August 01, 2023
A glance at the calendar shows summer is waning, the start of school is around the corner, and footballs will be spinning through the air before you know it.
That means the time to prepare for early autumn hunts is now, especially if you’re planning on having the Ultimate Season this fall with a freezer full of venison and a big-racked whitetail buck headed for the taxidermist’s shop.
In many instances, such late summer work is not only enjoyable in its own strange way but also vital to a season’s ultimate success.
"When we're talking about the Ultimate Season, we're not just talking about opening day to the actual end of the hunting season," says John Taranto, editor of Game and Fish Magazine and a resident of the big buck rich state of Kansas. "We're (also) talking about all of the work that goes into getting ready for the Ultimate Season as well. And that starts now, in the summertime."
What kind of work does that involve? While this is hardly an exhaustive list, here are five prudent steps to take in getting ready for a banner deer season this fall.
Assemble Your Gear
The first step in having a successful fall hunting campaign is to get your equipment ready weeks in advance. If you’re the type of organized person that did all of that after closing day last year, then you’re already a step ahead. But if you’re more like me and believe in the genius of organized chaos in your garage, well, you might want to invest a little sweat equity on a mid-summer night to get everything together in one place.
When you get your gear assembled—think hunting clothes, hunting packs, boots, optics, rangefinders, calls, field dressing knives, flashlights, headlamps, accessories, etc.—you’ll want to give it all a once over and make sure batteries are new, the gear is cleaned and in working order, and any repairs or modifications are made now instead of the night before the season begins.
Also consider the supplies you’ll need, like new broadheads, new arrows, new bullets for your rifle or muzzleloader, and even the snacks you’ll pack into the woods a few weeks from now.
On that latter subject, let me suggest products like the protein power-packing beef jerky flavors made by Old Trapper. Whether you like the Old Fashioned flavor, Teriyaki, Peppered, Hot & Spicy, or even Snack Sticks, put Old Trapper products on your shopping list when you get ready to head for the grocery store, your local hunting retail supplier, or the bulk-supply warehouse down the road. Trust me now on this, and you’ll likely thank me later.
Basically, the beef jerky products from Old Trapper’s headquarters in Oregon are lightweight, easy to pack, quiet to eat in the woods or on stand, and have no equal on the market thanks to the jerky’s ease of eating, exceptional tenderness, and superb flavor!
Get Sighted In
By now, most archers are already slinging arrows at backyard 3-D targets, getting dialed in for opening day of bowhunting season. And gun hunters have probably already pulled a muzzleloader, rifle, or slug-throwing shotgun from the gun safe and given it a few shoulder mounts before oiling it, putting it back in the safe, and spinning the lock’s dial.
If not, now is the time to start going over things like how tightly your bow sight is attached to the riser, whether or not you need a new string or cables, and making sure that your sight pins are spot on. And if you like pulling a trigger to collect your deer meat, make sure the scope mount is tight, nothing has rattled loose, and you’ve got plenty of ammo to make it through the fall.
Then it’s time to head out back to make sure the bow is properly dialed in or to the gun range to make sure your scope is dead on. After that, it’s simply practice, practice, and more practice as you get ready for the Ultimate Season’s shot of a lifetime.
Hang Your Trail Cameras
A generation ago, whitetail hunters would slip out in the evening hours and glass agricultural fields or frequent crossing locations to get a leg up on what big bucks were out there for the coming year. While that is still enjoyable and a solid means of gaining pre-season intel, most hunters today use trail cameras to get a close-up look at this year’s whitetail herd on any given piece of property.
If you’re the type that leaves your cameras out all year long or have a wireless camera in place, then this step won’t apply to you. But if you pull them out at the end of the season, or if you’ve redeemed a Christmas gift card or two with a new camera, now is the time to put your cameras back to work in strategic spots, making sure they’re in working order, are powered up, and recording still shots and video of what’s roaming the property you hunt.
Find Target Bucks
One of the most fun aspects of the modern whitetail game is the anticipation that comes from inventorying deer on your property and developing a whitetail hit list of possible big buck candidates. The reason for that is straightforward since some bucks didn’t survive last season’s hunting campaign, while others succumbed to winter weather, spring storms, diseases like EHD, or crossing a busy roadway at the wrong time. And still, others have simply disappeared from sight, moving somewhere else to spend their time feeding, hiding, and chasing does.
To gain a solid idea of what deer are utilizing your property, trail cameras can help a hunter gain a solid understanding of this year’s deer population. Where legal, it can be as simple as establishing a bait site or two or three, putting corn, rice bran, or some sort of attractant like Big & J onto the ground to see what comes in on a late summer night. If that isn’t legal, find areas of concentrated deer activity or a well-used crossing, and get a camera going there.
Once you’ve had a few weeks of consistent action, start making a list of the potential bucks you want to hunt and let your mind go to work figuring out a strategy for opening day!
Fine-Tune Stand Locations
After you’ve got an inventory of the deer living on your hunting ground, it’s time to fine-tune stand locations. In some cases, especially when you hunt with a big box blind like those made by Redneck Blinds, the stand is already in a strategic area where it’s likely to stay for the fall.
In other cases, especially when you hunt out of hang-on stands or ladder stands, you may have removed those stands after last season and need to put them out again.
And for stands that are still in place from a year ago, you’ll likely want a two-pronged approach to make sure everything is still in safe working order and they are situated where they need to be. Don’t just assume everything will be like it was 12 months ago since agricultural changes, disturbances of nearby land, or something like a brush fire or severe storm could alter the flow of deer through an area.
One word of warning here—stand placement, either new or old; clearing shooting lanes and approach routes; or adjusting a stand’s location just a bit can be tiring work that can tax a human body. So make sure you’re hydrating yourself well before you go afield in very hot weather, restricting your work to cooler daylight hours early and late, and have plenty of water, electrolyte replacements like Liquid IV or Gatorade, and some protein-packed snacks handy in your pack.
The reason for all of this attention to the body is that exertion is amplified in the heat of summertime says Taranto. That means that a hunter needs to stay hydrated and full of the right kind of fuel.
"A great snack, and my go-to snack when I'm out doing habitat work and work in the deer woods, is beef jerky," said Taranto. "The primary reason for that is protein, which keeps you full and energized. But it also helps you recover at the end of the day and helps build back those muscles that have been worked so strenuously over the course of the day. And so when you're exerting yourself that way, and your muscles start to get sore and tired, the best way to recover from that is with the amino acids of protein, which you get with every bite of jerky."
When it comes to jerky, Taranto, and others of us here at Outdoor Sportsman Group like yours truly, often opt for the protein-rich beef jerky flavors made by Old Trapper. With a number of products available from the longtime jerky maker from Oregon, keeping your body fueled with low-fat, high-protein fuel is easier thanks to the convenience of Old Trapper Beef Jerky products.
Put simply, it’s very easy to slip a resealable package into your pack, pull a few pieces of Old Trapper out when hunger or low-energy strikes, and take a quick water and snack break as you get ready for the upcoming deer season.
A season that will be the Ultimate Season if you’ve done your homework, prepared your gear and hunting ground, and have your body hydrated and fueled, ready to go for that adrenaline-charged moment when Mr. Big steps into a shooting lane at last light!