Those of you who have been around awhile might remember the writings of Jack O’Connor, the longtime shooting editor of Outdoor Life magazine. Those of you who aren’t familiar with O’Connor missed out.
Considered by many to be the dean of outdoor writers, O’Connor was as well known for his advocacy of the .270 Winchester as for his hunting exploits. His written word is the primary reason my wife and brother-in-law gave me a .270 as a birthday gift. That was 30 years ago, and though my optics have let me down, the rifle never has.
Since his adventures took him to locations around the globe, O’Connor became familiar with the ins and outs of traveling with firearms. Though the rules governing flying with arms and ammunition have changed drastically since O’Connor’s day, he penned advice for the traveling hunter that is just as valid today as it was then.
O’Connor recommended that hunters take the time to shoot their rifle once they arrive at their intended hunting destination and before they go afield. Anyone who has watched airport baggage handlers do their jobs will understand that to be sage advice. I once watched helplessly from behind a thick sheet of glass as my duffle bag flew off the end of a conveyer belt and onto the tarmac as two baggage handlers watched it happen.
Failure to heed O’Connor’s advice cost me a black bear on my only trip to British Columbia. After missing a 175-yard broadside shot, I double-checked my zero and found that my rifle was hitting about a foot low and almost that far to the right at about 100 yards.
The bottom line is that guns can get bounced, jolted, dropped and otherwise beat up during their trip to your hunting destination. This can result in your scope being damaged or knocked off its zero and your intended trophy missed. This is true for all modes of travel, including the backseat of your truck.
If you have hired a guide, he should know where you can take a few minutes to verify that your scope settings are still where they should be. But what if you are hunting on your own and traveling in unfamiliar country? Perhaps the National Shooting Sports Foundation can be of assistance.
The NSSF has created a website whose sole purpose is to help traveling hunters and recreational target shooters find a place where they legally and safely can shoot while on their journey, and they can do it before leaving home. The address is www.wheretoshoot.org. All you have to do is click on the tile entitled “Find a place to shoot.” The next screen is designed so you can search for a shooting range by state or ZIP code. You can even narrow the search by firearm type or shooting amenities — archery, handgun, rifle, shotgun, women’s and youth programs, or rentals and instruction.
Let’s say you are going elk hunting in western Colorado and that you will have to pass through Grand Junction on the way. Type in a Grand Junction ZIP code and select the mileage for a search radius from that ZIP code, and the names of five shooting facilities pop up on your screen. Click on the name of a range near your destination, and the next screen will provide all the details you need, including the address and contact information. Information is available for all 50 states and the Canadian provinces.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.