Ray Metzler, Assistant Chief, Wildlife Section

Many Alabama deer hunters dream of harvesting a big buck that surpasses the state record or the Boone and Crockett minimum scores. If you have the opportunity to harvest a deer, it is imperative that your rifle be sighted-in properly so the bullet makes contact where you aim. Every Alabama deer hunter should visit a shooting range to set gun sights prior to the opening of Alabama’s gun deer season.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has developed shooting ranges on nine wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Baldwin, Barbour, Colbert, Coosa, Hale, Jackson, Lamar, Limestone, and Shelby counties. Additionally, WFF and the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office partner to operate the Etowah Public Shooting Range in Gadsden.
These ranges are constructed and maintained with revenue generated by the sale of hunting licenses. Special regulations regarding use of ranges operated by the WFF do apply and are posted at each range site. Shooters need to bring their own paper targets to the range. All WFF ranges are open for use only during daylight hours by individuals who possess a valid state hunting license, management area license, or wildlife heritage license. The Wildlife Heritage License provides support for wildlife habitats and allows license holders to use shooting ranges in WMAs and other fishing and small game hunting (except waterfowl) privileges.
The U.S. Forest Service also operates two shooting ranges within WMAs in Calhoun and Winston counties as well as four other shooting ranges in Bibb, Covington, Macon and Talladega counties.
The ranges vary in size and construction, but they all have a concrete shooting line with benches and a 100-yard berm. These ranges are extremely popular with the shooting public and provide an opportunity to hone marksmanship skills. Most ranges receive thousands of man-days of use annually and are particularly busy during the weeks just prior to the opening of Alabama’s gun deer season.
Alabama has many privately operated ranges as well. A list of available public and private shooting ranges and state archery ranges.
When visiting the range, begin by shooting your firearm at 25 yards to determine that the sights or crosshairs are close to their proper position. Once the sights are relatively close, you may begin shooting at the distance at which you prefer to have your sights zeroed in. Many Alabama hunters prefer to sight-in their rifle at 100 yards and practice at varying distances to verify the change in ballistics. Remember, practice with the same ammunition that you will use while hunting. Ballistics are affected by bullet design and weight, and ammunition from different manufacturers does not all shoot the same.
While at the range, remember that with open sights the rear sight is moved in the same direction that the impact of the bullet should move. For example, if the impact of the bullet needs to be moved up, the rear sight is moved up. Clean and lightly oil all firearms after each use and prior to storage. 
Range operators expect all shooters to follow safe gun handling rules while on the range. Some specific issues to remember include:
  • Keep all firearms unloaded and pointed in a safe direction when not shooting.
  • Keep the action open when not on the firing line.
  • Remain behind the shooting benches while shooting is taking place.
  • Wear eye and ear protection.

Every hunter should be familiar with their firearm and be confident of their ability to ensure proper bullet placement when given the opportunity to harvest a deer. A trip to your nearest shooting range is one step in achieving that goal.