For many, the start of September marks the beginning of a very special season – hunting season! With many states seeing dove season kick off early in the month, it won’t be long until the sun starts setting noticeably earlier and the oppressive heat of summer will be, well, less oppressive. For most hunters, these early seasons are a warmup for the long hunting season ahead, with whitetail being the far most pursued game in the country. If you are planning on heading to the woods in pursuit of a wary whitetail now is the time to prepare yourself for success. We have six tips to prepare you for whitetail season.
Get a Head Start
If you like to get a head start on the crowds and hunt deer in their early season patterns that haven’t been pressured with hunting yet then archery season is right around the corner. Game trail cameras can be useful to pattern deer this time of year as the bucks have not really broken from their summer routines, especially the first few weeks of October. Many bucks will still be found in bachelor groups and focused on food sources whether natural, food plot, or feeders. There is no time like early archery season to pattern and ambush an unpressured whitetail.
Dial in Your Weapon
It is imperative to check your weapon before heading into the field. Last year during the week of thanksgiving I was at my family’s ranch and in the span of one day I missed two deer. Prior to my two misses it had been over a month since the rifle had been fired and upon checking it at the range, I discovered it was shooting almost 20” high. Take the time now to head to the range and get your rifle or bow dialed in. Practice and familiarity with your weapon is key to success afield as well as finding any issues with your equipment before you have that mature buck walk under your tree.
If you plan on hunting in new boots this season get them now and break them in. The last thing you want is a brand-new stiff set of boots giving you blisters on a hike into your stand. A small walk in the park will not do the trick here. Wear them everywhere for a couple of weeks until they are properly broken-in to your foot. Whitetail hunters tend to obsess about scent, and rightly so, but don’t worry about stinking up your boots while breaking them in. It will be far easier to deodorize your boots than to break them in the day before the opener.
Inspect Your Equipment
While we head to the woods for fun and adventure, safety and returning home to the ones we love and are responsible for should be our highest priority. If you use any form of tree stands you must wear a harness. On all gear new or old check your straps, cables, chains or any hardware that could’ve rusted, frayed, or dry rotted. Make sure all your stands safety equipment and parts are in working order and that your harness is in good condition. For any properly tested and rated safety climbing and harness equipment there will be an expiration date on the data tag sewn onto the straps. If your equipment is expired, it should be replaced. The last thing you want is to wear all the right equipment and have it fail because you didn’t check it before climbing into your stand.
Fill Your Feeders
If you live or hunt in a location with rocky soil it is common practice to use deer feeders. In many instances this takes the place of food plots popular in other regions to supplement the areas available food and to attract deer to an area that they would not otherwise be found consistently. Every feeder is different in size and rate of feed but now is the time to work the kinks out on your feeders so opening morning, if you are hunting a feeder; it’s fully functional and ready to go. The last thing you want is to spend your opening weekend driving all over your hunting property filling feeders and alerting every deer in the county to your presence. Get them filled a few weeks prior to the opener and in most cases they won’t need to be touched again for the majority of the season.
Maintain Your Blind
It is very common for hunting properties to use box blinds and tower blinds. In many instances during the off season only food plots, feeders, and water troughs are maintained, letting some needed maintenance go undone on these semi-permanent structures. It is not uncommon for a window or door of a blind to become unlatched allowing access to all sorts of wildlife to find and call these shelters home. I have found raccoons, ringtail cats, and owls in deer blinds over the years and they all can make a mess of epic proportions. Another common problem is the proclivity of wasps and yellow jackets to nest in a box blind. A preseason clean out and extermination of all your blinds will go a long way to helping your season.
Don’t wait for that first cool spell or that first tree to start changing colors to start your deer season preparations. Getting key tasks done and gear prepped well in advance of opening morning will help you have a relaxed, unrushed hunting season and hopefully more success.