Starting to prep for deer season? Remember these essentials steps for a successful hunt.
Get Your License
Don’t let red tape ruin your hunt. Get your hunting license well in advance of opening day. If you’re traveling, allow plenty of time to apply for an out-of-state license—every state handles hunting licenses differently. Don’t get stuck waiting by your mailbox on the first day of deer season.
Check The Regulations In Your Hunting Area
Hunting regulations can vary from season to season, and certainly from state to state. Double-check season dates and bag limits.
Secure Your Spot On Private Land
If you use private land, don’t take it for granted. Try to maintain a relationship with the landowner. Stop by for friendly visits well before the season starts. Offer to do chores, share your meat—whatever it takes to keep your spot. Be straightforward with the owner about your intentions for the season—no one likes surprises. If you’ve got a lease on the land, make sure it’s up to date and good to go.
Scout Public Land
Do your homework. Chances are topographic maps and aerial photos of your hunting area are available online. Use these resources to look for natural funnels, possible deer beds and escape routes. Don’t forget to prepare for the biggest public hunting challenge—other hunters. Scope out the edges of your hunting area to see where other hunters will likely enter the field; this will help you predict where deer will move when pressured.
Manage Your Food Plots
Nearly 75 percent of the average deer’s diet consists of natural vegetation. Planting and maintaining a food plot on your hunting land can lead to success during deer season. Placement is key. Set up an area—about a ½ acre to 2 acres at most—within 100 to 200 yards of a deer bed. Plant a mix of vegetation that can survive in all seasons—especially sugar-rich foods that deer flock to in the fall and winter. Make sure the area offers a prime spot to set up your treestand.
Set Up Your Trail Cameras
Set up trail cameras on strong, healthy trees about 10 to 15 feet from the deer path. Place the cameras near food plots, feeders or anywhere where deer are likely to pass by. Conceal cameras enough to keep them from spooking game. Ideally, you’ll have one camera for every 50 to 100 acres of land. Try to create and monitor a list of potential targets for the season.
Fine Tune Your Weapon
If you’re hunting with a firearm, zero-in your gun from a distance that makes sense for the type of hunting you do—100 yards is a common choice. Try to zero-in in weather that is similar to your hunting conditions, as changes in temperature can affect accuracy. Remember to check for loose screws, especially on scope mounts and rings.
Stock up on ammo early to avoid running out when it matters most.
Give your bow a thorough check-up. Strings and cables stretch over time, causing cams and nocking points to move. If you don’t want broken strings and cables to ruin your hunt, replace them every few seasons. Sight-in your bow with field points, and take a couple of extra practice shots with broadheads to make sure you’re still on target.
Pick A Spot for Your Stand
Use the knowledge gained from scouting and set up your treestand accordingly, as high as possible and downwind to conceal your scent. Clear any limbs that may obstruct your shot.
Sharpen Your Knife
There’s nothing worse than taking down a buck, only to have your short-lived elation obliterated as you try to field dress the carcass with a dull knife.
Assemble A Survival Kit
It’s always best to prepare for the worst. Bring a survival kit on every hunt, with key items like:
- Fully charged cell phone
- Flashlight, headlamp or both
- First aid supplies
- Emergency food supply
- Water purifiers
- Map, compass or GPS