It is the only time in my long and serious deer hunting passion that I didn’t want a buck to pass in front of me.

Gibb and I had parked the car along Munce Road in Eighty Four. Gibb left for the drive to a preselected spot along Route 136, where he would leave the car and start a one-man drive, hoping to chase a big buck my way. I was in no hurry to get to the stand because I knew Gibb would have to walk quite a ways before moving into the woods and moving slowly toward me.

“Don’t rush,” I kept telling myself as I got to the fence. I placed my left foot on the top strand of wire and swung my left arm over the fence. Well, there was one big boo-boo. I had let go of the .270 after I heaved it over and it had fallen in soft mud. To add insult to injury, it was standing up in the soft earth. The muzzle end was buried and as I pulled it out of the muck, I realized I couldn’t shoot this firearm again until it had a good cleaning. So there I was, waiting for a driver to come through holding a rifle that was out of commission. Even a single shot in that gun could and probably would ruin the barrel. It was too late to stop Gibb because this was before cell phones, and all I could do was wait for him and hope a big buck did not appear.

From that day along a country road to now, there is always cleaning rod, solvent and patches in my vehicle during the buck season. I’m a quick learner. That cleaning occurred because of an emergency I had to salvage what was left of the day. Did we get a buck that day? I don’t think so but if my memory is still intact, I did get one that season.

But what about regular and just shooting for fun days? How often and how should one clean?

First, I never hunt with a just cleaned rifle. In many instances, a clean rifle will place the first shot after cleaning to a different spot. From that point on, it will shoot normally. Incidentally, some rifles will need 2 shots to remove the solvent that is left in the barrel regardless of how many dry patches are run through the barrel.

This is a good place to mention another factor, though it is not related to cleaning. For goodness sake, use the same ammo for sighting in that is used while hunting. Sighting in with Federal store ammo then hunting with Remington is a definite no-no. Even using the same weight bullet and the firearm may hit to a different point of impact. The same could be said about those that shoot reloads. Use exactly the same load for both sighting in and hunting. I guess it would be honest of me to admit I am a bit lazy. While some shooters spend a lot of time cleaning, I probably should clean more often than I do.

Among the best shooters there is total disagreement on how and frequency. I prefer to clean the barrel somewhere around 30 shots. I’m not locked into a certain number. And some guns require a different number of shots before cleaning. The bullet passing down the barrel has a polishing affect and less cleaning is needed while the new barrel still has a bit of roughness from the machining.

When I clean, my first act is to run a patch saturated with a good solvent down the barrel from the breech end when possible. Then, I let the gun sit in a horizontal position. The horizontal position keeps the solvent from seeping into the action. After an hour or two, I run a bronze brush through the barrel for about 10 strokes. Again, I allow the gun to set for a short period then run at least 10 patches through the bore. The bronze brush not only removes fouling using an abrasive action but warms the barrel and the solvent. If that doesn’t reach all the fowling, do it again.

One last story, then this cleaning story is done. I have witnessed first-hand what to do if you don’t have your cleaning rod with you on that special hunting trip. No, don’t ever use a stick. Use your car antennae! It usually screws off and in an emergency, works.

George Block writes a Sunday outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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