1. Make Sure the Barrel Is Clean
Using a cleaning rod and jag, push a solvent-soaked patch through the barrel with a back-and-forth scrubbing motion. Wait five minutes to let the solvent work, then swab the barrel with a clean patch. Saturate a bronze brush with solvent and push it all the way through the barrel and pull it back out. Repeat for 10 in-and-out cycles. Again with the cleaning jag, work a dry patch through the barrel, flip the patch over and run it through again. Then soak a patch with solvent and, with a back-and-forth motion, scrub the barrel. Flip the patch over and repeat. Then repeat with clean saturated patches until they come out clean. If it isn’t coming clean, repeat with the bronze brush, followed by patches. Finish with a dry patch, then a patch dampened with rust preventative. Pay particular attention and care to the crown to assure it is not dinged or scratched, which can throw bullets off course.
2. Check Scope Mount and Rings
Make sure all mount screws are very, very, very tight and ring screws are tight. Apply pressure evenly to all screws, tightening them sequentially in turn, one side then the other, a turn or so at a time.
You’ve heard it before, and there’s a reason: it works. Practice at home or anywhere by dry firing your rifle. Make sure it is unloaded, then check again. Pick a spot on an opposite wall. I like to aim at a deer photo on a calendar, just to give it that look of aiming at the kill zone. Daily is not too often, but as often as you can squeeze off five or so shots/clicks from different positions – sitting, kneeling, standing, prone. Work on stance and your breathing technique and make sure you’re following through, holding the sight on target through the click. No flinching.
4. Practice Follow-Up Shots
Yes, we just practiced making that first shot count, but what if …? Practice the second-chance shot. At the range, load three cartridges and, from a hunting position (not your bench), carefully aim and fire the first shot, then allow yourself no more than five seconds to get back on target, shoot again, then again. In a hunting situation, you should automatically cycle in another round and be ready for a follow-up shot. Make it a habit.
5. Work Out
Get in decent physical shape so you aren’t gasping for breath at the top of the hill with the deer standing 100 yards away. Hunting often requires use of muscles you may not be used to using. Strengthen your neck and shoulders and strong, steady arms will hold your rifle steady.