With slightly less than a month remaining between now and the beginning of hunting season here in Ohio, and a couple of months until archery season, it is time for hunters to begin gearing up and getting ready to hit the woods this fall.
Most hunters have their own pre-season rituals but there are a few things that every hunter should do to get ready to avoid surprises, some of which may even be potentially dangerous, and I’ll cover a couple of those now. On the other hand, if you like surprises and danger, then you can stop reading now.
First, honestly ask yourself if you are actually ready to head into the woods or to climb a tree; sedentary lifestyles and poor fitness and dietary habits have a way of interrupting your plans the first time you have to hike into and out of the woods, drag a dead deer, climb a tree, saw limbs or many other physical activities.
Putting up a tree stand is hard work when you consider all the steps that are involved. Fortunately there is still time to get out and do some walking or shed a couple of pounds before hunting season. As always, talk to your doctor before you start any serious fitness program.
One thing you should do is get out in the woods and visually inspect your hunting areas; your favorite tree stand tree may have blown down, or trees may have fallen across your access roads – especially this year after the big derecho. Of course someone may have put in a new logging road or new house right next to your hunting grounds. There may not be much you can do about the new-found situation, but at least you will be spared an opening morning surprise.
Changes can also alter wildlife travel and resting habits; windfalls may allow more light into the understory creating the opportunity for more undergrowth and vegetation. These are mostly natural changes and create a little diversity of habitat.
If you are like most hunters you are probably going to rely on an all-terrain vehicle or utility vehicle to haul you and your hunting equipment into the woods. Most ATVs are very reliable but that doesn’t mean you should neglect basic maintenance like checking or changing your oil, maintaining your tire pressure, checking or replacing your brakes or making other recommended changes and adjustments. The time to find out you have a bad battery is not when you loading or unloading your ride into the back of your pickup truck. A little TLC will help ensure your steed doesn’t let you down when you need it the most.
If your bow or gun hasn’t been out of the closet since last fall you’ll need to get it out and, first, make sure it is in safe working order, properly cleaned and tuned, sighted in or adjusted. Then invest a little time and ammo in making sure it’s still shooting straight. One thing many aging hunters don’t consider is that their eyes may have changed over the past year, or they have a different glasses prescription or new lenses that drastically change the way things appear through a scope or through sights. In any event, you want to make sure you are capable of making a good shot and a swift, humane kill.
Tree stands? Check them out carefully, paying particularly close attention to any weight-bearing straps or cords that may have abraded or rotted during the off season. Practice putting it up, and don’t neglect checking out and adjusting your harness.
Don’t forget to purchase your hunting license and any necessary tags! Familiarize yourself with any changes that may have taken place in the game check or licensing systems in your state. Peruse the updated hunting laws and seasons because there may have been changes during the past year.
The above is by no means an all-inclusive list of pre-hunting season activities, but they should be at least a good starting point to help make sure you and hunting buddy have a safe and enjoyable season!
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and his column generally appears every other Sunday. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org