It may be way too hot and humid to be outside these days, but it's that time again to limber up the ol' bow. And at the same time, also getting the shoulders, arms, and neck muscles stretched in shape. Getting that sighting eye tuned in again is good practice now, too. Before you know it, our designated start-up archery season the first day of October will be here.

Prepping for bowhunting takes a lot more time and dedication than it does for gun hunters, although both demand practice. Most gun hunters dust off ol Betsy, pop in a couple cartridges and gong that 55-gallon barrel just down at the end of the fence row to be ready to hunt.

Archery hunters who are really serious about sending an arrow shaft into a buck's boiler room at 35 yards simply can't get off that easy. Pre-season prep and practice are mandatory.

Start with the basics

An old farmer I used to know back home would park his soybean combine at the end of the last row he harvested, and leave it there all winter. When harvesting season rolled around again and he turned the ignition key, he wondered why the machine never would start. If you treat your hunting equipment like that, you can expect the same results.

Before you head to the bow range or improvised backyard target, get that bow out for a thorough inspection, cleaning and maintenance session. The same goes for the sights, arrows and the release mechanism.

If this is not your cup of tea, then take the whole rig to a professional bow tuner, and pay a few bucks to have the job done right.

A few years ago, I sat on the front porch of my hunting camp cabin to watch another member walk into camp with his bow - or what was left of it - being carried cradled in both arms like a newborn baby.

"I don't know what happened exactly," he said. "A doe came up under my stand, and just as I came to a full draw, the whole thing just flew apart."

Upon a later examination, it was revealed that a bow limb failure caused the whole rig to collapse. Maybe it was cracked beforehand. If that weren't dangerous enough, just imagine a metal bow limb flying around in your face not to mention whatever the razor-sharp broadhead was doing all that time. Inspect your bow carefully to avoid breakdown problems in the woods.

A tune-up means to make sure the bow string does not need replacing. At the very least, it needs to be waxed or maybe adjusted. Attachment screws for sights and a quiver should be tightened. Check and inspect the cams, too. Lubrication should be applied where appropriate.

Arrows should be checked for straightness. Feather fins must be in good condition, not frayed or coming detached from the shaft. Check nocks too. Broadhead blades should be cleaned of rust or tarnish, cleared of any chipped or bent edges, and then sharpened. Damaged ones should be safely discarded. Arrows and broadheads must fly straight and true.

Develop a regimen

Every bowhunter I've ever met had his own method of madness as to how he prepared for an upcoming season with shooting practice. Some hunters model the strides of a professional golfer in that they try a set number of shots from a variety of positions and ranges, building up to some set number per day before going afield.

It has always made sense to start slow and build up. Bowhunting guides will recommend a few shots each day at first, then increase the practice to as many as 20-25 shots a day or every few days until everything feels comfortable again. Vary the ranges and angles, even climbing in a tree stand in the back yard or another elevated platform like an outside deck. Many outdoor archery ranges now have elevated towers for this.

Use the same release method, sighting posture and alignment every shot. Check the sights for fine tuning. Adjust the bow weight pull if needed. Now is the time to work out all the kinks before a big buck is standing there just within range. Use practice points most of the time, but always shoot some with the arrow set-ups intended for hunting.

Taking a white-tailed deer with a bow and arrow is tough business. Bowhunters have to consistently hit a dessert plate target at ranges up to 40 yards. All this is done standing up. These are difficult shooting conditions. This kind of hunting demands a preseason check of gear and plenty of shooting practice.