My goodness, where has the time gone? In another month, SEC football games will be playing live on television, and the opening of archery season for deer will be less than 30 days away. If you haven’t already been working hard in your spare time to ensure that your hunting property, tree stands and weapons of choice are all ready to rock-n-roll, you are already behind the proverbial “8 ball.”
As far as my own personal task or to-do list, it all starts during late summer with the mowing of woods roads, shooting lanes and food plots. As I’ve said before, the devil is always in the details, even when mowing and Bush-Hogging. Along woods roads and around the perimeter of food plot fields, always make note of where last season’s communal scrapes and overhanging licking branches were located. A good number of these scrapes repeat from year to year, as long as the critical overhanging branch or branches are not cut or run over. This is very important from the standpoint of trail-camera setup during the pre-rut and rut time frames. Always keep the best and most-used communal scrape sites under surveillance throughout the season. You will be amazed at just how many different bucks use them.
Tree stand safety
This is a topic where every one of us can improve. Most hunting properties have a varied inventory of tree stands and blinds that range from hang-on stands to ladder stands, box blinds, tower stands and everything in between. This means that scattered throughout a typical inventory of stands, the only thing standing between a hunter and serious injury, disability or even death, are nylon ratchet straps, screw-in tree steps, wooden ladder rungs, ropes, nails, bolts and any number of other fasteners and supports.
It takes time for corrosion or rust to take their toll on metal objects, but it will happen, given enough time. It’s a totally different story, however, when it comes to straps and ropes. Damage and weakening caused by UV light and weather can happen amazingly fast. For example, a hang-on or ladder stand can be perfectly safe when you climb down from your last hunt in January, only to become a death-trap by the following October or November.
If it has been in place for even a few months, every stand and its straps and fasteners should be looked at closely before ever climbing in to hunt. Look at them, tug and pull on them, and if there is the slightest indication of stress, strain, and deterioration, replace them immediately. The wrong time to find out that there is a problem is at 0-dark-30, with your rifle or bow slung across your back.
You may have to buy a case of straps each year, but hey, what is the alternative cost of being injured, maimed or even killed. I have learned this through the school of hard knocks and am exceedingly lucky to have come through the past 48 years of deer hunting relatively unscathed.
Regardless of what your weapon(s) of choice is, this is the time to double check everything and ensure that when you pull the trigger, what you intend to have happen, happens exactly as planned. This is another area where the school of hard knocks has taught me many lessons. I can still see several impressive whitetail racks today only through my mind’s eye, due to me having neglected to properly service and check my weapons beforehand.
With a bow, it’s a fairly simple exercise of checking your bow string for wear, checking screws for tightness, and above all, checking your sight and sight pins for accuracy. After the mechanical parts are confirmed to be in order, it becomes an exercise in practice at various ranges and from various heights and angles, to approximate actual hunting conditions.
Regarding a rifle or slug gun, when was the last time you checked to make sure that your gun’s zero point at various distances matches your hunting conditions and expectations? Even though modern-era rings and mounts are way more positive and stable than in the past, dragging a scoped gun in and out of its case, up and down tree-stand ladders, and in and out of narrow blind entry doors, can potentially change the aim point.
So go to a safe place to shoot or an actual range and check it out. For example, a .30-06 sighted in dead-on at 100 yards may be fine if your shots are never over, say, 150 yards. But if you need accuracy to 300 yards, a 150-grain, .30-06 bullet should be 2¾ inches high at 100 yards in order to be about 3 or 4 inches low at 300 yards. Don’t take chances. Match your sight-in parameters to what your anticipated hunting conditions will require.