Deer stalking: zeroing and mounting the rifle.

Up here in Northumberland we thankfully missed the disastrous rainfall that battered neighbouring Cumbria but, even so, the stuff that fell on us was torrential.

Stalking was a case of expecting to get soaked without the pleasure of seeing deer.

Flippers and a wet suit would have been the clothing choice on some days!

Over the next couple of months, mind, we might just get our fair share of hard frosts and clear skies with the sun rising on the woodland edges some time after 9.30am… civilised stalking with none of that 3.00am nonsense that we have in the summer!

Who knows we may even be really lucky and get a prolonged covering of snow and freezing temperatures – perfect conditions for the doe cull.

The first week of February sees me up in the North of Scotland on my annual holiday stalking Sika and Red hinds with a number of guests. A busman’s holiday? That certainly might be the case, but Sika, like roe, are a real challenge and it is always a pleasure to stalk different ground: how could I possibly resist?

A couple of the lads coming with me are hoping to complete their DSC Level Two portfolios and the rest want a glut of carcasses to come into the larder for dressing out so that they can pass the examination too.

The experience they will gain on the trip will be invaluable. If we get the heavy snow of last year then there’s every chance the deer will be on the lower ground, and that will help everyone.

Retrieving any carcasses on the lower slopes is a lot easier and means we are on the ground for longer, stalking.

Don’t get me wrong, the mountain tops above Loch Shin offer stunning views and the sense of well-being once up there is well worth it, but preferably at another time of year!

I have to say, with every likelihood of arctic conditions in February, the lower ground is the place for me and I am certain the deer feel the same!

On our return, we will be out no matter what the weather because there is still a cull to complete and the does will be hungry and on the move in search of food.


One phrase that really grates with me is: “The rifle has to be zeroed to each individual.”

Deer stalking: zeroing and mounting the rifle

It doesn’t – if a rifle is correctly set up and zeroed, and the hunter mounts the rifle and looks through the scope correctly then the zero will be the same for all.

We regularly prove this point on our courses here at Greenlee.

And spectacles don’t make a difference, all that matters is the mount and eye relief. So how close does your eye have to be to the scope?

We have all heard of black eyes and cut foreheads inflicted by the rim of the scope but was that caused by the ‘scope being too close to the eye?

No, it is usually a problem with the rifle mount.

A centre fire rifle certainly does produce recoil and how much depends on the calibre.

For instance, if you are shooting a classic .470 African double rifle then yes, you can expect a thump in the shoulder.

If you are not holding one of those monsters properly you will end up on the floor, and I am speaking here from experience.

All standard deer rifles, however, are comfortable to shoot so long as your technique is correct and you pay heed to the three rules of proper mounting.

The first is to achieve the correct view through a scope and the second is to ensure you hold the rifle so that it does not bounce out of your hands and give you, or anyone else, a whack somewhere painful.

I had a guest once – who I am sure broke his nose – but he was still smiling because he did shoot a doe and kid with his two shots!

The third rule of course is safe handling. Let us ignore the scope for the moment and concentrate instead on the rifle mount.


Hold the fore stock and the pistol grip firmly, but not with the sort of power we use on the armrests of a dentist’s chair during a filling!

Deer stalking: zeroing and mounting the rifle

Confident and firm are the words I would use.

The rifle butt should now be drawn securely into the shoulder pouch, and not onto the shoulder joint, because that will hurt!

The cheek should be secure on the rifle butt. It is as if the rifle is being embraced by the stock, pistol grip, shoulder and cheek, held safe and close.

During the embrace, there is now no part of the rifle with any spaces left between the rifle and the body.

On firing, the recoil from the rifle is simply absorbed by the whole body because there are no gaps where the rifle can jump to fill the space.

With a bit of practice you will have sorted out the mount. Now let’s take a look at the position of the scope, or I should say the eye…

With the rifle mounted correctly your eye should be something like 3 to 3.1/4 inches from the scope’s eyepiece.

The important bit is the picture you see through it – and that should be a very clear black outer circle, and within that, the cross hairs.

If the picture is elliptical, shadowed or changing then your eye relief is incorrect and you will not be looking through the centre of the scope.

Do not take the shot. If the picture is incorrect you will have to adjust the scope within the mounts until that picture of the circle and crosshairs is stable and clear.

If you start moving your head back and forwards to get the picture then there is trouble ahead.

The mount should be smooth, into the shoulder with no other movement necessary.

You can practice at home; make sure the rifle is UNLOADED with the bolt REMOVED and DO NOT point the rifle looking out of the windows – that’s a sure way to have the armed response team seal off the area!

With the mount sorted out your shots will be spot on.

Jon can be contacted on 01434 344067 or via email –