It's an exciting time. Seasons open in the fall for a variety of species, including whitetail deer, snipe, woodcock, black bear, and more. Many hunters wait all year for opening day the same way children wait eagerly for Christmas morning.
The last thing any good hunter wants is to ruin opening day for themself (or for others). A little preparation (and common sense) before the big day goes a long way. Here's what you should have checked off your list by the time the big day arrives.
1. Scout in Advance
When hunters wait until the day before opening season to take a walk and scout the area they plan to hunt, they risk pushing the wildlife away at just the wrong time.
This can be especially frustrating for archery enthusiasts in the lead-up to firearms deer seasons. There is almost always some yahoo or newbie bowhunter who waits until the last possible second to come in and hastily construct the world's worst ground blind in the last hour of daylight the night before. It's worse when they simply walk to the first rub they see, and set up, not realizing they set up right on top of you, while you were bowhunting. Ugh, way to ruin everyone's deer hunt guys. You seriously had no other time before now to do that?
Odds are great you will blow whatever deer are holding in a spot out of the area, resulting in a likely fruitless sit the next morning.
An even worse scenario is the hunter who doesn't bother to check in and see that those private lands he had access to last year have changed hands since then. Next thing you know, there's a bunch of unintended trespassers there at first light ruining things for everyone. It can also lead to some ugly and unwanted confrontations. Come on guys, a little common courtesy goes a long way. Avoid embarrassment and up your odds of success by doing these things at least a couple months in advance.
Take time to scout an area when you hang your trail cameras up for the year.
2. Buy Your Hunting License
Ever wandered into your local sporting goods store the night before gun deer hunting season begins? It can get real ugly sometimes. I'll admit, I've had to pick up a few things at the last second before, but it's the last-second license buyers that can annoy everyone. I've seen a few hunters go on incredible tirades simply because they are only learning the night before that there has been a drastic change in the season bag limits or the date for muzzleloader season has been pushed back. Guys, the DNR announced these changes back in May, calm down. It's not our fault you didn't read the book.
Nope, sorry buddy, they sold out of antlerless deer licenses back in September. Did you even check your state wildlife agency's website? It's been posted there they've been sold out for months now. We feel especially sorry for the poor teenage employee who must break the news to old grumpy Gus when he finds out the price of deer permits went up again this year.
Simply put, read the new hunting regulations and buy your hunting licenses early to avoid unpleasant surprises before opening day. It lessens the chances you'll miss out because a tag is sold out. And leave that poor kid behind the register alone, he doesn't set the prices, he just works there.
3. Check (and Wash) Your Gear Well in Advance
It is a good rule of thumb to wash your hunting clothing far in advance of the season. This gives you time to inspect the clothing to see if there are any repairs that need to be made or items that need to be replaced.
It really stinks to dig out your hunting boots the night before the season only to realize you forgot about that huge hole that makes them no longer waterproof. It can be especially embarrassing to realize you've put on a few extra pounds and that old coat suddenly doesn't fit anymore either.
It is very inconvenient when you've got a waterfowl hunt in the swamp the following day and suddenly you need to repair or replace some gear.
On that note: take stock of all your hunting gear while evaluating and washing your clothing a few months in advance too. Find out what gear needs replaced and what can be used for another season. Buying a new rangefinder or grunt call is usually cheaper in the off-season than the night before the shooting starts.
Pro tip: Stock up on cover scents and hunting detergents after the seasons end every winter. That is when the big box stores have that, and other useful hunting gear, on clearance. Save money and prepare for the next season well in advance - that's a win/win for us.
4. Sight-In Your Bow and Rifle in the Off Season
The night before muzzleloading season begins is not an ideal time to try and dial in that new scope you just purchased. This applies to all firearms and archery gear. Yeah, we get it, things get busy and some chores get pushed back. But don't be that guy. Do better.
5. Skip the Booze
Some deer camps can get rowdy. For many hunters, this might be the only time in the year they get to simply to spend time relaxing in the company of friends and family. Some folks crack open a few cold ones while swapping stories and catching up at camp. Have at it—but enjoy in moderation.
It's hard to be successful in the field when you feel terrible. Moreover, those of us who like to imbibe know a bad hangover can muddle your thoughts and slow your reaction times, so it can also become a safety issue.
We are not saying you cannot have fun during your hunting trip. But we do suggest using common sense. It is awfully hard to call in that big gobbler during turkey season when every sound gives you a grinding headache.
That's why we suggest filling that bag limit and your freezer first, then have some fun. You'll thank us later.
And isn't it more satisfying to enjoy your cold brews with a fresh venison backstrap or other wild game meat on the grill? Yeah, that's what we thought.
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