Successful deer hunters know how important it is to be ready for opening day of deer season. Weeks, even months are spent scouting and learning the travel, bedding, and feeding habits of the deer that will be hunted. But sadly, hunters of skimp on many other simple tasks that are essential for a safe, comfortable, and successful hunt.
GET YOUR STANDS AND STAND LOCATIONS READY
One of the first things that should be done at the close of every season is to take down each and every stand, climbing stick, screw-in step, and ground blind.
These items have already spent enough time outside, they do not need to suffer through anymore harsh weather. This will add years to the life of your equipment, and also gives you a chance to make sure your equipment is ready and safe for next season.
Bolts can rust, nuts can become lose, cables can weaken and frey, and even steps can strain after time of being in a tree. You owe it to your gear, and the tree to take it down during the off-season.
Blinds can fade with prolonged exposure to the sun. and, heavy winds can send even the most secured blind off to never-never-land.
Go over your stands and replace any bolt or nut that needs replaced. Go ahead and replace them every two years regardless of what they look like. Check cables for any freys or weak spots. Spray lubricant on any squeaky, or hard to move parts.
With your stands down, and the scouting completed, hopefully you can get the area ready to hunt, and the stands back up without much disturbance to the area.
Whether I am moving my stands to different locations, or putting them back up in the same area, I want to get the job completed within 6 to 8 weeks before the beginning of the season opener. This will give the deer time to get use to the stands, and forget about the human odors I let behind. Of course, I always use scent elimination sprays, and enter the area at midday to reduce the disturbance. Once the stands are in place, there is no need to go back in the area until it is time to hunt.
While you are hanging your stands, go ahead and cut the shooting lanes, any overhanging twigs that could interfere with drawing your bow, and any logs or twigs that you could step on and snap or trip over as you approach your stand. Keep in mind to keep any trimming you do to a minimum. The same branches you cut away that will allow you to draw your bow are the same ones that help conceal you from the powerful eyesight of a whitetail.
GET THE FOOD PLOTS READY
Creating food plots is something that should happen in both the spring and fall to insure food is available in the hot summer months on through the bitter cold winter.
To keep deer on your property during deer season you just about have to plant a food plot or two in the fall. Plots planted in the spring will attract, and hold deer throughout the summer.
Plenty of whitetails are killed every year on properties that do not have food plots. This is especially true during the rut when deer are not thinking straight. But, before and after the rut, it is nice to be able to tip the odds in our favor with the help of food plots.
I understand that not every hunter can create a food plot. I have leases I hunt that do not have any plots, and I am still able to harvest deer off them, but given the opportunity I would create one. They are just that powerful, especially if you want to attract and hold deer all year long, as well as keep them healthy.
In a perfect food plot scenario, you would be able to have several small plots scattered across your property, or one big plot divided into 3 sections to keep the deer fed year-round.
Finding the right food plot blend to put in the ground is not hard. Every type of seed and blends you would want to plant is available for both no-till and tillable ground. Bucks and Beards Scents is the company I choose when purchasing food plot blends, minerals, cover-up scents, attractants, and more. I have discovered they have the quality products I need without having to shop around.
In the spring I plant clover and oats. Later in the late spring, I plant soybeans. Showtime Harvest from Bucks and Beards Scents is a good combination of soybeans, winter peas, and oats. Later in the summer, or early fall I plant some brassicas. Not only do I plant these in a plot, but I no-till them around my late season stands. Showtime Tuff 2 Beet is a quality combination of sugar beets and purple top turnips that deer love.
Whitetails will begin to eat the tops of brassicas early in the season, but that is not what they are intended for. After the first good frost of the season the starches in these plants turn to sugar, making them one of the favorite foods of a whitetail this time of year. When this happens, the deer will begin eating the tops, and not stop until the bulbs are devoured. By the end of winter, it will look as if a sounder of wild pigs went through and rooted up every square inch of the field.
Another good reason to plant plots is that will mature at different times of the year. If one fails for one reason or another, you still have others available. If you plant it, they will come.
GET YOUR CLOTHING READY
If I am not a comfortable hunter, I just as well stay home. There is not a deer with any lick of sense that will come near a hunter that is moving and squirming in a stand trying to get comfortable.
The biggest reason that I am uncomfortable in a stand is being cold. This was more common a few years ago when the quality of clothing and boots was not nearly as good as it is now. But, with all of the clothing and boots to choose from, it can be difficult to pick out the best for your needs.
Cold feet, and a cold face are the biggest reasons I couldn’t stay still for long. I was constantly moving to try and stay warm. Today, I know the importance of quality clothing.
Quality clothes also come with a quality price tag. But, you get what you pay for. Remember that when you see a price that is too good to be true, it probably is, especially with hunting clothing.
Decide if your boots need to be insulated, or not. Probably early on in the season you can get by with a pair of non-insulated boots. Depending on how harsh the winter is, maybe you can get away with wearing a pair of liner socks, and a quality pair of wool socks over them with a non-insulated boot. This would be a cheaper alternative to buying two pairs of boots. Only you know what your feet can take. For added protection against the cold, consider using warmers.
With any new pair of boots, spend some time in the off-season wearing them, and getting them broke in. This will prevent blisters in the middle of season.
As with boots, the clothing you purchase and wear depends on the weather. There is a big difference in weather October 1st, and later down the road in December.
Early in the season it can still be hot, and you are not going to want to wear bulky, heavy clothing to the woods.
Manufacturers provide clothing for warm temperatures that will wick moisture away, clothes that will keep the rain from penetrating through, and insulated clothes to keep you warm in the toughest conditions. It is up to you to get what you need for your hunting style.
As far as your hands and head goes, quality gloves and headgear for every season is available. From camouflage gloves to break up your outline, to wool gloves to keep you warm, get what you need. The same goes for head gear. Maybe a mesh head net is good for the beginning of October, but January might call for an insulated balaclava.
Hand warmers are great for gloves, and can even be stuck inside a balaclava for added protection. HotHands, the leading manufacture for hand warmers also sells headgear that accepts warmers to keep your face, neck and ears warm. Also, they sell a hand warmer pocket that you can stick your hands in to keep them warm in the extreme cold.
With all you hunting clothing, take the time during the off-season to wash it in a scent-free detergent, and store it in a bag that will not let the clothing come in contact with odors that could be detrimental to your success.
I hope these three often overlooked tasks will remind you that there is more to getting ready for a hunt than just scouting and practicing with your gear.
Photo: Howard Communications