Hunting Season. For some of us, those two words hold a great deal of magic. The falling leaves that hold vivid colors, the crisp morning air, and the gentle mist that comes with each exhalation bring us indescribable joy. We love being in the outdoors and participating in the millennia-old dance of predator and prey.
But all that magic I mentioned doesn’t happen all by itself. Nope, hunting season brings with it a ton of work. Here are 5 things you need to do NOW (and probably should have already done)!
Check Your Gear
We all need a certain amount of “stuff” when we go out to hunt. Granted, some of us take along more than others, but we all take something. All the gear you take into the woods needs maintenance of one form or another, and the time to do it is RIGHT NOW- BEFORE you head out. Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than finding out that a critical piece of kit is broken right when you need it.
If it has a zipper, make sure that it moves freely and doesn’t separate until you want it to. If it’s getting hard to move, try rubbing some wax on it to lubricate it. If it still doesn’t work right, you might want to replace that item. Check your boots and/or waders for holes. If you can patch it, go ahead and take care of it. If not, you might want to replace it. Check your pack for holes, loose buckles, tears at the seams, etcetera. Make sure your tent doesn’t leak by setting it up at home and running the hose on it. If there are leaks present, use some seam sealer or spray waterproofing as appropriate. Get your oil changed, your tires rotated, and any other vehicle maintenance performed.
Take a good look at ALL the gear you plan to use this season and ensure that it’s in good working order. If you wait to do this until you’re in the field- you’re too late.
Check your zero
Make sure your rifle, shotgun, crossbow, or bow is still putting a projectile where you want it to. Lots of things can affect your zero. Use the time left before your hunt to make sure that your main piece of gear is working right. Break down your gun or bow and clean it while inspecting it for worn or broken parts. Replace anything that doesn’t pass muster, then take it to the range. Use the ammunition you plan to use in the hunt and fire a few rounds to confirm your zero. If it’s off, re-zero your weapon and put it someplace safe until you set out on your hunt. It would be heartbreaking to go on the hunt and miss the trophy of a lifetime because you didn’t take 20 minutes to make sure your rifle was working the way it should be.
Scout your spot
Check out your hunting spot. You can look at all the topo maps you want, but nothing beats walking through the terrain you plan to hunt. Look for game trails. Look for tracks. Look for bedding areas. Find the water sources and food sources your prey likes. If you can, put up game cameras so you can see exactly what is walking by.
If you can’t do this because you’re traveling a long distance to hunt, then you must do your research a bit differently. Find some discussion groups or forums that deal with hunting that area and ask as many questions as they’ll answer. While walking the ground is far better than staring at maps, looking at maps is better than going in blind. Get the maps and look for the water sources. See if the contour lines might indicate the routes where the game might go. Check the satellite images of the area for any info they might give. Try to find people who have hunted that area and ask them about their experiences. Getting a little knowledge beforehand can increase your chances of success over just setting out with nothing more than good intentions.
Clear your schedule
Make sure that you have the time set aside to GO on the hunt. Double check that your vacation request at work is approved. Make sure that you have any doctor appointments out of the way and that any family commitments are taken care of. Try to think of anything that might come up and get it handled before it raises its head at the last minute. Get with friends or relatives that you trust and make some contingency plans so if something unforeseen comes up they can handle it for you while you’re gone.
Coordinate with your hunting partners
If you’re going as a part of a group, get in touch with everyone and coordinate your plans. Apps like Zoom, Jitsi Meets, and others are great for this. Decide who is riding with who, who is bringing what, and who is bringing the backups. Decide what your camp rules are. Decide if you’re cooking group meals or if it’s every man for himself. Talk about all the details of your trip and try to iron them out so there are no surprises… and no one forgets a critical piece of equipment.
Magic takes work
As I said earlier, hunting season is full of magic. Your time in the woods can, and probably WILL, leave you with many cherished memories. But ask any stage magician and they’ll tell you that magic doesn’t just happen. There is a great deal of sweat involved in pulling off something magical that everyone who sees it will remember for a lifetime. The magic of hunting season is like the stage kind in that the right preparation will result in an experience that is full of wonder. A lack of preparation, however, can lead to a flop of epic proportions.
Are there any preparations I’ve left out? What do YOU do to get ready for hunting season? Sound off in the Comments and let us know!