Hunting is an outdoor sport, and the outdoors are not known for their predictability. The greatness of humanity’s endeavors in technology are impressive, but you still need to take the weather into account, whether you’re using a $90 rifle or a $9,000 rifle to hunt.
Being familiar with the area beforehand is a time saver on this front, but unless you happen to be able to predict the future, you won’t know exactly what the weather will be like until you get to your area. Here are a few ways that conditions can effect your rifle hunting, and what you should remember.
In the Heat:
- Warmer air means a higher round velocity. That means that you’ll have to adjust your sights, and the type of ammunition that you plan to use, accordingly. Higher velocities mean a different impact point than you may have experienced in controlled environments, such as indoor shooting ranges, and in cold weather hunts.
- Keep your ammo in the shade. Although it’s unlikely that your ammunition will be heated to the point of danger, most rounds are made with metal that can and will heat up very quickly if left in direct sunlight. Your best bet is to keep it shaded, both for your safety and for your accuracy while shooting. Hotter rounds, as mentioned, have higher velocity.
- Check your rifle. When talking about hot temperature hunting, the differences in temperature could be anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the position of the sun and the time of day. Factor in other conditions like cloud cover or lack thereof, and you can see how your accuracy can change, even from hour to hour, in the slightest increments. Checking your rifle, keeping an eye on the temperature, and always making adjustments for the terrain are all good ideas in hot weather.
In the Cold:
- Degrease the gun and keep it clean. In temperatures approaching the teens and lower, you could experience decreased action in a rifle. Depending on the type of rifle that you’re using, you could even experience a complete lack of firing. That having been said, make sure that your rifle is degreased. Bolt action rifles are recommended for extreme cold environments, as they can function without any lubricant. There’s a reason the Russians relied on them in World War 2.
- Cold air means lower round velocity, but not always. As with your hot season rifle hunting, you will need to adjust your cold season sights as well, but keep in mind that not every round propellent experiences a degradation in velocity at the same temperature drop as others. You can pretty quickly do research as to which rounds are more reliable in cold weather than others.
- Keep snow out of the muzzle. You don’t want any water getting into the barrel of your rifle. Something as simple as a strip of tape over the muzzle can keep the snow out, and won’t have any noticeable impact on your round velocity.
- Altitude can effect your sighting, so when you’re hunting at high or low altitudes of +/- 5,000 feet or more, you will need to adjust your sights. You should also be aware that at higher altitudes, you will be experiencing thinner air, which means less resistance for your shoots. Check your rifle at your altitude to make sure it’s properly sighted.
- Humidity, on the other hand, can mean thicker air, which means more resistance for the shot.
If you research this subject, you should find that most veteran hunters have their own personal “rules of thumb” about how heat and cold can effect trajectories and impact, how humidity can play a role, and what you should do for high altitude hunting.
Your own experience in these areas should lead you to similar conclusions, but it’s recommended that you take any “solid numbers” on the subject with a grain of salt. The type of rifle, the ammunition, and the weather will all play their part in just how accurate or inaccurate your shot will be until you’ve had time to acclimate yourself.