Just before the start of the first firearms season last year, which the state officially calls "Gun Season with Dogs," I made the rounds to several of the top hunting gear outlets in the Jackson area. What I found were full parking lots, a buzz of folks coming and going with some acting like they were in a sort of panic like the supplier was maybe going to run out of the exact item they needed.

I was reminded of the behavior back before Katrina came ashore.

Inside the stores, the crowds issued a dull roar as they shuffled around every aisle of the establishments seeking stuff they needed for the opening deer gun season the next morning. At one store, there was not space at the gun and ammo counter where another single person could squeeze in. Clerks were running back and forth like ducks in a gallery shooting game.

Checkout lanes were choked full. One big box outlet had all of its cash registers going, and still the lines were 50 feet long. Luckily, pretty much everyone seemed congenial and fairly patient. I sure would love to have the receipts from the day before gun season for some Christmas shopping.

Resting comfortably in deer camp that evening around the fire ring, I opened the subject of what I experienced that day. It got us all to thinking about all the hoops that we jump through in order to get ready for one of our most favorite days of the whole year.


The must-have list

Consensus among the hunters in our camp pulled together this list of gotta have hunting equipment items:

• Hunting license

• Rifle, shotgun, bow, muzzleloader or handgun

• Ammunition or arrows

• Protective gun case

• Scope, mounts, rings, scope covers

• Sling with swivel attachments

• Rifle cartridge cases

• Hunting knife with sheath

• Sharpening stone

• Binoculars

• Rangefinder and GPS

• Scents, rattling horns and deer calls

• Camo face paint or mask

• Game bags or ice-filled coolers

• Rope, duct tape, fastener straps

• Decoys

• Game-cleaning tools

• Portable tree stand and safety harness

• Personal items

• First aid kit

• Hunting clothing and boots selected for weather

• Hunter orange coat or vest, and hat

• Com radios or cell phones

• Gun cleaning kit

• Camera, data cards or film

• Gear backpack and duffle bag

• Flashlights and spot lights

• Lots of all kinds of batteries


Now keep in perspective that this was a quick list assembled while sitting around a deer camp. As you look over this list, make notes of what you need to fix, replace or acquire new now, particularly expendable supplies used up last season. Buy early to avoid the day-before rush. Of course, many other categories of gear could easily be added including ATVs, camping equipment, cooking supplies and on and on. The point is to get ahead of the 8-ball now.


The readiness factor

"As I have heard so many times, 'The faster I go, the behinder I get,' seems to be the way of life these days at work, home and even when it comes to crappie fishing or deer hunting,", said Kerry French of Flowood. "When deer season rolls around, I really seem to get lost in the shuffle of getting everything together and ready to go.

"The amount of stuff seems to grow every year. We've definitely gotten far away from the simple basics of hunting with so many neat items out there to help us hunt better, shoot better and be more comfortable while we're doing it. I mean who wants to turn back now. The only trouble is keeping up with it all."

Actually keeping up with it all has gotten a lot easier over the years so long as we are willing to put forth the time to stow everything away in its proper place after the hunting season. Have you ever seen those TV or home improvement store ads for all kinds of shelving units, storage boxes and organizer units? That can easily be done, but much more simply and cheaper.

Years ago, I began buying a series of clear plastic boxes of various sizes for garage storage and for closet shelves. I mark each one identifying the classification of equipment inside. I have exclusive boxes marked "deer hunting" and "turkey hunting," and so forth. When hunting season rolls around, I just change out the essential stuff in one or two different kinds of field bags I use. Other than clothes, I can pack for deer camp in 30 minutes.

A system like this makes you ready to pack in a flash and keeps your gear together, clean and safe. By just spending a little time maintaining your storage system when deer season rolls around, you'll be ahead of the curve and hopefully not standing in line waiting to check out.