This time of year, most hunters are hunkered down under an air-conditioning vent. It's still a bit of a wait until hunting season, but that doesn't slow down the daydreams or anticipation. Patience may be a grand virtue, but in August, it's wearing thin for hunters.

On the bright side, though, this is a good time to be thinking ahead, getting many items in shape and ready for hunting season. This will save lots of time later in the weeks and days before the season openers while others are frantically running around trying to pull everything together at the last minute. Now is the time to start early preparations.

A good hint here to initiate the process is to create a series of gear lists to double check as hunting seasons grow near. Laminate these lists and keep them for use year after year.

Gear gathering

For the perpetually unorganized, there is no better time than now to start laying your hands on all of your hunting equipment and starting to get it all together in one place. Big plastic storage boxes with locking lids are perfect for this. Buy several in different colors and/or label them with permanent ink markers. That way your storage problems will be solved next year. So will your packing problems for camp. Just grab the boxes you need, and go.

In my case, I have boxes marked specifically for deer hunting, turkey hunting, optics, cleaning supplies, web gear, leather, etc. When each season begins or ends, I pack away my gear accordingly.

I can usually pack up for a weekend hunt in 30 minutes or less. This is just basic organizing, and will sure save time and offer better protection and care of expensive equipment. Again, start now looking in all the nooks and crannies to find your gear.

Clean, sew, polish

As you locate your stuff, take some extra time to inspect it all. Many times I have gotten to deer camp only to find a shirt missing a button, a communications radio that needs new batteries or a gear bag with a broken zipper.

If you neglected to clean up essential gear last February, then do it now. This goes for everything from hunting coats to leather boots to wool gloves. Clean, then polish, leather boots, let them sit a week, then apply a waterproofing seal coat like Atsko's Sno-Seal. This will carry them through the season unless you wade in a lot of water.

By the end of the season, you may have a pile of camouflage clothes with rips, tears and busted seams. I'm pretty hard on hunting clothing, and some of it on the market today is not that well made for long-term durability. Look it all over, and if repairs are needed, get them done now.

Maintenance

Big-ticket items need work, too. High on this list is your all-terrain vehicle. Wash it up, and then go over it with a fine-toothed comb. If it needs dealer maintenance for an oil change, brake inspection, engine tune-up or new tires, move ahead to schedule this work early long before hunting season. Be sure to have a new spark plug installed, or do it yourself. Charge the battery too if cranking power seems at all weak.

Protection for the plastic hardware such as fenders and the body can be enhanced by rubbing or spraying on a coat of STP Son of a Gun or Armor All. These protectants do not soak into the plastic, but they do form a sort of coating to help reduce scratches. Hit all the other synthetic parts too like the handlebar grips, vinyl seat cover, foot pads and such. ATVs are hardy machines, but regular maintenance will certainly add to their service.

Tree stands, especially metal designs sporting a number of bolt-together parts, need a safety check to tighten everything up. Lubricate all these parts now so that the scent will dissipate before hunting season. Inspect lock-down straps and safety harnesses, too.

Other items that can be detailed now include trail cameras, knives, game-processing tools, flashlights, photo cameras, radios, other electronics and the list goes on.

Guns, bows, optics

It should go without saying that hunting guns and optics need regular care, too. That is except that every year in camp I offer to clean club members' guns dirty since last season. Pull them out now, inspect, scrub the bores and apply proper lubrication. Dust, oil or wax stocks as appropriate. Oil sling studs, attachments and slings. Do not store guns long term in any gun case as rusting will hasten.

Archery equipment needs special tuning and maintenance. Check everything over to ensure proper working order. Inspect the limbs, bow string, cam wheels and sights. Give each arrow and broadhead a going over. Replace bent arrows, and sharpen point blades. Clean and lube releases.

Scopes should be wiped clean with light oil. Lenses should be blow-dusted clean with optical cloths and cleaners. Ditto for binoculars and spotting scopes. Scope rings and mounts should be checked for tightness.

Items often forgotten

Start a shopping list of the items depleted from last season. Check stocks on ammo, black-powder supplies, gun and optical cleaning supplies, insect repellant, sunscreen and all sizes of batteries. As it gets closer to deer season, buy fresh bottles of attractants and masking scents.

Undoubtedly, many things have been left out here. If you own a lot more hunting toys than this, just don't forget anything. Whatever you use to hunt with, get it together and into proper shape. In August, that would be the cool thing to do.