Bow Hunting Season, Are You Ready?
Whether it’s hunting from a tree stand, still hunting in the brush or spot and stalk, they’re all fun and exciting ways to hunt. No matter what you’re hunting or how you hunt it, on opening day, you have to be ready for everything. Enjoy this article and use the tips to help you get ready for bow hunting season
If things go right and you get a big old buck or even an elk on opening morning, are you ready and able to field dress and process your game? Can you cut it up, carry it out and get that meat in the freezer? Do you have the tools?
Let’s imagine that your hunt takes more than one day. Maybe you are planning a week long hunt or two weeks, are you ready and able to spend a week camping and hunting? It’s a lot more involved than a day long hunt after which you head home and sleep in your own bed.
Here, I have presented some tips and ideas to help you with a day hunt, a weekend hunt or an extended hunt in the wild country.
Before you go on any hunt.
Can you shoot your bow very, very well?
Are you capable of hitting the vital area of whatever you hunt at twenty yards? How about thirty or forty yards maybe even farther?
What if, instead of the fifteen-inch vital area of an elk or the eight to ten-inch vital area of deer, you are hunting rabbits or squirrels? The vital area shrinks down to about 1-1/2 inches. Can you still hit the vitals on a tiny rabbit at twenty or thirty yards?
The black hole 22 inch target is portable and affordable. You can toss it in the truck and take on your hunting trip. If you have to make field repairs on your bow, you can recheck your accuracy. It’s even made to be shot with field points AND broad heads.
It’s important to know your limitations when it comes to distances and smaller targets. Can you judge distances in the field without using a range finder?
Sometimes during a stalk, you don’t want to risk raising your range finder and possibly spooking the animal. But, it is better to risk spooking the game than to mis-judge the distance and wounding an animal all because you haven’t practiced judging distances without a range finder.
Okay, so you’ve practiced till you’ve worn the finish off of your old practice arrows. They were nice looking back when they were new and now they are more shiny aluminum than camo’. Some are battered and looking pretty rough. Because the practice arrows are not up to the hunt, you bought a new nice set of hunting arrows for the big day.
All new equipment and gear needs to be tested.
Have you shot your brand new hunting arrows, with the broad heads mounted? Did you put a final sight in and zero with the newer hunting arrows? It is too easy to assume that the new arrows and broad heads will hit exactly where your old arrows did. Better safe than sorry. So, practice with the new hunting arrows, outfitted exactly like you will be carrying them on the hunt.
You may have to re-sharpen them or even replace the blades after some practicing with them. It sure beats missing the crucial shot for such a silly reason as not checking the accuracy of your hunting arrows. To be honest I’ve had my share of tag-soup and I’d rather have a thick, juicy elk steak any day.
When you practice diligently with your bow and arrows set up just like you will use them on the hunt then that will be one less worrying in the back of your mind when you draw back your arrow on that deer or rabbit.
Do you have plans to mount a quiver on your bow for the hunt? Then you should practice with the quiver mounted. If you have replaced any parts on your bow you absolutely want to test it before opening day.
Practice in your hunting clothes, including face masks or camo’ face paint. Cold weather hunts might see you wearing gloves or mittens, extra layers of warm clothes and even a hat.
If you have been practicing in warm weather wearing a t-shirt and jeans but your hunt will be in the snowy cold of winter, then be sure to dress in all of your warm weather gear and camo’ in order to practice in the thicker clothing.
Try shooting while wearing your brand new cold weather hat to see if it interferes with your draw. The brim may be just long enough to touch your bow string and throw off your shot. If you’re going to have a backpack on while hunting you absolutely need to see if you can shoot well with it on.
You may find out that you can’t draw properly unless you remove it. You don’t want to find out during the draw on our quarry that you can’t complete the draw and make your shot. You may have to create a plan to remove your pack before you start a serious stalk.
Overall Gear and Equipment Checklist
Hopefully, a few weeks or even a month before your big hunt you have inspected your arrows for any wear or damage that could make them unreliable or even dangerous. Check them for dents, cracks and be sure they are straight. Inspect the vanes, nocks, threaded tip inserts and broad heads for any looseness or damage.
If you decide you have to buy new arrows be sure to do it early. This will give you time to re-tune and sight in your bow with the new arrows. You will have a chance to check them for accuracy and performance before you are in the field, hunting. You want to be ready and confident when you take that shot of the year.
These Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Arrows are considered by many archers to be the best carbon arrows available.
These arrows come with the tips and knocks un-installed. You will have to cut them to your length and then glue in the nocks and inserts OR you can get all of that done at your local Archery pro shop if you don’t have the equipment for the job.
As you check over your bow you should check the riser for cracks and other damage like worn spots. If your riser is cracked then you should replace it. Checking the grip for looseness is also a good idea.
Bow limbs are constantly exposed to tremendous forces as they flex and rapidly release, over and over again. Carefully inspect them for cracks, warpage and abrasions. If they are beyond their useful life again, it is time to replace your bow.
Sometimes you can get replacement limbs from a bow shop but it might cost more money than it’s worth.
If you find that it’s time for a new bow, Bear Archery makes a great, fast, light hunting compound bow with an accessory package at a decent entry level price.
It’s called the Cruzer G2. It’s super light weighing only 3 lbs. It is adjustable from 5 to 70 pounds draw weight Making it a great first bow. It’s a blazing fast at up to 315 FPS
Everything else on an older bow can be repaired or replaced. Including the cables, cams/pulleys, front sights, peep sight, the arrow rest, bow string, string stop, knock and points. Tighten up the vibration dampeners and inspect cable guides and stabilizers.
If anything is worn out or close to worn out then fix it or replace it BEFORE the season starts. While there is no guarantee that you won’t have an equipment failure in the field, you can keep your bow in tip-top shape and reduce your chances of a catastrophic failure and being forced to end your hunt early.
Knives, hatchets, axes, saws and game processing tools
Just like your broad heads should be sharp and in good working order, your knives, axes and saws should be sharp and clean as well. You should have a sturdy sheath or case to carry them in.
Be sure you have the right tools for the right job. A hatchet or butcher knife used to break down an elk in the field isn’t the best tool for chopping firewood back at camp.
You may want to have a full sized axe in the back of your truck for chopping firewood. A game processing hatchet will cut wood in a pinch but it isn’t ideal.
Using a knife to baton wood for firewood is a terrible idea unless you have no other choice. Not many knives will stand up to that kind of abuse. Batoning wood for kindling will dull your blade and it could easily break it.
The buck Selkirk in tough, sharp and just the size right for camp chores and cooking duty. It’s a capable knife at home in the woods or in camp. Plus, it comes with a Kydex sheath and a fire starter/whistle.
A good selection of knives for skinning, boning and butchering are very handy. A lot of hunters only carry one knife for all their camp and game processing chores because all of that other stuff can be heavy.
It’s up to the individual to weigh convenience when cutting up that elk or moose over carrying a lot of heavy knives and tools in the field. For breaking down an elk to pack it out, a bone saw and hatchet are really handy to have.
Here’s a safety lesson that every hunter should learn.
More than one hunter has fallen and had their knife puncture their sheath only to slice their leg or arm pretty severely during the fall, A few people have bled to death from nasty cuts sustained that way.
If you hunt on horseback and take a tumble with your mount, a big sharp blade in your knife sheath could be exposed and injure both you and your horse.
Just make sure you have a sturdy, secure sheath for your sharp tools. Better yet, carry sharp objects in a sturdy case in your backpack where they are far less likely to injure you.
Have enough clothes in your day pack to stay warm or dry or cool for whatever the weather throws at you. A good rain poncho can serve as a make do wind breaker and emergency shelter if you get caught far from camp when night falls. It isn’t ideal but that few extra ounces in your pack may come in very handy.
In the early fall the weather can swing from hot to cold and windy and rainy in just a short time. It is best to be prepared. Be sure your clothing is quiet when you move around. Some nylon jackets and wind-breakers can make a lot of noise when you are trying to quietly make your way through the brush.
Make sure you have all of your hunting clothes clean. Wash everything you can with scent blocker soap and use scent blocker spray on everything else that you take into the woods.
Spray your hat, boots, bow, and anything that might have a scent deer will shy away from. Yes, even you should be odor free. There are scent blocker soaps to wash yourself with made just for hunters.
It’s a good idea to have extra shoe laces with you. Keep them in your first aid kit if there is room. You may need them to help tie on bandages, secure a splint or even create a tourniquet. You might even use them to replace a broken shoe lace.
Clean, comfortable, fresh socks are a must for long hunts. It pays to switch to fresh socks at midday. You get a chance to check your feet for blisters or hot spots.
A hole in a sock can lead to blisters. Carry extra pairs in your pack and have extra pairs at base camp. It’s a good idea to carry foot care – mole skins and bandages for blisters. It’s nice to have salve or ointment to treat a blister if you do get one.
Sturdy boots are a must, hiking for miles over rocks, fallen trees, and rough terrain. Hard hunting can tax cheap boots or shoes to the breaking point. It’s no fun to limp back to camp in a pair of cheap boots that fell apart while you were miles away from home.
Some hunters carry quiet sneakers for stealthy stalking. Other hunters have quiet booties that slip over their hard soled hiking boots to help muffle sound.
Some hunters will even remove their boots to make the final approach on a wary animal. I don’t recommend that in the rough rocky terrain of Arizona’s mountains. A pair of sturdy tennis shoes slipped on just before your stalk will do great and offer your feet some protection.
At the end of the day while you’re relaxing back at camp a comfortable, light weight pair of tennis shoes are nice to replace your heavy hiking boots.
Fresh socks help. too, especially if you have to crawl into a tent and sleeping bag. You don’t want to be trapped in there with stinky feet.
Prep for week or longer hunt.
Are you prepared, physically, to spend any extra time on the hunt? Are you in shape to hunt for five days or more in a row? Did you bring a shelter, food, extra clean clothes. Have you ever spent five or ten days alone or with one other person? Sometimes you need to interact with other people and that sense of loneliness could be enough to shorten your hunt.
Have you been exercising for a month or more to increase your strength and cardio endurance? The hills can be hard to climb if you are out of shape, especially at higher elevations than you are used to.
Thin air and a heavy pack will suck the air out of your lungs on any ascent but it is worse if you have not built up your endurance and cardio capacity.
If you will be carrying a loaded pack on your hunt then you should wear it, with weight in it, when you work out. Getting used to the extra weight before the hunt is much better than trying to struggle through the first few days of the season gasping for air and trying to climb hills on wobbly legs.
Do you have enough food and water back at camp and in your backpack to spend an extra long time in the field? Do you have a good ice chest for keeping your food and your game meat cold.
Here’s a nice big ice chest that will hold a lot of food for the hunt and a lot of game meat for the trip back home. It’s huge. 110 qts. It’s versatile and you can take it anywhere. Best of all, it’s a YETI. It’ll keep your stuff cold. This is a really good price for a YETI this big.
Phone, Sat phones, EPRB, Radios, Walkies, Range Finders, GPS, Maps, Hearing enhancers, electronic calls and flashlights. If you use them be sure you have extra batteries. You should carry at least a backup compass and map. You should be familiar with navigating with a map and compass as well.
Electronics have a nasty habit of failing when you need them most. It is always a safe bet to have a back up. Just remember a back up compass and map will do you absolutely no good if you leave them in the truck
Backpack or Waistpack, be sure it’s waterproof and keep your gear in waterproof stuff sacks. Cold wet clothes make for a miserable hunt. Depending on how far you hunt from your truck or base camp, you may want to carry some extra gear, at least some food and water and a warmer jacket.
The farther you hike into the back country the more things you may need. Especially if you plan to hike far back into prime hunting territory and setting up an overnight camp to start fresh from in the morning.
Your pack must be sturdy and ready for a rigorous hunt. You will be hanging it by the straps when you get in the tree stand or dropping it on the ground if you spot a bruiser buck that you want to sneak up on. It may have to serve as a seat or backrest when you are tired. No matter what, it’ll be treated roughly even if you don’t hunt miles from camp.
Check the straps, buckles and seams on your pack before you go into the field. Repair or replace any broken straps or buckles and if you know how to sew up the frayed seams, do it. But sometimes, you wear out the gear and it should be replaced.
Don’t wait Until the last minute to replace a worn out pack. Get a new pack early enough that you can test it and get used to how it feels on your back. Carrying a back \pack that doesn’t adjust to fit your physique is miserable.
You will also be able to make sure your pack doesn’t make a lot of noise as you move around. Tape all clanking buckles, make sure if you have anything strapped to the outside that it won’t clang or bang if you crawl through the undergrowth.
Tape over any shiny spots with camo’ tape so they don’t reflect sunlight. A glint from shiny worn spots and uncovered binocular glass can spook a wary game animal.
Did you buy a hunting license?
I actually got all the way out to my hunting area with my hunting buddy and just as a precaution he asked if I had my tag. Imagine my disappointment when I looked in my wallet and I didn’t have it. I had managed to overlook that detail in all my getting ready.
It ruined not only my opening morning, but his as well,. We had opted to take his truck and his dad didn’t allow anyone else to drive it. My buddy was cool enough to drive me back to get my tag instead of making me wait until he was ready to go home.
Get all of your licenses, tags and permits ready ahead of time. If you are required to carry them or display them as you hunt then make sure you have weather proof display bags and uncovered have all required paperwork on your person.
Don’t keep it in a pack that you might leave behind if you just take a quick look over that hill. The game warden could be just over that hill and they get fussy if you don’t have the required paperwork on you.
Know the regulations for your state.
Did you get a copy of the hunting regulations for your state and study it?
Contact your state’s Game and Fish or Conservation and Wildlife Office to find out where to get a copy of the rules. Know what is illegal, legal, when is open season and what the bag limit is. Even if you claim you didn’t know the rules, you will still get tickets and fines.
If the violations are serious enough, you can lose your equipment, your vehicle and YOUR HUNTING PRIVILEGES. It pays to know and follow the rules. Imagine not being allowed to hunt for two or more years. All because you didn’t bother to know the regulations.
Know Your Prey
You’ve read everything you can find about your quarry, right? You know what times of day they are most active, right?
Knowing the anatomy and biology of game animals can help you figure out how to find and harvest them. You can go online and find anatomy and biology information on every game animal out there. Just type in “Vital area of a deer” and you will get dozens of photos and articles about the vital area of a deer. Search for game habits and habitat.
If you study deer behavior and biology, you will find out that most deer are more active in the early mornings and the early evenings. If you keep studying deer, you will find that as hunting pressure increases the deer become nocturnal, or they change their feeding times to later in the day when most hunters have already left the hunting fields
Some wily old bucks will hold up in deep brush all season long. If you are looking for such a deer, you should know a lot more about his life and habits than just, “Deer live in the wilderness.”
I just picked up this book from amazon and it’s well done. I love hunting Muleys. I’m still hoping to see a big o’ bruiser in front of my arrow, someday
Do you know first aid?
Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life. One careless second while skinning out your deer could leave you with a nasty cut. If your broad head breaks off a blade inside the deer and you are digging around in there and manage to rub against it, you could be severely injured.
A bad fall or a twisted ankle can be a problem while far afield. Heaven forbid you shoot someone or they shoot you with an arrow or a gun for that matter, could you help them?
Do you even have a basic emergency first aid kit with you? It won’t help anybody if you have a great first aid kit in your truck but it’s a mile away when someone gets hurt. If you or your hunting buddy find yourselves in need of life saving emergency help will you be able to stop the bleeding, or perform life saving CPR? Could you stabilize them enough to run for help?
First aid kits are way more useful if you have taken a class in first aid. I have included a link below to the Red Cross of America. They offer classes all over the country.
You and your hunting buddies should each carry a small first aid kit and you should have a more comprehensive one in your vehicles. Hope you never need it but be prepared and able to use it and help someone if you can.
Don’t stress. Start prepping early.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this list of stuff to gather up and all of the things you should get done before your hunt.
Just remember it’s already June and Opening Day Bow Seasons for Deer begin as early late August and early September. That is only three months away. Check your state’s hunt dates and get ready. Start now. Start at least a few weeks before the start of the season or opening day and get some of it done every evening and on the weekends over the next month or two.
Make sure to write up your own special check list or add your special requirements to this list. If you take prescription medicines or have special dietary requirements then you will definitely want to add those to the list.
For me, it’s fun to think about all the gear I might need for a hunt. Making lists and getting ready for a hunt keeps me mindful of hunting memories and possibilities for my next hunt. Planning and day dreaming about deer season increases my overall enjoyment of the art of hunting.
Make a checklist of your own or feel free to print this list out and use it. Add to it, take stuff away. Make it useful to you.
During the three or four weeks leading up to opening day use your list to check off each item you might need.
Having a list and keeping your gear in top shape makes it a breeze to have everything ready for last minute surprise trips that you might want to take on an unexpected long weekend or if your hunting buddy gets an extra few days off and invites you along on a hunt.
Thanks for reading this article. Can you think of anything that I have overlooked? If so, please leave me a note in the comment section and let me know. Also, if you have any questions or general comments, I would like very much to hear from you.
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