Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You Preparing For The Opener?

Bow season opens in Kentucky on September 3rd. That means we have just over two months before we can start flinging arrows at the majestic whitetail. That might seem like a long time to some, but in reality, now is the time to start preparing for the opener. One of the most difficult things to do is prepare for hunting while hunting season is closed. It's summertime, kids are out of school, people are on vacation, there's yard work to be done, and it just doesn't seem like the time to think about hunting. While all of that is true, now really is the time to get ready. It's not rocket science and it's not a big secret. We as hunters know what we have to do to be ready for the opener. I'm going to touch on some of the things that I (and my hunting comrades) do to prepare and I'm sure much of it is similar to what many hunters do. I'd like to hear how you prepare for the season since I know I won't hit on everything.

If I'm going to make any changes to my bow setup or try different arrows, etc., now is a good time to do it. Replacing a sight or switching arrows or broadheads isn't really something you want to do at the last minute. Obviously, things happen during hunting season and we sometimes have to replace things, but if it's a change you know about in advance, do it early and give yourself time to adjust. The same goes for a new scope on a rifle or a new bullet or load. Making the changes now gives you plenty of time to practice and make sure the changes are satisfactory. And that definitely applies to buying a brand new bow or gun. Make sure you have ample time to practice and be comfortable with a new bow or firearm.

I like to inspect my gear and make sure everything is in working order. If I find a problem now, I have time to repair or replace something. It's an awful feeling to be in the woods on opening day and find out something doesn't work. I look at my hunting clothes, too, and make sure there are no tears or broken zippers. 

Trail cameras that aren't already out should be checked to make sure they work. When storing a camera, be sure to remove the batteries so they don't corrode. If you plan on buying a new camera, get it early enough so you can test it before you actually need it. We've bought cameras for our property that didn't work out-of-the-box and had to be returned. 

I'm fanatical about keeping my knives sharp. Earlier this evening, I sat down at the kitchen table and sharpened three field dressing knives and a hand ax. I hadn't touched them since last season. Now they're ready to go and I won't have to deal with a dull blade when I actually need it.

I inspect my climbing stand to make sure nothing has come apart or weakened. The same goes for hang-on stands. We have some hang-on stands that actually stay up during the off season. Because those stands are exposed to the elements for a long time, it's important to check them. I'll be the first to say it sucks climbing around in the woods this time of year with all of the bugs, spiders, and poison ivy, but it's not worth risking my life because I didn't feel like inspecting a stand. We also have four permanent stands on our property. Because they are made of wood and are exposed 365 days a year, they have to be inspected for structural integrity. The coons and possums like to use our permanent stands as bathrooms. Then we get leaves and dead branches in them, too. All of that needs to be cleaned out. I really don't want to be replacing boards on a stand after the season is open. 

Now is also a good time to look for potential stand locations. We frequently move our hang-on stands from one season to the next. Because bow season opens so early in Kentucky, many of our tree stands are difficult to hunt from due to all of the foliage. The view in September is radically different from the view in November. We often have to set stands in areas that give us the best possible view in September knowing we may move them once the leaves are off.

Does your ATV or UTV need an oil change, a new battery, or tires? Have you started it since the end of last season? Do the headlights work? If you don't ride your machine on a regular basis, start it up periodically and make sure everything works. How about your utility trailer? If you haul your ATV on a trailer, check the tires and lights (if it has them). If the flooring is wood, make sure it hasn't rotted or become weak.

I suspect many hunters hang up a bow or gun at the end of the season and don't touch it again until just before the next season. I've been guilty of that many times. When it comes to bow hunting, I try to shoot throughout the off season. It's much better to shoot a little bit at a time over the course of a couple of months than it is to try to shoot a lot in a couple of days. Muscles need time to adapt and get accustomed to movements like drawing a bow. If you haven't shot since last season, that 70# draw is going to tire you out quickly.

Checking the zero on scopes is very important and now is a good time to do it. It also gives you the opportunity to get in a bit of practice. Some hunters view gun hunting as "easy" in comparison to bow hunting, but in reality, practice is just as important with a firearm as it is with a bow.

There's not a flat piece of ground anywhere we hunt. All of our stands require going up one or more hills to reach them. Many of the hills are very steep. They will leave you out of breath and sweating. Like everything else, you can't start exercising a week before the opener and expect to be in good shape. I try to do as much cardio as I can in the months leading up to the season. More often than not, I don't do as much as I should. And it doesn't take long to find out. Anyone who hunts in hilly or mountainous terrain knows exactly what I'm talking about. Use the off season to condition your body in preparation for the hikes and climbs.

Food Plots
Not everyone has a food plot, but if you do, is it ready? Certain plants need to be in the ground at certain times of the year. Is your existing plot in good shape? You can't throw some seeds on the ground two days before the opener and expect grand results. We had the soil tested on one of our food plots and had to add nutrients to the ground before we could even plant anything. It just wasn't optimal for growing good browse. Food plots take a lot of time and effort to achieve the desired results, especially if the plot is large. It's not something that can be neglected until a week before the opener.

Getting Permission
If you want to find new property to hunt, you should already be asking. Don't wait until the day before. Back in February, I discussed Getting Permission To Hunt Private Land in detail. I won't rehash that post, but now is the time to be asking landowners about hunting in the fall. That post explains why.

Odds and Ends
If you need some new piece of equipment or need to re-stock something, start doing that now, if you can. I do my best to have everything I need prior to opening day, but I usually forget something. Waiting until the last minute forces me to rush and never turns out well. It's not always easy to get things two months out from the season because it seems like there is plenty of time, but it goes by quickly.

What Else?
I've covered some of the things I do, or try to do, in preparation for opening day. What's something you do or what did I forget to mention? I know I didn't hit it all. Even if your opener isn't in September, it will be here before you know it.

9 comments: said...

Brian, you just about covered it all! So far this summer I have been focusing on getting my bow in order after replacing the string, cable, and peep. This weekend I will start hanging cameras, and checking stand locations. After that it is all conditioning and practice.

Getting ready during the off-season is part of the process of hunting, and I like it that way. Though bow season is 5 months of the year, it is easy to spend the whole year preparing.

texwisgirl said...

once again, awesome, thorough post. well written with very little 'hodepodgery' in it. ;)

LB @ Bullets And Biscuits said...

What!? What!? 3 posts within ONE week. Well dang, thanks for making me look bad. I know, I know...I don't need much help do I? Alteast I know TexWis is smiling with all these posts ;)

Nice check off list and reminders. We are constantly out at our hunting farms doing everything you just mentioned. Our friends laugh because we are out there year round .. "when you only need two weeks to get ready for opening day" . Yeah, that's why we see ten times more deer than you and then you wonder why...hhmmm? Huntinf is definitely a year round sport.

I had elbow surgery two years and during recovery I got to the point where I could draw my bow but could not hold it. My therapist knew I hunted so she suggested that I watch TV w/ my bow and everytime a commercial came on... pull back and hold. Let go when the commercial ends. It was amazing how much that helped building muscle and stablility. I'm going to do it again this year even though my elbow is 100%.

Albert Quackenbush said...

Great post, Brian. I feel very blessed because living in SoCal I get to practice year round. I used to be one of the many guys who would leave my bow after the season and pick it up over the summer. I now love shooting year round.

One thing I'd like to mention is that even though I go over my bow with a fine tooth comb, I still like to take it to a pro shop and have them give it a once over. Just in case I missed something. You'd hate to be at full draw on a P&Y animal and have your gear fail you.

Another is scouting. Get out there and burn some boot rubber. Trail cams don't always pick up everything and while I use them from time to time, I feel the best way to find game is to let my glass to some of the work for me. Park yourself in an area for a few hours at a time and take note of what you see.

Out here, our season starts mid-July, but that's too hot for me. I'll be heading out in September and my tag allows me to hunt through December. I plan on putting quite a few miles on my boots.

Good luck to you this year!

Passinthru Outdoors said...

Great post Brian and as hard as it is sometimes to think about hunting in the summer you just have to get things done or before you know it you are scrambling around the weeks before the opener.

Thanks for sharing.

Dawn said...

WOW. Who knew there was this much involved??? (I guess people like me who know nothing of what this is like;))
I have to say I think it's a lot easier to be training for my triathlons. But thanks for the info...I am POSITIVE my son will appreciate this when I show it to him:)

heyBJK said...

Mark: It is fun to do all the prep stuff during the off season. If nothing else, it helps to make the time pass between seasons.

texwisgirl: I try to avoid high highfalutin' King's English!

LB: That's an awesome idea your therapist had! I might do that just simply for conditioning. Finally, a good use for the stupid commercials!

Al: I knew you were a year round bow shooter. I'd like to do that, but it just gets too dang cold to be enjoyable. You make a great point about having a pro shop inspect your bow. Your season begins in July? I've always complained about the heat here in September. Guess I won't do that so much.

PTO: You are correct and I've procrastinated many times. I've even gone so far as to have the intention of buying a new piece of gear, put it off and then the season is here - then the season ends and I never bought it. You've got to do it even though it seems early.

Dawn: I guess you could say what we go through in preparation for opening day is the equivalent of a woman getting ready to go out. haha! J/K I hope your son finds something useful in the information.

Nancy @ A Rural Journal said...

Great post, Brian.

No bow hunters here, but I respect the sport. :)

Anonymous said...

Well if that Vidalia in the post above didn't look totally delish, I don't know what does. And as for bow season... well, lots of deer here in our very own yard and we just let them roam. Venison is pretty good eating though!