11 Things to Do Before Hunting Season Starts

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Depending on where you live, hunting season may be right around the corner, leaving little time left for preparation.

But before you head out the door for Opening Day, take a look at this list; there are a number of things you can do now that can maximize your safety, and your success later this season. Take a peek at some of the expert advice we've rounded up:

1. Make a List

Start early by building, keeping and updating a packing list. I have a friend who keeps his list on his computer for year-to-year fine-tuning and editing. Whether you go electronic or with paper, do not rely on memory; you'll forget something. Read more > 

2. Shop early

Ammunition. Hand warmers. That extra pair of gloves. Deer scent. A new jacket. Better boots. Thermal socks. A great hat. As you build your packing list, the shopping needs add up. Get out and do it early to avoid last-minute rushes (when everybody else does their shopping), and allow some shipping time if you order online. Read more > 

3. Mark Your Calendar for Prime Dates

A good day to hunt whitetails this fall is any day you can get off work. But knowing that some days will be better than others, the experts at Petersen’s Bowhunting went through the calendar, analyzed moon phases, predicted the weather as best they could, took into account the historical breeding patterns of whitetails, and predicted when the rut hunting will be best in the two big months of October and November.

Check out their list for the 10 best day to hunt the rut.

4. Pattern Bucks

Primarily, pre-season scouting means looking for resident bucks, velvet perhaps still fresh on their antlers, to pattern them and learn their habits. Some whitetail experts like Larry Weishuhn (wildlife biologist and author of Hunting Mature Bucks), say that though deer are habitual animals, those habits will change at the beginning of the rut. This is true enough: During the summer and prior to the rut, bucks of similar age will oftentimes group together in areas with less dense vegetation than they normally prefer while growing their antlers. 

When the rut begins, they will leave the summertime areas to find new territory away from other bucks and closer to the does. However, if you have observed a buck herd over the summer, you can use patterns of behavior you observed during early bow and gun seasons, before the bucks disperse for the rut, to bag a good buck. Most states offer a month or more of open season during this early-fall period. Read more >

You can also check out this video on how to pattern deer without trail cameras.

5. Scout for Ideal Living Conditions

There are a few things about deer that every hunter should know. To start, whitetails prefer to bed down and move in dense vegetation. It makes them feel protected from predators. Forests, especially dense evergreen forests, such as cedars or other conifers, are ideal places for deer to bed down, provided there’s a food source nearby. If you can find a natural funnel, a kind of thin strip of trees and brush connecting two larger bodies of forest, this is an ideal place for you to set up shop. During the rut, bucks of all sizes will be going back and forth through these thin connecting areas as they look for does.

Secondly, deer need to eat, and the sparse vegetation in a mature forest is rarely enough for them. What they prefer are food plots or crop fields, and they love the tender green forage growing throughout the summer. Soybeans are especially favored by deer, and they offer hunters an advantage, too. They never grow so high as to obscure your vision if you decide to use a binocular from a distance.

If you can put the two together, such as a dense brushy areas bordered by a field of crops of some sort, then you have a good chance of finding a large population of deer living there. Read more >

6. Look for Rubs

Rubs are also a good sign of buck activity. Rubs are where bucks have rubbed their antlers on trees, particularly on cedars and pines, creating a bald spot on the tree where the bark should be. Bucks make rubs for two reasons: One, to remove velvet from their antlers when it is no longer needed; and two, to mark their territory. 

If you see a line of rubs, this is most likely a buck marking his territory, a very good indicator that you should hunt this area come fall. Do keep in mind that the rubs you will be seeing in the summer will be nearly a year old. Read more >

7. Safety-Check Your Stand

If you plan to hunt an existing tree stand, summertime is the perfect time to perform a safety check on the stand.

  • Check all strapping material, buckles, seats and stitching for wear and tear.
  • Oil hinges; tighten bolts and screws.
  • Repaint where necessary.
  • Check all rope assemblies for cuts, unraveling or any weak areas.
  • Wash away dirt, mud or oils that may create dangerous slippery areas.
  • Add padding to rails where needed.
  • Take steps to reduce any potential noisy squeaks or clicks.
  • Order and replace any missing or damaged parts.
  • Purchase safety accessory items that you do not have.

Read more >

8. Brush Up on Tree-Stand Safety

According to statistics cited by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), one in three hunters who use tree stands will fall at some point during their hunting career.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t help prevent a fall. Check out this article for four ways to avoid accidents.

9. Soundproof Your Stand

Getting into your stand like a ghost, and then waiting like you're not there, is the key to opening-day hunting success. Test your stand for creaks and groans, and work them out on your setup trip. 

Wrap metal or other loud surfaces (where you gun barrel might clunk) with moleskin or soft fabric. Rake a path the last 50 yards to your stand for an ultra-quiet final approach. Read more > 

10. Tune Your Bow

Buying a new bow is an exciting event. The feel is thrilling. It is faster, quieter, smoother and sweeter than any you have ever shot. You can envision the adventure and see the arrows zipping into the vitals of a big buck or bull.

But there is also a nerve-wracking moment that accompanies this exciting time. Shooting that first arrow through paper is tense. You want that thing to blow a perfect hole with three cuts for the fletchings. If it doesn’t, you know you might have your hands full trying to figure out why. You can end up with a bunch of questions and not many answers.

If you’re having trouble tuning your bow, check out these tips to improve arrow flight.

11. Mark Your Trail

If you hunt big woods or hill country where it's easy to get a little mixed up in the dark, it's worth the prework of really marking your route to your opening-day stand. There's nothing worse than watching daylight emerge around you, and the first shots ring out, as you cast about looking for your stand. 

Use reflective tacks, or small, bright biodegradable flagging tapes, to assure you get in quickly and quietly. A GPS unit will do the job too, but I like the old-fashioned assurance of a physically marked route. Read more >

Not sure when hunting season starts in your state? Click here to explore this comprehensive list.

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