Here it is. The season starts as soon as the sun comes up the next morning. You’re running around the house trying to find that match to the one glove you found. The batteries in your headlamp still haven’t been changed, but you’ll find that out when you get out of the truck. There’s a half dozen Hot Wheels cars in your blind bag from your kids playing with it. And can anyone please find my socks?!
Who’s been there? Yeah, me too. More times than I care to admit. Getting those last-minute things together before the season starts always troubles hunters, no matter how prepared you are. Here are some pointers to help get you through.
Visualize and attack
I like to look at past hunts, whether through photos, video, or just thinking about it. You need to visualize how a hunt will go and think of all of the things you need, could need, or just plain old want to have in the field with you. Then make sure that you have all of those things packed days before the season starts.
I think of every scenario that can come up during a hunting trip and then pack for that. It causes some over-packing, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and, well, you get the picture.
Even if you don’t have all the gear to haul in, it’s best to go through what you do bring, just in case.
“I go to the Post Office for my duck stamp, brush old mud off my waders, and make sure there’s still toilet paper in my blind bag,” said Hilary Dyer, editor of Waterfowl & Retriever magazine.
Verifying that you have your license and stamps is key, along with the all-important TP.
Decoys are a big part of a successful hunt, so it stands to reason that you’re going to take care of your expensive decoys, right? Before the season, you need to check to make sure the paint is all set and you don’t need to do any last-second touch-ups.
For field decoys, you need to make sure the bases are all there and with the decoy they go to. I used to hunt with several different types of decoys and the bases didn’t always match up. I had all the bases in a separate bag and the other guys in my hunting party helped set up. When first light hit the field, I saw wrong bases with decoys and that had an adverse effect on how they looked. Luckily it was an easy fix, but at the same time, I would have rather spent that time joking around and enjoying the last few moments before the birds flew.
Cleaning your decoys is also paramount to success. How many geese have you seen with muddy heads? They don’t look like that in real life, a decoy shouldn’t look that way either. Cleaned and organized is the way to go. That’s why all of my Hard Core full-body Canada Honkers are in slotted decoy bags. Makes for easy set ups, even when the hunting isn’t easy!
For water decoys, the biggest thing is to make sure the decoy is seaworthy and has an untangled cord with a weight attached. I love the Texas rig system that comes with the Hard Core Pre-Rigged Decoys. It is easy to use and basically tangle-free. I remember the old days when I had cord wrapped around my old cheap decoys. One of my buddies had helped pick up the dekes at the end of a hunt and hadn’t wrapped the decoy cords very well. Yeah, it was like trying to untangle the backlash of a casting reel in the middle of the night. It didn’t go well. Sailors would cringe at the amount of swearing taking place. That’s not the kind of fowl language I want to hear while hunting!
Using slotted bags is an awesome way to make sure everything is primed and ready to go come set-up time.
Even a blind man can see
The blinds are another area that needs pre-season attention. If you have a new blind, read our tips on setting up a blind for the first time. Make sure you mud it up and prep it correctly before you go.
It’s a good idea to set up your blind in the backyard before the season gets there, even if you’ve been using it for years. It’s a good way to check things out, look for holes, and clean the thing out! I always find empty shells, a few bits of trash, dirt, and, of course, freaking spiders! Spiders love layout blinds, but you know that. Plus setting up the blind and getting into it is a good way to help keep you pumped for season to get here. If you’re like me, you probably don’t need any help in that department, but it couldn’t hurt, right? I swear, if you say you’re cleaning it, your wife won’t look at you like you’re nuts for playing in the backyard.
I like to do some preliminary brushing work before the season and before the hunt too. Brushing a blind takes time before a hunt. The more of that you can get done, the better. When I’m setting up in the morning, there is enough to do between setting the decoys, drinking coffee, checking the wind, drinking more coffee, resetting the decoys that your friends set wrong, drinking more coffee, and all that. The less time you have to spend brushing in the blinds, the better. You still need to add in some “local color” to the mix, and make sure the blinds blend as best as you possibly can, but save yourself the effort and get it done beforehand as much as possible. Did I mention drinking coffee too?
From the duh files
Here’s a few additional things you should just do. You know about them, but I’m going to remind you anyway.
- Put new batteries in your headlamp or flashlight.
- Clean the gun completely and check your chokes AND plug! Even if you know it’s there, check it again. I start every hunt by making everyone show that they have a plugged gun.
- Clean your calls and make sure they are in your blind bag.
- Pack your ammo in your blind bag.
- Lay out everything you’re taking the day or night before a hunt.
Vehicular homicide–because sometimes you just want to shoot your truck
It’s not just your decoys, guns, and other “in the field” gear you need to check. Scott Roduner, Hard Core prostaff member in California, said hunters often don’t think to take care of the truck before the season starts too.
“You need to change the oil and check the transfer case and all of that stuff before the season begins,” he said. “Think about it. How much time does it take out of your day to do all that? It’s time you could be hunting. Not to mention what can and will happen if you have a breakdown.”
Speaking from experience, getting stuck out somewhere north of the middle of nowhere on a hunting trip because the truck broke down is no fun. Vehicle maintenance is a vital part of the pre-season ritual for many hunters and good advice.
The same goes for the boat. Like many of you, I use a boat to hunt and I use it to fish during the summer months. Just because I’m using it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a thorough going over before hunting season. In fact, I’m more particular about the boat this time of year. With colder mornings, the motor can get cranky and not want to start. Fresh plugs and a good tune-up help, along with fresh gas too. A good inspection of the boat for anything nasty is also in order. A buddy of mine recently realized that buying a new boat is no security blanket either. He took off across the lake with his new boat only to find out what happens to expensive motors when the impeller isn’t working. Check everything! Twice!
One other thing to do is scout, scout, and scout some more. My latest tool is Hunting GPS Maps, which provides state-specific mapping software for my GPS and laptop. Not only are these great tools for knowing the land, they also contain plat book boundaries and landowner contact information. Getting permission to hunt is up to you, however. I use my wife. She never gets turned down. If it’s looking tough, I send the kids in too. Hey, all’s fair in love and getting permission to hunt. It’s Not Easy!
Images courtesy Hard Core Decoys/Derrek Sigler