Take the time to give your gun this four-point inspection prior to the season opener.

1. Optics
Even the best optics only work when they’re properly secured to the gun. More than one whitetail owes its life to a careless hunter who forgot to check his scope before the season began.

Even if the scope seems snug in the rings, tighten all the ring screws anyway. And make sure the rings are securely fastened to the bases. Check your sight picture to be sure there are no nicks or cracks in the lenses and that the glass isn’t fogged.

2. Sling
Check the integrity of the sling’s material and ensure that the swivels are tightened properly. Practice mounting the rifle with the sling in place.

3. Mechanical Function
Always check the action of your rifle to ensure that everything is working properly. With the safety on, I like to run a magazine’s worth of cartridges through the action to be sure that it operates smoothly. Remove the bolt and look for any mechanical issues, and check the rifling and the muzzle condition as well.

4. Point of Impact
This is probably the most neglected of the four points because we often assume that our trusted rifle will perform the way it did when we placed it in the safe at the end of last season. We all have a tendency to romanticize the performance of our rifles after a hiatus from shooting, remembering tight little cloverleaf patterns that, in reality, were a bit wider than we recollect. You owe it to yourself and the animals you hunt to be lethal. You must shoot a few groups at the range–especially if you are using a new load this year. If the rifle doesn’t behave the way it did a year ago it’s better to remedy the problem before the season starts than after a miss on opening day.