By Jonny Mac
With all the downtime in between hunting seasons, you’re probably itching to get back in the game. Luckily, there are plenty of preseason tasks that you can attend to in order to ensure your success this upcoming season. Whether you are new to the deer hunting game or returning for another year of fun, there are a few tasks that every hunter should make a priority. Here are five things you can do with your spare time to prepare yourself for the new season:
- Ready Your Equipment
There is a good bit of equipment necessary for a successful hunting season, and even more equipment available than you could imagine that can make your season a great one. Whether you are using last year’s equipment or buying all new gear for this deer hunting season, you should ensure that it’s all in good condition and ready to use well before the season starts. This could include checking and patching your clothing, rain gear, boots, deer calls, weapons, homemade deer cart and more. It’s better to know what you have (and what you need) well in advance, since some of this equipment can be rather pricey. Some other equipment to look into includes trail cameras, deer feed, gun oils, safety wear, and an equipment bag to carry it all.
- Sight in Your Weapons
This is one of the most important (and also one of the most enjoyable) preseason tasks. You’ll need to ensure that all of your weapons (whether you are bow hunting or using a rifle) are sighted in. Note that this is important even if you used all of the same equipment last year since the sight adjustments can change while the gun is stored or handled. If you got a new scope or new sights for your weapon, it’s doubly necessary. Plus, sighting in your weapons will give you some time to practice shooting and knock the dust and the rust off before the season starts. If you haven’t properly cleaned your weapon since last season, you’ll want to give it a good scrub down as well.
- Familiarize Yourself with Local Game Laws
If you don’t want to risk losing your hunting license (or getting a pretty significant fine), it’s essential that you check all the local game laws for your chosen hunting state each year. They’re subject to change (and there seem to be new regulations every season) so call your local Game and Fish Commission or check online to get up-to-date with the coming season’s laws. Generally everything will line up pretty closely to the year before, but fines and penalties can be hefty. Don’t risk it.
- Do a Pre-Season Scout of Your Hunting Area
Whether you hunt on private or public land, it’s a good idea to do a preseason scout of the area you intend to hunt on. Of course, you’ll need to check to see if the area allows you early access. If so, it’s well worth your time. This could include setting out feed and trail cams, which can help you get an accurate idea of the quantity and size of game in the area. That may also include setting up your deer stand in advance (if local regulations allow), scouting out the area to see how far in your vehicle will take you, where you can drive an ATV, and what areas you’ll need to walk. You should check that you know and understand the land’s boundaries so that you don’t accidentally hunt outside the legal hunting grounds. If you’re hunting on private land, there may be regulations specific that are more in-depth than the local game laws. Of course, local game laws still apply, but you should check with the owner all the same.
- Make a Plan for Processing Kills
Another important preseason task is deciding how you’ll handle your kills. You have several options, but having a plan in place will ensure that you aren’t caught with your pants down when you land that first big buck. You may decide that you want to process your kill yourself, in which case you’ll need some equipment like a hunting gambrel to hang your kill for skinning, and sharp skinning blades to make the process easier. If you choose to have your kills processed by someone else, you should search out a good local processing center ahead of time. Check with them to familiarize yourself with their rates and processing options. You can usually choose between getting whole cuts of meat, having it ground and packaged, and having the head or antlers mounted for a keepsake of your successful hunting season. Or you can decide to donate your kill to a local food bank that accepts it. In any case, have a plan before heading out.
Which Will You Do?
These are just five ideas to help get you out your chair and back in the field now during the off-season. The reality is though, there’s a never-ending list of things you could be doing with your spare time, and hunting should be seen as a 365 day a year sport, rather than just a seasonal thing.
With all that said, what tasks will you be undertaking to give yourself a head start at bagging that big deer this upcoming season?