If you’ve ever eyeballed a deer stand and wondered if it was safe or worried your scope might have been bumped last season, then you know those nagging doubts can suck the fun out of deer hunting. At best, your angst will prevent you from seeing any deer and if you do find one to shoot, you’ll probably flat out miss. At worst, you could injure an animal or hurt yourself in a treestand incident. Fortunately, there are steps you can take for a successful, stress-free deer season.
While it’s okay to procrastinate when it comes to doing the laundry or to drag your heels getting ready for work in the morning, it’s not all right to blow off preparing for deer season. The whole purpose of spending time outdoors is to enjoy yourself, which you can’t do if you’re suffering from a full blown anxiety attack.
Now is the time to prepare for deer season and Vicki Mountz, who heads up the information and education group for the Ohio Division of Wildlife and has deer hunted for decades, suggests you start with gear maintenance.
“One of the things you want to do is take a hard look at your equipment,” Vicki said. “If you’re a bow hunter, do you need to wax your bow string or is it time to replace it? If you use a crossbow, check the screws and tighten them up if needed. Gun hunters, your scope could have been bumped over the period of a year, so you need to sight it in.”
For instructions on how to sight in your rifle, visit http://www.womensoutdoorwire.com/releases/203018
Vicki also suggests if you’ve had your eye on a new piece of equipment whether it’s a bow sight or a gun scope; get it now so you have time to practice with it. Even something as innocuous as new clothing should be factored in.
“If you’re a bow shooter, practice in your new clothes to ensure flaps or pockets aren’t a problem. This is especially important for late winter clothes that make it more awkward to move. A big jacket makes it harder to shoulder a gun and more likely the bowstring will hit your clothes.”
Even if you don’t plan to buy a thing this year, that’s no excuse to skip practice, especially if you hunt from a stand.
“Don’t do all of your bow shooting practice on the ground. Practice from a treestand to know how you’re shooting. Arrow trajectory differs when you’re shooting from an elevated position versus a flat one.”
Before you crawl up to your treestand, though, make sure it’s in tip top shape. And don’t even think about getting into your stand without a full body harness. According to a press release from the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, treestands are a major source of hunting related injuries and deaths, outnumbering firearm related hunter fatalities.
“You’d never get me in a stand without a full body harness,” Vicki said. “I know I won’t focus on hunting until I have my harness on.”
Vicki does recommend practicing putting your harness on before your hunt and shooting with your harness on as well. Don’t wait until the moment of truth to discover it constricts your movement.
Experts also will tell you don’t use a homemade stand. Instead, opt for a sturdy, well-manufactured stand that is backed by a warranty and your eagle eye inspection.
“Really check out your stands,” Vicki advised. “Do treestand maintenance every year.”
In addition to inspecting, and if need be, repairing or replacing treestand cables, straps, chains and ratchets, make sure you conduct a test climb as well. Practice getting in and out of your stand in your camo clothes and with your gear. Have a system for hoisting your gun or bow into your stand with a haul line. Make sure your clothes don’t interfere with your climb.
Another pre-season decision you’ll need to make is stand placement.
“I use ladder stands. Once I put them up, I leave them up because they’re not easily portable,” Vicki said. “I put them in a variety of places, keeping an area surrounded so I can move from stand to stand depending on wind direction.”
Next, inspect your clothes and make sure you have the right patterns for the terrain you’ll be in and you have clothes that can take you from the warmth of early bow season to the chilliness of a late winter gun hunt. Inspect your clothes for wear and tear. And if you gained 10 pounds since last season, it may be time to go shopping.
Lastly, get your license in advance and if you’re a new hunter, take your hunter safety course as soon as possible. There’s nothing more miserable than rushing around the night before the season opener, praying you can pull all the loose ends together by 4 a.m.