August 04, 2021
By Tony Hansen
Do or die-hard bowhunters, the end of summer isn’t exactly a dreaded occurrence because it means the greatest season of them all is about to start. Fall is on our doorstep. Are you ready? No? Me either.
If you’re like just about every other red-blooded American bowhunter, time is scarce and has a habit of moving faster and faster every year. Fortunately, there’s some time remaining and we can make hay while that summer sun still shines.
Here are 10 things you can get rolling right now to make sure your bow season is a great one.
1. Get What You Need
One of the things I enjoy as a regular part of my pre-season routine is sorting, organizing and inventorying the essentials I use throughout each fall. The task is a lot easier now since I did a major gear purge a couple of years back and adopted a much more minimalistic approach to my hunting gear (and life in general if we’re oversharing).
That said, there are always a few items that need replacing and some consumable items that must be replenished: gutting gloves, ThermaCell fuel, camera batteries, etc. I do the bulk of my gear shopping online. If you’ve ordered anything in, say, the past year you likely know shipping times (and inventories) aren’t what they were in a pre-COVID world. Order early.
2. Tune With Broadheads
You should be shooting your bow year-round, even if it’s just a few arrows a month. That practice time, naturally, should increase the closer you get to opening day. Part of that preparation includes tuning your bow to the broadheads you plan to hunt with this fall. In an ideal situation, it won’t take much tweaking to get broadheads grouping. But if it does, now is the time to find out why and get things worked out.
3. Buy Tags
This seems like a no-brainer but, again, factor in additional shipping and mailing time. If you intend to hunt away from home, this is especially important as many state agencies require carcass tags that are delivered only via mail.
4. Check Cams One More Time
A whole lot of big bucks are saved each year by trail cameras. But not the way you may be thinking. The temptation of checking trail cameras as opening day draws near can be irresistible, and it increases the chances of your alerting bucks just prior to hunting them. This is why I love cellular cameras. I can get my photo fix without intruding into a hunting location. If you don’t use cellular models, it’s time to check your cameras once more, well before the opener. Put in fresh SD cards and new batteries, and then leave them alone until the season opens. Let your hunting area be as human-free as possible.
5. Schedule Vacation Days
Planning a rut-cation? Or maybe a series of four-day weekends? Make sure you’ve got that time-off request in.
6. Give That Truck Some Love
This, too, should be a given, but have you ever been on your way to a prime stand site on a frosty October morning and had things go south due to a vehicle failure? Yeah, I’ve been there. You can’t predict every issue but you can make sure you’ve taken care of basic maintenance—tires, oil change, plugs, etc. Do it now and hunt more later.
7. Scout From Afar
I’ll preface this point by stating that I’m not a big advocate of substantial pre-season scouting, particularly in late summer. That’s another topic for another day, but adding pressure just before the season opens seldom ends well. That said, long-range surveillance when done carefully can be beneficial. I’m not looking for just deer, however. I’m also on the lookout for human pressure and new hunters moving into an area I was planning to hunt. I’d rather know that now than later.
8. Examine Your Bow … Closely
Familiarity is usually a good thing when it comes to your bow. Muscle memory helps you shoot more consistently and accurately. But familiarity can also cause you to overlook not-so-obvious signs of wear. Start with your string. Inspect it and replace if necessary. Move on to the limbs, cams and accessories. Things fail, and spotting a problem early can save opening day.
9. Double-Check Regulations
A couple of years back, a state I had planned to hunt in September underwent a major regulation change that prevented nonresidents from hunting public lands until Oct. 1. Besides being a nonsensical maneuver, that regulation change nearly put me in a really bad spot. Had I not re-read the regulations just prior to the season, I could have been an inadvertent violator. Go to the website of the wildlife agency for each state you plan to hunt and download the current regulations. Print them out and study them. Pay close attention to any public areas you intend to hunt. Regulations on public land can—and do—change from year to year.
10. Inspect Stands and Saddles
If you’ve left your stands up all year, which is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, now is the time to head to the woods with your safety harness on and ensure everything is in safe, working order. Change the straps. Check the bolts and cables.
Make sure the tree and any overhead limbs are still solid.
This job is easier, but still necessary, if you haven’t yet hung your stands. Do the same with your tree saddles, ropes, harnesses and hardware. Then move on to your climbing sticks. Look for rusted areas and cracks in aluminum (especially cast aluminum). Give all ropes, straps and tie-offs a thorough review. Being prepared for opening day means being ready to hunt safely.