Prepare Yourself and Your Gear for Hunting Season
The anticipation of hunting season is incredibly legitimate after months have passed since your last opportunity to get into the field. No doubt your dreams as of late are filled with successful hunts, heavy antlers, and meat in the freezer. With so much excitement, and so many things to remember in an already busy life, it is easy to forget a few hunting season checklist details when it comes to planning for your upcoming hunts.
By making a quick checklist that is an adaptable template for hunt planning, you can save time and frustration during your hunt by insuring you and your gear are up for the challenge. Organizing your hunt checklist into three parts: before the hunt, during the hunt, and after the hunt is a fantastic way to stay focused and avoid being overwhelmed by all the details. Checklist items can be broken down even further by action item and equipment item. Often, performing a certain action, at a certain time, is just as critical as having the right equipment.
Before the Hunt Checklist
Preparation is one of the keys to success in the field this season. Taking care of some critical details ahead of your hunt will not only put the right tools in place, but also offer peace of mind and focus during the hunt, knowing your diligence will pay off. Here is a list of critical items to consider before your hunt begins:
Before the Hunt Action Items
- Secure private land permission and scout your hunting area, on either public or private lands.
- Launder your clothing with scent killer detergent prior to the hunt.
- Put in for vacation days at work well in advance for your hunt dates.
- Physical fitness can sometimes make the difference between filling your tag, and tag soup. Do your best to get in shape before hunting season sneaks up on you.
Before the Hunt Equipment Items
- Make sure you have the appropriate hunting license, stamps, and game tags for your hunt and the areas you plan to hunt.
- In addition to tags and permits, most states require a photo ID when in the field, also make sure you’ve got a pen or a marker to complete your tag when your hunt is successful.
Checklist for Things You Need During a Hunt
Trying to remember everything you may need during your hunt may seem impossible. There are so many details, and so many scenarios, how can you ever be ready? By breaking down the critical components of your gear, and the hunt’s action items onto a checklist it’s easier to make sure you’ve covered all the bases. Keep in mind, this list is a great place to start, and can easily be adapted depending on your hunt’s requirements.
During the Hunt Action Items
- Check the wind. Whether you are setting out a decoy spread for December mallards, pursuing rutting whitetails from a treestand, or chasing bugling elk in a mountain valley, wind direction is critical.
- Tell someone where you are going, and when you plan to be back. Things can go bad in a hurry; often when you least expect it, and accidents happen. Sending a simple text or a quick phone call offers a lot of insurance should the unthinkable occur.
- Enjoy yourself. Recently there has been more and more pressure put on hunters to make their time in the field more like a career than a pastime. It’s okay if you miss that Instagram story, don’t see your target buck, or miss a shot at flushing bird. Take the time to truly love the what and the why of the hunt, and your valuable time in the field.
During the Hunt Equipment
- One item that surprisingly sometimes gets left behind for a hunt is the hunter’s firearm or bow. A sure way to ruin your hunt is to forget your weapon of choice at home, at camp, or in the truck.
- Ammunition for your gun, or a quiver full of arrows (with broadheads) is just as critical to the hunt as your gun or bow is to your success. Check, and then double check that you’ve got the ammo or arrows packed and ready.
- Put a headlamp on your checklist, whether you are walking in, in the dark for a morning hunt, out in the dark for an evening hunt, or both on an all-day adventure; stumbling around in the dark is no fun. While you’re at it bring extra batteries.
- Quality optics have taken their place at the top of the hunting gear list, and for good reason. Quality binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes, and rangefinders are critical tools to a hunt’s success. Double check that you’ve got your optics and give them a once over to establish that all screws & straps are tight and secure, lenses are clean, and batteries are charged. Be sure you’ve got a quality lens cloth in your kit as well.
- Dressing in layers during your hunt is the ideal way to regulate your core body temperature, avoid perspiration, and the risk of hypothermia. Consider an outer layer to block wind and precipitation, a mid layer for insulation, and a next to skin layer that has moisture wicking action. Clothing is just as much a piece of hunting gear than a knife, or binoculars.
- Navigation, a map & compass, GPS, or the use of a smartphone app to know where you are in relationship to your surroundings during the hunt, on your way in and out of your hunting area, and even during game retrieval can oftentimes be a critical component to a hunt both on public and private lands.
- Game Calls are one tool for the hunt that can be a real game changer. From a cow elk mew, to rattling in a rut crazed buck, using calls during the hunt can be extremely effective. Make sure you’ve got the calls you may need in your pack, and give them a once over checking the condition of reeds, lanyards, latex, etc.
- All of the gear on this checklist has its place, and a job to do. One of the most valuable pieces of equipment on your list is the pack or bag you plan to use during your hunt. It’s important to choose a pack with enough room for all your gear that is built tough enough to withstand the elements.
Checklist for After the Hunt
It may seem easy to remember to pack items like a rain jacket, hunting license, or even your gun or bow for the hunt. Sometimes, though, ensuring you’ve got the right gear for after the hunt may take a little extra forethought. Just a quick hunt before or after work, a weekend hunt, all the way up to a multi-day destination hunt should include the needed tools for after a hunt, especially a successful one.
After the Hunt Action Items
- Capture the moment. Whether you are successful in securing game on your hunt or not, anytime spent in the field in the pursuit of the hunt is a success. Capturing photographs or videography of your experience is a fantastic way to make memories last, and to share your hunt with friends and family.
- Care for your game meat in the field. Putting wholesome wild meat on your menu is the end goal for any hunt. It’s impossible to put a price on game meat that you are sure to share with your family and friends. Take the time in the field to properly cool, clean, and protect such a precious commodity
- Remember to fill out any necessary game or carcass tag at the time of the kill. Often, big game hunts require the legal transfer of game meat ownership from the state you are hunting to yourself. Take filling out your game tag seriously and follow the regulations. After all, your game tag is a legal document.
After the Hunt Equipment Checklist
- Processing and caring for game meat and trophies in the field takes the appropriate tools. Make sure you’ve got at least two quality knives in your pack, and some sort of sharpening stone sure won’t hurt when the edge gets dull.
- A game meat care package including game bags for larger meat cuts, zip top bags for smaller game or smaller cuts of big game, a couple paper towels, and surgical gloves are ideal to have with you for after the hunt.
- Surveyor’s, or marking tape can play a part in many roles, especially after a hunt. Hang brightly colored marking tape on trophy antlers for safety when you are packing out. Mark the location of stashed game meat, a blind or stand, or the trail in or out of your hunting location at the end of your hunt.
- Camera gear as simple as your smartphone, or as sophisticated as a DSLR with multiple lenses will allow you to capture your experiences and adventures. Toss in a simple and lightweight tripod and you are sure to notice better quality pictures.
Adapt Your Hunting Checklist to the Situation
Just like hunters in the field, a list of items for your hunt must be adaptable. There will always be equipment items and action items that lend themselves more to one hunt or situation than another.
Adding to your list, general items like: a first aid kit, snacks, paracord, duct tape, and something to drink will fit most situations.
By making a list, and checking through the items you used, and items that didn’t leave your pack, you have the opportunity to evaluate what items are critical to you, and your hunt. Putting in a little planning this season by compiling together a hunting checklist is the perfect way to up the odds every time you step into the field.