Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:20PM - 197 Views

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Next deer season is a little less than a year away, but it's not too early for hunters to start preparing with a critical step that should be taken now.

Before you put your deer rifle away for the year, it's important to give it a good cleaning – inside and out, to make sure it's ready to go for next season. Failing to clean a rifle can lead to unexpected problems in the field, and those problems can mount if the firearm hasn't been cleaned for several years.

I had a gun that was brought in that hadn't been cleaned for years, and the firing pin was so gummed up that it wasn't even moving, said Norm Gavlick, owner of Gun Hippo in Kingston. It took a few hours just to get all the sludge out.

The adverse weather conditions that often face hunters throughout deer season can take a toll on a rifle. Temperature variations, rain, snow, wind and exposure to dust and dirt can all lead to problems down the road. Even firing the rifle forces gases and debris down the barrel which can build up over time.

Before you put it away, you want to give your rifle a thorough cleaning to remove all that accumulation, both in the barrel and on the outside, Gavlick said.

He also advised against storing a rifle inside a leather case during the year. Leather cases cause moisture to accumulate on the rifle inside, Gavlick said, which will lead to rust problems.

Here's the step-by-step cleaning process that Gavlick uses on all the rifles brought into his shop:

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