By Tim H. Martin
Have you ever noticed how many hunters — even famous ones — have a little scar on one eyebrow or across the bridge of the nose? That's the telltale sign they've been cut by a riflescope.
Whether you call it a scope ding, joining the Half Moon Club or, as they say in South Africa, a Bushveld tattoo, scope cuts are avoidable if hunters learn two easy-to-forget things.
1. Brace that Butt!
The majority of scope cuts occur when the hunter fails to brace the firearm's buttplate firmly against the shoulder. Usually, this occurs in stands that have shooting rails.
Because the rail does much of the work in propping the gun, it's easy for a hunter to be complacent about shoulder bracing, especially in the heat of the moment when a deer appears.
When my 10-year-old daughter shot her first deer, it stood only ten yards in front of the shooting rail, requiring a steep, downward angled shot. To compensate, she'd lifted the butt of the rifle high on her shoulder instead of standing, but I was so intently focused on the deer, I failed to notice the .243 wasn't against her shoulder.
Even with light recoil, the rifle's jolt had little to absorb it, and my little girl paid the price with a bruise on the nose. I paid the price later when my wife saw the cut.
2. Square Your Face
Another major contributor in scope cuts is the angle of the face in relation to the scope.
Because not every shot occurs directly in front of the hunter, there are times we have to lean to one side or another to make the shot. This can cause the face to lose its square alignment with the scope; therefore, one corner of the scope is much closer to the face than usual. I accidentally became a member of the Half Moon Club this way.
While deer hunting from a shooting house in South Texas, a bobcat appeared in a sendero (road-like clearing) to my far left. This shot required me to quickly re-set up in the far left shooting window and lean awkwardly across an empty chair.
I whistled to stop the bobcat in the clearing and wasted no time firing my .300 Win Mag. The cat and I hit the ground about the same time.
Had I taken a half-second longer to consciously square my face, it would have saved me a bloody nose, a two-day headache and a scar.
Other factors such as improper scope relief and heaviness of caliber play a part in scope cuts, but if you'll remember to brace your firearm's buttplate solidly against your shoulder and square your face to the scope in awkward shooting situations, you'll enjoy a long career without that popular little scar.