It’s important for all shooters to learn that boresighting and zeroing in your weapon are not the same thing. Some learn the hard way and end up wasting time, money and ammo before they figure it out. But once you understand a little bit about external ballistics, not only will the difference become simple, but in the meantime, you can also become a better shooter.
What is boresighting?
Boresighting is a method of adjustment to a firearm sight to align the firearm barrel and sights.
What is zeroing?
Zeroing is a method of adjustment to the sights so that the point of aim is the point of impact.
Although you can manually sight the bore yourself, the more modern method is with a laser that either attaches to the muzzle or is inserted into the chamber. The laser will emit a strong enough beam to see up to 100 yards away so you can easily align the bore.
While boresighting will get the scope aligned with the bore, it is not 100% aligned with the point of impact from a bullet, as outside factors such as wind and gravity will affect the trajectory of a flying object. The goal of boresighting is to get on paper. The goal of zeroing is to make the correct adjustments to guarantee the bullet hits where you’re looking.
These are both essential steps before you start shooting seriously. Those who don’t boresight their weapon will go out to the field and waste round after round just trying to get on paper because their sights aren’t aligned. Others believe the misconception that boresighting will automatically zero their gun, so they hit a bullseye at 25 yards but are then frustrated that they’re multiple inches off at 100 yards. This happens because they don’t take external ballistics into account.
External ballistics deals with factors affecting the behavior of a projectile in flight.
Once the bullet leaves the barrel, gravity will start to affect its vertical movement, and wind will affect the horizontal movement. The farther your bullet goes, the more it will drop. This is why zeroing your weapon at 100 yards won’t zero it for 200 yards as well. Most firearm optics and sights come with adjustable knobs for elevation and windage for this very reason, and the MOA (Minute of Angle) measurement will tell you how much you need to adjust the scope at a certain yardage.
When you’ve both boresighted and properly zeroed your weapon, you’ll be prepared to shoot any target or game that comes your way.
One of the most important aspects of choosing a riflescope is deciding which reticle to use. The reticle is the aiming point for your scope, and they are available in many different looks and varieties for improved shooting performance. Once you’ve established what type of shooting you’ll be using the scope for, you can choose the reticle most fitting for your hunting, tactical, or competitive shooting needs.
Crosshairs are perhaps the most famous reticle due to their appearance in pop culture classics like James Bond. Commonly made by two intersecting perpendicular lines, crosshairs provide a reference for where the rifle is aiming, with the intersection of the lines being the aiming point. Throughout the years, riflescope manufacturers have developed the classic crosshairs, adding features like bullet drop compensation or thinner crosshairs for maximized precision. This means nearly every scope you look through, will vary.
When choosing a reticle, the first step is to define its intended use. Are you a hunter shooting deer at around 100 yards? A reticle with broad crosshairs delivers a clear image to place on your target without having to worry about losing your crosshair in the complex background image. Shooting at longer distances where precision is most important? A reticle with thinner crosshairs ensures the accuracy needed. Once you’ve decided, choosing a reticle comes down to personal preference, so be sure to look at all the options before deciding.
Different Types of Reticles
Duplex crosshairs are lines that start off broader on the edges of the reticle and then become much skinnier as it gets close to the center. The thick bars on the perimeter allow the shooter to quickly focus in on the middle of the reticle, and the thinner lines in the center allow for precise shooting. Duplex crosshairs are the most common type of reticle on the market.
Wire crosshairs are flattened out wires to provide a durable reticle that does not impede light passing through the scope. Once the only way to make reticles, wire crosshairs are becoming less and less popular due to etched-glass reticles which are far more accurate and durable.
Etched-glass reticles are the result of carving a reticle into a thin plate of glass using a diamond point. They can have floating elements, such as complex sections for bullet drop compensation or range estimation.
Reticles can be illuminated, usually by internal mechanisms like battery-powered LED lights. Red is the most common color because it is the least destructive to your night vision, however, some products use yellow or green. Typically, illuminated reticles can be turned on and off at will and have brightness settings.
First or Second Focal Plane
Another factor to consider before buying a scope is whether you want your reticle to change in size proportionally to the target as you zoom the scope in or out. If you do, then you will want a first focal plane riflescope, where the reticle is at the front of the erector tube, allowing it to be affected by the magnification. If you want your reticle to stay the same size while the target is enhanced, then a second focal plane riflescope is for you. On a second focal plane scope, the reticle is at the back of the erector tube, meaning the image of the reticle is not enhanced as you zoom in. In general, first focal plane scopes are more expensive; however, their markings on the reticle are always accurate at any range, while second focal point reticles’ markings are only true at a given magnification—usually the highest.
Now that you know the terms associated with reticles, let’s look at a few.
• The Sightmark Hog Hunter Reticle can be found on some of the Core HX series scopes. This scope has duplex crosshairs along with lateral hash marks to allow the shooter to make quick adjustments on moving targets with ease.
• The Sightmark Venison Hunting Reticle can also be found in the Core HX series. Like the HHR, this scope has duplex crosshairs and longitudinal tick marks that allow for bullet drop compensation at long ranges. Notice how the eye is quickly drawn to the middle of the scope on both scopes due to the thinning of the crosshairs.
• The Dual Caliber Reticle can be found on some of Sightmark’s Core TX series. This reticle can be illuminated with the twist of a knob, choosing from 1 to 10 brightness settings, thereby allowing the shooter to get a clear view of the reticle and deliver optimal shot placement. The reticle can be illuminated in either red or green and the shooter can choose from six levels of brightness. This reticle also has duplex crosshairs that get thinner as they move towards the center.
• The CDC-300 Circle Dot Chevron Reticle is not a duplex reticle. The ballistically-matched CDC-300 is on a first focal plane, meaning the reticle stays in the same visual proportion to the target across any magnification range. The red or green illuminator helps the shooter to see clearly in all lights, allowing you to accomplish holdovers from 100 to 800 yards. The CDC-300 Circle Dot can be found in Sightmark’s Pinnacle series.
• The TMD Tactical Mil Design Reticle could be considered a duplex. The markings on the crosshair allow for bullet drop compensation, helping the long-distance shooter effectively make holdover shots without changing the magnification. This reticle is in the first focal plane, meaning it stays visually proportional to the target at all ranges, and comes with 1 to 6 brightness settings for its red/green illuminator, meaning it can provide unparalleled clarity in bright and low light situations. The TMD reticle can be found on scopes from Sightmark’s Pinnacle series.
If you were to invent a reticle, what features would it have? Describe your dream reticle in the comment section.
(Mansfield, Texas 2018/09/05) – Sightmark is set to make its mark at the 2018 TacOps East Tactical Training Conference (booth #140,) scheduled for September 5 – 7, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The Ultra Shot M-Spec and Wolverine red dot sights are just a few of the optics to be featured at Sightmark’s booth.
Sightmark’s Ultra Shot M-Spec FMS (SM26035) reflex sight is designed for quick target acquisition and repeatable accuracy in any environment. The M-Spec features a wide lens with scratch-resistant, anti-reflective red coating, integrated sunshade and an illuminated red 1-MOA circle-dot reticle with 10 brightness levels.
Sightmark’s Wolverine red dot sight is available in two models; the FSR 1×28 (SM26020) and CSR 1×23 (SM26021) Wolverines deliver uncompromising crisp clarity in a compact, rubber-armored housing. Both models are night-vision compatible and feature an advanced scratch-resistant lens. The FSR model includes a 28mm objective lens and the CSR features a 23mm objective lens. Both feature unlimited eye relief.
TacOps East is a tactical training conference and exposition that helps balance training, networking and trade show experiences in a three-day event. The show will host over 40 training courses that will consist of instructor level certifications, armorer certification, classroom instruction and practical application.
Deciding to buy a riflescope is a good choice. Scopes make hunting, competition, target and long-range shooting easier and more accurate. However, there is almost an endless amount of choice. How is one supposed to choose? This how-to guide to buying a riflescope will help you narrow your choices.
Written by John Shellenberger
Magnification is one of the most important aspects of a riflescope. Magnification is the range to which you can multiply the naked eye’s vision. In other words, a scope with 2x magnification power is twice the power of your unaided eye. Magnification is referred to in power level increments and is represented by the first numbers in a riflescope’s name. For example, on a variable zoom 1-4x32mm scope, the magnification would be 1-4x what the naked eye sees. On a fixed scope, like a 4x32mm scope, the magnification is fixed at 4x what the human eye can see.
Magnification is largely preferential. If you are a hunter who shoots moving targets under 100 yards, 3-9x would perform well. If you want to hit bullseyes from 750 yards, then a scope with a larger magnification range like 5-30x might suit your style.
Objective Lens Size
The objective lens size is the diameter of the lens closest to the barrel of the rifle, and farthest away from the stock of the rifle. The objective lens diameter is the number after the x in the riflescopes title. For example, a 1-4x32mm scope has an objective lens with a diameter of 32mm. The size of your objective lens affects how much light the scope will be able to transmit. A larger objective lens lets in more light, producing a brighter image, but at the expense of being heavier than a scope with a smaller objective lens.
Weight is a factor you want to consider before you make your purchase. Think about where you will be doing most of your shooting. If you are shooting long distances at the range where you’ll have a bipod or sandbags to fire your rifle from, then a heavier scope probably won’t affect you very much. If you are stalking deer in the mountains and have to do a lot of hiking in between shots, it could be beneficial for you to choose a lighter riflescope since constantly raising and holding a heavy rifle takes its toll after some time.
Windage and elevation adjustment turrets are used to adjust the position of the bullet’s impact. Windage adjustments have the ability to move the bullet’s point of impact to the left or right in relation to the reticle. Elevation adjustments are used to move the bullet’s point of impact up or down. Scope adjustments are either made in minute of angle units or milliradians. For the beginner hunter, once you sight in your rifle, the windage and elevation turrets won’t need to be adjusted again. These adjustments are extremely helpful for tactical shooters making long distance shots.
Next, to the objective lens size, lens coatings are the most important aspect of light transmission. When looking through the scope, you want to see the brightest and clearest image possible. This is affected by the amount of reflected light coming through the lens and the amount of light transmitted through the lenses. The goal of optical coatings are to reduce the glare and the loss of light caused by reflection. More coatings generally result in better light transmission. There are four main categories of optical lens coatings:
Coated– at least one of the lenses has a single layer of anti-reflective coating
Fully Coated– on every air to glass lens (the outer lenses) there is a single layer of anti-reflective coating
Multicoated– at least one of the lenses has multiple layers of anti-reflective coating
Fully Multicoated– multiple layers of coating have been put on all air to glass lenses
Keep in mind that with higher quality comes a higher price; however, spending the extra money to get quality coatings can greatly impact your shooting experience.
Also known as the “crosshair,” the reticle is the part of the riflescope that predicts where the bullet will go. Looking at a reticle through the riflescope is similar to lining up your shot in iron sights. Reticles are a matter of preference and a huge variety is available for shooters to choose from. On a very basic level, the crosshairs’ thickness is going to affect the precision of your shot. Larger reticles are easier to see in low-light situations, but can sometimes dwarf or cover up the target if the target is far away. Thinner crosshairs allow the shooter to be more precise but are more difficult to see in low-light.
Many reticles come with posts or scales on their crosshairs. These small ticks are minute of angle or milliradian measurements used to compensate for the bullet’s drop at greater distances. However, not every tick mark is always accurate at any range, because the reticle can be affected by what focal plane it is set in.
Focal plane can be found in two forms—first or second. In a second focal plane riflescope, the reticle is at the end of the erector tube near the end closest to the butt of the rifle. This means that the magnification is changing behind the reticle in relation to the shooter, so the reticle image maintains its original size. The reticle is not always proportional to the target, only at a certain magnification (often the greatest magnification possible). As you zoom in, the reticle takes up more and more of your vision, appearing larger though it is actually staying the same size it always was.
In a first focal plane riflescope, the reticle is located in the front of the erector tube—meaning when you zoom in with the scope, it also zooms in on the reticle as well. This creates a proportionate changing of size between the target and your reticle. Since everything is proportional, the reticle’s tick marks are accurate at all ranges, not just the most zoomed-in range. First focal plane riflescopes are more expensive in general, but allow the shooter to make adjustments much faster than changing the windage or elevation adjustments.
Tube size is important to know for a beginner because you want to be able to use your scope after you buy it, meaning you need the right size mounting rings for your scope. Tubes can be found generally in two sizes: 30mm and 1 inch. Other than increasing the adjustment range internally, neither offers greater benefits than the other, a larger tube doesn’t mean it lets more light in. However, you will need to know what size tube you have so when you go to use your scope you aren’t stuck trying to put 1-inch mounting rings on a 30mm tube. If you live in the United States, you might want to remember that more riflescopes are built with one-inch tubes than are not. However, once again, tube size is entirely preferential.
Do you have further questions about riflescopes? Leave them in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them.
A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.
In the world of shooting sports, 3-gun is arguably a fast growing and exciting competition. It consists of a set of stages requiring the use of three guns—a rifle, shotgun, and pistol. At these different stages, shooters engage various close- to mid-range targets, even up to 500 yards, from different positions. Scoring is determined based on time and hits, with penalties for misses, and each stage is assigned a different degree of difficulty. In a nutshell, the shooter who hits the most targets in the shortest amount of time wins. This competition is exciting and challenging, even for the most experienced shooters.
Getting started can seem a bit daunting, but the truth is, if you are already an avid shooter, you most likely already have most of what you need to get started. You need a shotgun (pump or semi-auto,) handgun and some sort of modern sporting rifle like the AR-15. You will also need ammo, a holster, gun belt, shell holders, magazine pouches, spare mags, ear and eye protection and gun oil or lube. However, your optics are arguably one of the most important pieces of 3-gun equipment. Deciding on the right optic is crucial for success in this fast-paced shooting sport. Consider the following six elements when choosing a scope.
Because there is no set course for a 3-gun competition, shooters must be prepared for anything. Many shooters prefer a scope with a base magnification that is 1x to avoid the disorientation that one can get from even the slightest magnification. With the close range targets, it is crucial for the shooter to keep both eyes open. When using a true 1x powered scope the shooter can keep both eyes open, allowing them to shooter quicker and more precise.
Some optic companies design first-focal-plane scopes specifically for 3-gun shooters—this is a completely subjective choice. Some shooters complain an FFP reticle becomes so big at full magnification power that it covers too much of the target. For them, a true 1x, second-focal-plane reticle works best. Others do prefer first-focal-plane systems because on longer shots the incremental values of their subtensions are consistent throughout the magnification range.
When shooting with both eyes open, having an illuminated dot can aid a shooter tremendously. Reflex sights are almost primarily the only optic you will see on an open class handgun. The difference between a reflex handgun sight and an illuminated magnified scope is, most importantly, parallax correction—your point of aim is effective even when perfect sight alignment has not been established. This helps competitors shoot faster and hit more effectively.
Eye Box & Eye Relief
Some scopes are designed so that the shooter must be perfectly aligned with the center of the lens in order to see through—where others provide more latitude. You don’t want to struggle to see through your rifle in the middle of a competition when you’re lying upside down trying to shoot at clay pigeons with your weak-hand. What’s most helpful when shooting while moving is a large eye-box. While traditional hunting riflescopes have long eye relief, most 3-gun shooters (with the exception of Heavy Metal divisions) will be using a .223 so the recoil is not a serious concern. Thus, they prefer 1x or low-magnification optics with shorter eye relief.
Sightmark Citadel 1-6×24
Combining impressive performance with a stealthy appearance, the Citadel offers a wide magnification range for close to mid-range shooting. Sightmark does a good job with keeping real shooters in mind when designing scopes. The Citadel features a second-focal-plane BDC reticle calibrated for 55-grain 5.56/.223 ammo. The single-piece, 30mm tube and aircraft-grade aluminum construction make the Citadel extremely durable.
Sightmark Core 1-4×24
Specifically calibrated for the .223, this riflescope sets the standard when taking close- to medium-range shots. Not only is this perfect for 3-gun competitions, but also tactical operations, target shooting or hunting. Variable 1-4x magnification and a fine-etched bullet-drop-compensating (BDC) reticle, including adjustable red and green illumination, makes target acquisition faster and easier, even in low-light conditions. Ready for the most extreme environments, the Sightmark Core is nitrogen-filled, waterproof, fogproof, dustproof and shockproof.
Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec
The M-spec weighs in 30% lighter than many popular reflex sights from other manufacturers. It is built to adapt to any shooting environment, with a battery life of up to 1,000 hours and submersible up to 40 ft. This is one of the most robust reflex sights on the market, perfect for 3-gun competitions. The M-Specs cast magnesium alloy housing is lightweight and stronger than aluminum. It is equipped with an advanced, parallax-corrected optical lens system, a necessary component for all 3-gun competitors.
Do you participate in 3-Gun? What optics do you use? Help others to make a choice by sharing in the comment section.
About the Author
Hey Y’all! My name is Camille and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m currently a senior psychology major at TCU. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in the outdoors industry. I grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing whenever I could with my dad and grandpa. Any time I’m not working or studying you can find me in the woods hunting or on a boat fishing.
(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/0814) – Sightmark will be adding two new reflex sights to their already top-of-the-line sights. The Core Shot A-Spec FMS (SM26017) and Core Shot A-Spec LQD (SM26018) bring accuracy and reliability for firearm enthusiasts.
Delivering elite performance, the FMS and LQD reflex sights will enhance your accuracy in recreational, professional and competitive environments. The Core Shot is the perfect reflex sight for anybody looking for a sight sized between a Mini Shot and Ultra Shot, making them a mid-compact sized red dot sight.
Crafted out of aircraft-grade aluminum, for a dependable, lightweight housing, the Cores are IP55 water resistant, shockproof and feature a scratch-resistant lens coating for a durable product. Featuring slotted windage and elevation adjustments, digital switch controls, reticle brightness levels, and night vision compatibility, the Core Shot includes a protective aluminum shield and a wide lens for quick target acquisition.
Years ago, I learned (the hard way) just how important the features on your riflescope really are when it comes to long-range shooting. Granted, when you’re shooting just a few hundred yards, you have some leeway when it comes to the reticle plane, the reticle itself, tracking, return to zero, chromatic aberration, etc.; however, there isn’t much room at all for a compromise on any of these features as you extend your distance game.
I was asked to field-test an optic from 100 to 1,000 yards. The problem was, the optic was completely ill-prepared to handle any long-range work and barely accomplished mid-range shooting at just 600 yards. While the riflescope was touted as a long-range optic on a 6-24×56 and 30mm tube platform, the nuts-and-bolts features included a red/green illuminated mil-dot second-focal-plane reticle and 1/4-MOA per click windage and elevation turret adjustments, as well as adjustable parallax and diopter.
I assure you, it’s easy to create a mess when you begin with messy parts. There was little (actually nothing) to like about an optic that, itself, was a contradiction. Some things should never be mixed—beer and whiskey, water and gasoline… MOA and milliradian. Consider the latter. In our shooting world, while minute-of-angle (MOA) is 1.047 inches at 100 yards and usually adjustable at 1/8- or 1/4-MOA per click, a milliradian (Mil or MRAD) measures 3.6 inches at 100 yards and is most often adjustable at increments of .1 Mil. As examples, we’ll consider the most popular—1/4-MOA and .1 Mil.
Adjusting ¼-MOA per click moves you approximately .26-inch. at 100 yards while .1 Mil shifts your position of impact (POI) about .36-inch. The important takeaway here is obvious, the incremental values of MOA and Mil are not the same. Again, at closer distances, the problem won’t matter much. Unfortunately, at longer distances, reticles, their subtension values and their focal plane really do matter. Make sure, on a fundamental level that your turret adjustment type (Mil or MOA) actually match your reticle (Mil or MOA). Moreover, determine whether you need a first- or second-focal-plane optic.
The difference in focal planes is easy to understand in terms of magnification. On a second-focal-plane system, adjusting magnification does not change the size of the reticle. Increasing or decreasing magnification does not change your reticle size. The problem? The incremental measurements of the subtensions are not consistent. Generally, the appropriate MOA increment (1.047-inches) is only true at one magnification, either at the highest setting or at a power annotated by a mark.
Conversely, first-focal-plane reticles do increase and decrease commensurate with the optic’s full range of magnification. As a result, the subtension values on a first-focal-plane reticle are consistent no matter the magnification power setting. The result is reliable adjustability at all known distances, as well as the added benefit of stadiametric-type ranging based on the target size and fact that subtension values never change. For this difference alone, my money is on a first-focal-plane system for long range… and for me, the Mil (MRAD) adjustment and reticle system. To that end, however, there is another critical reticle feature when considering milliradian-based optics—Mil-dot and Mil-dash. So, which is better?
While some might suggest it depends on your shooting, my take is—not so much. Unless you’re trying to find that sweet spot of balance between speed and precision, or have trouble identifying fine subtension lines, mil-dash is a better option every day of the week and twice on Sundays, especially as you extend your distance game and, depending on the focal plane, increase magnification. When it comes to accuracy, the greatest threat to precision shot placement, as it relates to this topic, is a mil-dot covering more of your target face. At best, your potential accuracy is only as small as the area of your target covered up by the obstructive black dot while a fine mil-dash subtension line essentially leaves your entire target face unobstructed. The area a mil-dash covers is essentially negligible.
Subtensions also are used for holdovers and are measured from the center of one line to the next. With mil-dash, precisely identifying the center of one line to the next for accurate, reliable and repeatable holdover is quick and easy. With mil-dots, the shooter is left with estimating the center of a mil-dot to the center of the next mil-dot, leaving room for error; moreover, even if you’re using a first-focal-plane reticle, the mil-dot increases in size as you increase magnification—a rather annoying reality when you’re trying to keyhole shots at 100 yards or beat up a 10-in. steel plate at 1,000. Good friend, Sightmark Pro Staff shooter and winner of History Channel’s Top Shot, Season 2, Chris Reed, said it best when he quipped, “You can’t hit it if you can’t see it.”
Unfortunately, while many top competitive shooters and snipers alike prefer first-focal-plane riflescopes with premium glass and mil-dash reticles, they often are quite expensive, running from $2,000 – $4,000. Fortunately, in January 2018, Sightmark introduced two first-focal-plane riflescope lines boasting illuminated mil-dash reticles, Latitude and Citadel. While Latitudes turn heads with an average price point of $800, the new Citadel lineup includes two FFP riflescopes–a 3-18×50 and 5-30×56, both with .1 mil adjustments and red-illuminated mil-dash reticles–averaging a jaw-dropping price point of $479-$516. Citadel riflescopes even include Sightmark’s lifetime warranty.
Are you a mil-dot/mil-dash type of person or MOA? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.
A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.
Before the Hunt
As long as I can recall, I have wanted to hunt exotic game with my father. I grew up watching Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures and my dad and I really bonded when Eva Shockey started appearing on the show. I saw Jim and Eva travel around the world hunting together and I wanted the same for my dad and me. This dream didn’t fade when I moved 1,000 miles south of my childhood home for college. When I came down to Texas I started hunting more than I ever did up north. I showed my dad just how passionate I was about the outdoors and he started to take my hunting endeavors seriously. We decided to go on a daddy-daughter hunt during the summer between my junior and senior year of college. As summer hunting is pretty much limited to hogs and exotics—we decided to go after an exotic deer.
Before any hard plans were made, I did all of the research I could on the different exotics offered at numerous ranches in Texas. I read up about fallow, stag, axis, sika, and blackbuck—where they originated and the time of the rut. I watched numerous shows about hunters pursuing these animals and read reviews about which meat tastes best. At the end of the day, I decided I would be going after an axis deer, also known as a chital in their native India.
There was something about the beautiful spotted coat and big antlers that intrigued me. I learned these animals are similar to cattle, breeding all year round—meaning there is no set time for the rut or fawning. Perhaps one of the most notable characteristics of axis deer is the high quality and succulent flavor of its meat—deemed one of the most delicious of all game animals.
JL Bar Ranch
As I stepped onto the hot southwest Texas tarmac in Sonora, I gazed out into the vast hill country. We were met by our guide Ricky, who was ready to show us around the 13,000-acre ranch. We were chauffeured around to see the 1,500-yard long shooting range, the skinning rack and then the trophy wall. I had seen that wall before, it was where all of the pictures from their website came from and I aspired to be among the hunters who proudly posed with their animal in front of the JL Bar sign.
That night my dad and I devoured a nice steak dinner as we mentally prepared for the next morning. There is something about the night before a big hunt that makes it hard to sleep. I hardly got any rest that night—lying awake consumed by nerves and jitters about wanting to have the perfect hunt with my dad. The 4:30 wakeup call came early but I was up and ready to go. We sat in the lodge with Ricky and discussed our plan over a cup of coffee. As we loaded up the truck and set off on our adventure I couldn’t help but notice the excitement on my dad’s face. We sat in a blind 100 yards away and admired the axis that came into feed. It was the first time in my life seeing an axis in-person and my dad and I were both mesmerized by its beauty. It was a massive buck, clearly bigger than any whitetail I had ever seen, but Ricky was not impressed—he was confident we could find a much bigger buck.
Most of the time trophy axis don’t come into the feeder, so we climbed down out of the blind and decided to spot and stalk. The grueling sun beat down on us as we stalked these big-antlered beauties. Through thick mesquite, their coats blended almost perfectly. To spot them we watched for the big white patch on the front of their neck. I did not have any idea how difficult axis deer are to stalk. If a doe sees something she doesn’t like, she will bark, triggering the rest of the herd to run off.
As the hunt progressed, my legs ached and my arms fatigued from carrying my rifle. I realized I didn’t have a ton of time to get a deer on the ground. I was having such a fun time looking at these beautiful deer from a distance with my binoculars but we just couldn’t get close enough to the big ones. I didn’t want to come home emptyhanded, but my dad reminded me that hunting is not all about killing. Every hunter knows the frustration of putting in hard work and time and coming home with no success, but for some reason, this hunt was such a big deal to me because it was with my dad.
The hunt was winding down and the sun was starting to set when Ricky said the upcoming pond would be the last place we would check before we would have to night hunt. Before I could even gather my thoughts about night hunting deer, Ricky stopped in his tracks. My heart raced as I looked through my binoculars and saw a big axis 300 yards in front of us. Ricky held out the shooting stick and asked if I wanted to shoot from here or try to get closer. We crawled about 25 yards forward while my dad stayed back to capture a video. I rested the gun on the stick and looked through my scope. Buck fever has never hit me as hard as it did in that moment—it felt as though my entire body was shaking. My breathing became heavy, my hands sweaty and I felt weak in my knees. This was the first time during the entire hunt I actually had my rifle on a buck. Adrenaline coursed through my body as I tried to steady my breathing. With every breath, the crosshairs bounced all over the place. The buck began walking away and I felt my stomach drop as I watched. Just as hope was lost, my luck changed and the buck turned broadside. I took two deep breaths, reached a comfortable respiratory pause and then squeezed the trigger.
I lost the deer under recoil—he was nowhere in sight. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about missing such a bruiser. As I was beating myself up, Ricky turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and said, “You got him.” Immediately I felt a rush go through my head. I looked back and saw my dad walking towards us, we embraced and I tried to hold back the tears I could feel welling in my eyes. Ricky led us towards where the deer was when I shot so we could find the blood trail. We couldn’t find a single drop of blood or hair and I instantly felt the pain in my stomach come back. Ricky reassured me that he was positive I hit the deer, but I didn’t understand why there was no blood. As we started walking into the brush I turned to ask my dad something and saw my buck tucked behind a tree.
My head started to spin as I walked up on my trophy axis buck—I wasn’t sure if I was going to cry, laugh or just smile. Ricky dragged my deer out from under the tree and I gave my dad the biggest hug. He told me how impressive of a shot I made and how proud he was of me. When I finally got a closer look I saw the shot entry but there was no exit wound—this explains the lacking blood trail. Seeing that I had made a perfect shot from 275 yards back had me beaming with pride. I was proud because I sighted in my scope, I went to the range by myself to practice and I made a great shot on the back end of my comfort zone. My 143-grain bullet went straight through both lungs and lodged into the opposite shoulder. Words can’t describe the emotions I felt as I stood there looking at my buck. I was happy, relieved, proud and most importantly thankful that I could take such a stunning deer with my dad by my side the entire time. I proudly posed with my beautiful axis and JL Bar even hung my photo on their prized trophy wall.
Have you gone on the hunt of a lifetime? We’d love to hear your stories. Share them in the comment section.
A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.
With hunting season just around the corner, it’s time to sharpen your knives and dig deep into the heart of controversy. There are a number of long-held—and sometimes odd—rites of passage hunters partake in when killing their first deer. In September 2016, a New Zealand father was ruthlessly attacked by internet haters for letting his daughter take a bite out of a raw deer heart. The dad, Johnny Yuile, posted the pictures on the NZ Woman Hunters Facebook page of his daughter and him over a freshly killed young stag. The young girl had recently taken her first stag after a tricky approach and they commemorated with the age-old practice of eating the raw heart. For many non-hunters, this was a form of barbarism. They criticized the dad for letting the daughter eat the raw heart due to the dangers of uncooked meat—demanding the dad be criminally charged
According to evidence, eating extremely fresh raw meat carries little danger. “There’s risks anytime you eat meat period,” says ER physician Dr. Travis Stork a host on the tv show The Doctors. “That’s just the reality. But there’s also a big difference if that heart had been sitting out for 48 hours. It’s different than coming across roadkill.”
For many non-hunters, it’s difficult to understand the timeless traditions passed down through generations of hunters. For Yuile and his daughter, the pair camped overnight in the woods and made the kill the next morning. When the young girl was asked about it she said, “I saw my uncle bite the heart, so I thought I might bite it too. It tasted quite nice.”
While some hunters take a bite of the raw heart, others have adapted that tradition a bit. In an article published in Peterson’s Hunting Magazine, outdoor writer, Brian McCombie, states,“In Wisconsin, after a hunter makes a kill, they simmer the heart in water with celery, onion and beer, then slice and eat it.” While some hunters eat the heart, others don’t quite take it so far.
After I killed my first axis deer, I decided I wanted to take it further by not only wiping the blood on my face but taking a bite from its heart. I had heard that Native American hunters would eat the heart of the animal to embody the qualities of the animal. Although I did not eat the axis heart to embody the characteristics of the deer, I did take a bite to commemorate my hunt and to symbolize the joining of the small ranks of other axis deer hunters who have come before me.
Did you eat or take a bite of the heart of your first deer? Why or why not? What do you think about this tradition? Tell us in the comment section.
About the Author
Hey, Y’all! My name is Camille and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m currently a senior psychology major at TCU. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in the outdoors industry. I grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing whenever I could with my dad and grandpa. Any time I’m not working or studying you can find me in the woods hunting or on a boat fishing.
Written by Blake Johnson, Sellmark Marketing/Social Media Specialist
For many hunters, the summer months are used to prepare for fall, like checking feeders and getting stands into place. Some like to work on their accuracy at the range, and many turn to fishing. Still, there are those with the itch to get out and hunt, but with temperatures in the South reaching 100 degrees regularly, what is a hunter to do? Night hunting is becoming increasingly popular due to affordable night vision technology and more bearable temperatures. Below is a quick guide to popular summer hunting game, as well as appropriate gun set-ups. Be sure to check your state and local laws, as hunting laws do vary drastically by state.
What can you hunt in the summer?
It is well known that the U.S. has a widespread hog problem. Found in over 75% of states, the invasive wild hog has an estimated population of over 5 million. There are no natural predators to hogs. Hog hunting is beneficial to farmers and landowners to which the hogs cost millions of dollars each year in damages.
Hogs can’t sweat so they need a way to cool down, which is why they are often found rolling in mud. Where you can find water, you can usually find hogs. The problem is that hogs are smarter than given credit for, and most have become nocturnal from hunting pressure and the hot daytime weather. Purchasing a night vision scope is a great investment to successfully eradicate your local hog population.
Hogs are fast, thus a semi-auto modern sporting rifle (MSR) is favorable to use. Picatinny/Weaver rails allow you to add many attachments useful for night hunting. A night vision riflescope like the Sightmark Photon XT allows for clear nighttime viewing and an accurate, precise shot, something you’ll need with hogs. When using a bolt-action gun, I usually prefer to use something in .30 caliber or above. I would also recommend keeping a larger caliber pistol on you just in case. Hogs are vicious and will sometimes run straight at you. It’s always better to have a back-up in case your gun jams or you don’t have time to reload.
For deer hunters and farmers, coyotes are becoming an increasing nuisance. They will kill fawns, chickens, and house pets. It’s important to control coyote populations to ensure the survival of other animals. Though it’s entirely possible to spot one during the day, during hot months coyotes tend to limit their movements to the cool period between dusk and dawn. Yet again, you’re going to need a night vision scope of some kind to help spot them.
Using a call is a popular way to hunt coyotes. Electric calls utilizing pup in distress calls tend to work best and will have coyotes running in at a dead sprint. Even more so than hogs, you need to be covert, as ‘yotes are very smart in hiding behind terrain.
Bolt-action guns in lower calibers are well-suited for coyotes. My personal favorite caliber for coyotes is a .22-250 with a Photon XT 4.6x42S night vision riflescope when on a coyote hunt. I keep mentioning the Photon because, at the $500 price point, its value cannot be beaten. You can test Gen I scopes, but if you’re anything like me you will be disappointed until you try out the digital Photon XT’s.
Small Game and Varmints
Varmint hunting is another popular endeavor during the hot summer. Raccoons and other varmints are always getting into trouble: eating corn and other vegetation, getting into trash and preying on ground-nesting birds. Most all raccoon hunting is done at night when they love to cause problems.
A lot of people use hounds to hunt raccoon and other varmints, but it can be easily done without them. A .22 with iron sights or red dot sight is a popular small game gun. With ample stopping power for small game, dirt-cheap ammunition, and an incredibly lightweight, .22’s are perfect guns to take in the woods. While a night vision scope is not necessary, having a night vision device is very helpful. The Sightmark Ghost Hunter series offers a variety of night vision monoculars and binoculars at affordable prices and in different magnifications. Use the night vision sight to spot raccoons then shoot ‘em down with the .22. A powerful flashlight like the Sightmark SS600 Tactical is great for spotlighting coons in trees before you take your shot.
There is no reason to hang up the hunting gear just because it’s summer. Though the days are hot, a night vision device enables you to scratch your hunting itch without having to wait until fall. It also gives you something to look forward to during those long summer days. So, get out there and hunt!