once temperatures dip below freezing. “Humidity levels are constantly changing in winter, and moving parts can rust or oxidize. Probably the biggest thing, though, is to keep practicing between the early and late seasons. If you’re lucky enough to get a shot now, you don’t want to miss because you’re rusty.”