The last place you want your firearm to malfunction is in camp. It could be a nightmare for you, turning the hunt of a lifetime into the dreaded hunt from Hades. Indeed, you do not want to be stranded in a western spike camp, a tent camp on the open tundra, a horseback encampment in the Canadian Rockies or a deep woods hunting shack where a qualified gunsmith may be hours, days, or in some cases, even weeks away.
Prevention is often the best cure, so before you arrive in camp, strip your rifle down and clean it thoroughly with a quality degreaser. If need be, have your gunsmith do this for you, and while he is at it, ask him to look over your gun for any obscure problems. I once had a set-screw on my safety come loose as I was about to shoot a wilderness buck. My .30-06 failed to discharge a single round, even after working the action through the entire clip while the buck just stood there looking dumbfounded.
After cleaning, many manufacturers recommend you hunt with the gun dry or with only a light lubricant. Be careful. Excess oil can attract dirt, dust and lint that can eventually lead to a lock-up. And some oils thicken like maple syrup when temperatures plummet, causing the action to “freeze up” in cold weather.
Your rifle can also be damaged in transit between your home and camp. If traveling by motor vehicle, a soft gun case will protect your gun from light bumps, but a hard case will do a much better job. If traveling by airplane, you need to place your rifle in the best hard case you can afford. And by “best,” I mean a reinforced metal box you can stand on without causing any damage to your gun or scope.
Your hunt can also be ruined while hunting. A fall, for example, can knock a scope out of whack, or force ice, mud, leaves and other debris down the muzzle. You can also jam a shell casing in the heat of the moment.
One solution here is to carry a pull-through cleaning system with obstruction removal capabilities from Otis Technologies in your daypack. Now, a pull-through system does not damage the crown or the barrel’s rifling, as metal rods are prone to do. And since you can carry an Otis system with you in the field, it is easy to remove a stuck case or bullet, as well as mud, dirt or debris on site. You don’t have to wait until you’re back at camp.
Rainy days can be especially hard on rifles. The last thing you want to do back at camp is to zip it up in a cloth carrying case, as it will surely begin to rust overnight. Instead, be sure to clean it right away from breech to muzzle in the natural direction of the bullet to remove any debris away from the working mechanisms. Then wipe dry all metal parts with a light solvent, like Hoppe’s.
Many hunts today involve the use of ATVs, and riding an ATV up and down dirt roads will most assuredly pack sand, moisture and dirt into an unprotected rifle. Do not sling your rifle over one or both shoulders, as debris is usually tossed upwards from the back wheels. Besides, if you tip over, you can easily dent the barrel or knock the scope off-center.
You could secure your rifle in a soft case and attach it to the ATV, but it is still open to damage should you flip. Fortunately, there are several hard plastic cases specifically designed for ATVs that will protect a rifle during transit. Obviously, make sure your rifle is unloaded whenever you are underway.
Be careful whenever you move a firearm from the field to a warmer environment, such as vehicle or deer camp. Why? You stand the risk of ice crystals forming the next morning when you go out to hunt. Run a tight patch through the barrel to remove moisture that will likely form while you sleep.
Better yet, leave your rifle outside overnight. Store it unloaded on the back porch, inside a cold vehicle, or you can cover it with a loose cloth and hang it from a nearby tree limb. This is especially important for black powder hunters. If you must bring your blunderbuss into a warm area overnight, discharge it outside first. Once inside, clean it thoroughly leaving the breech plug out.
Then, in the morning, run a patch or two down the barrel and out of the breech, install the breech plug, and fire off a few caps to make sure the barrel is free from moisture and oil before reloading it for the day’s hunt. To do otherwise invites a miss fire.
Finally, strange things can happen to firearms on a backwoods hunt. I carry a spare scoped rifle with me for those rare occasions when fate and Mother Nature team up to spoil my trip. You may have to walk back to your vehicle get it, but it sure beats sitting alone in camp for the rest of the week.