By Nick Simonson
In just a couple of weeks, hunters’ visions will shift from flushing or cupped wings to antlers bobbing up and down through the trees. The fast-approaching firearms deer season never fails to ambush a few who push their bird hunting or late season fishing right up to the start of the most heralded two-week stretch on the outdoors calendar. What follows are some tips to make sure that – while that thirty-point buck might sneak by you – the beginning of deer season won’t.
1. Tag In. Secure your deer tag now and place it in an easy-to-remember location so it’s ready to hit the trail with you on opening day. Whether folded up and stashed in your wallet, game bag or backpack, make sure the information on the permit matches the details on your driver’s license.
2. Take Aim. The two weeks leading up to the big opener are a great time to finalize sight-in of your chosen rifle. Pick a calm night and put some holes on paper at 50, 100 and 200 yards to confirm trajectory and accuracy of your chosen firearm and ammunition. While ideally, you’ve had a chance to do this throughout the summer, the time remaining before the season allows one more opportunity to make sure scopes are on and the best shot is possible.
3. Blaze Up. Head to the closet and select your finest blaze orange gear for the hunting season. If colors are looking a bit drab, and your safety orange is more of a dull peach, it’s time to invest in a new vest. Confirm that you have the legal torso and head coverage in your hunting destination or purchase the necessary blaze orange to be certain of that fact.
4. Stay Safe. Take an accounting of the necessary safety gear for each hunt. Vests and lanyards for treestand hunting remain a must, as more than 85 percent of all falls in hunting scenarios can be prevented with a simple restraint. A blaze orange flag or cover for occupied deer blinds is a great idea too. Additionally, have the phone numbers for all hunting party members and landowners written down for the folks back home, and schedule daily check-ins to confirm your location and well being. Don’t forget to add a first aid kit to your hunting bag.
5. Map It. Have maps of your hunting area ready to go before the hunt, making notes on paper or waypoints on a GPS of deer that were seen this summer and early fall. Know the boundaries of your hunting area and have contact information for nearby landowners to call in case pursuit of a wounded animal comes to their properties.
6. Clean Sweep. Have a cleaning kit ready for deployment upon a successful shot. A simple option includes a knife and a bone saw with a metal spreader and a gallon jug of tap water for field cleaning of deer. A gambrel and a rope are good to have for hanging deer at camp or back at home. Generally, the sooner a deer is cleaned, skinned and processed, the better the quality of the meat will be; so act fast especially if temperatures are high.
7. Camera Action. Bring a camera with you into the field. Remember to catch not only the memory of that big buck and the smile on a young (or old) hunter’s face, but also those moments of anticipation and wonder that happen while sitting back and observing the start of the season or the end of each day in the field. Put them all together and document the upcoming firearms deer season in pictures to showcase the tradition, fun and excitement.
Whatever the firearms deer season – and that tricky timber ghost haunting the mists of the nearby river bottom – throws at you, with these tips at hand and tools in your gear bag, you’ll be ready for it all…in our outdoors.