One of the first events on any safari or guided hunt is to go “check zero.” Some professional hunters are astute “gun guys,” but many are not. Either way, they will endeavor to get you as close to the animals they hunt as circumstances (terrain, vegetation, etc.) allow. As we have discussed, long-range shooting is rare in Africa. PHs have a vested interest in making certain your firearms have survived the journey and are reasonably in zero, but they probably don’t care as much as you do that your zero is “perfect.” At the ranges most African game is taken, an inch or two off at 100 yards makes very little difference. Zero does need to be checked, but the purpose of that range day is actually threefold. The PH and his or her team—including the trackers—want not only to ensure that the rifle hasn’t shifted during travel but also to evaluate your shooting ability and your gun handling safety.
- Every day is “qual day.” In the U.S. military, an oft-used saying is “every day is qualification or ‘qual’ day.” Range day is like qualification day, and it’s not an exam you cram for. Basic gun handling safety must be practiced all the time, and it matters to your safari. The way you shoot and handle your firearm on range day has much to do with the way your PH and his or her team will conduct the safari—how they will try to set up your shots, what shots they will recommend (or, in fact allow) you to take, and how much time they will have to devote to watching your gun handling when they should instead be focused on finding game and orchestrating stalks. Safe gun handling starts at home on your range, but it continues on range day and must be constant throughout.