We are in the dog days of summer. Ears of sweet corn have already been harvested. Elderberries are ripe. School is starting. Boating, swimming, tubing and fishing are being widely enjoyed now on the weekends. And, Nebraska’s first official hunting season that carries into fall — the squirrel hunting season — is open.
But, wait a second. Hold on for a moment.
For those of us who are avidly involved in the hunting lifestyle and its process, late-summer means a myriad of things to do if we are to have a safe and successful fall hunt.
I don’t know about you, but in late-summer, my thoughts begin to drift toward cool, crisp mornings, falling leaves and maybe even a bit of snow cover on the ground.
Perhaps you can picture yourself throwing out teal duck decoys on a warm, humid, early September morning in your favorite wetland.
I know that you have been spending some time on the target range practicing with your firearm or bow. I know that you have been repetitively visiting area sporting goods stores and reputable websites attempting to purchase or purchasing ammunition.
But even with some tasks done, there’s more to do in the domain of hunting than just daydreaming about the autumn hunting experience this time of year.
This is the time to sweat, literally and otherwise. It is actually the time to sweat the small stuff of your upcoming fall hunts that are fast approaching.
Planning in late-summer avoids the haste and frantic state of sorting gear and packing the night before your big, opening morning adventure. It’s those little, but critical things that have a way of piling up quickly and being forgotten or overlooked in the days just prior to your major hunting season openers.
You see, there is much hunting homework that needs to be completed, much preseason preparation, to avoid being in a compromised situation in the field.
Being one who practices what he preaches, I sat down recently and put fingers to my computer keyboard to develop a handy, but extensive checklist for you and me to use to make certain that we are fully prepared when our Nebraska hunting seasons arrive. Here’s the checklist:
Buy ammunition and any other hunting-related supplies. The ammo acquisition may be a challenge but network with other hunters or industry experts if need be.
Connect with the landowner where you plan to hunt by phone, text message, email or social media, initially. The big thing is to be certain you still have permission to hunt and part of their land hasn’t been sold or leased. Consider giving them a gift at their doorstep, perhaps a cold box of Nebraska boneless ribeye steaks.
Arrange time off work for crucial dates like opening days, weekends, weeks, or the peak of the deer rut. Also arrange lodging or make camping reservations, if you can.
Purchase required permits and stamps and acquire other mandatory items for your hunt (e.g. H.I.P. number for hunting migratory game birds like doves, ducks and geese, free East Zone grouse hunting permit, state park entry permit, etc.).
Check hunter education requirements for youth and other young folks. Take and successfully complete the course online at www.HuntSafeNebraska.org. Don’t forget about the $5 Apprentice Hunter Exemption Certificate online under the “Buy A Permit” heading at www.OutdoorNebraska.gov
Study the current laws, regulations and orders that apply to the game animals or birds you plan to hunt. Note any changes or new stipulations (e.g. Two-tier program on harvesting ducks through H.I.P.). Put the local conservation officer’s phone number and Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers phone number 1-800-742-7627 in your Android or iPhone.
Download fresh, new apps on your mobile device to get up-to-date, detailed maps of your hunting areas. OnX would be an example of this.
Review your compass, map and GPS interpreting skills. If your mobile device or GPS stopped working, could you navigate out of a remote location like the Nebraska Sandhills or Pine Ridge with a compass and a topographic map?
Scout your hunting land at regular intervals as we progress into fall. Note where certain crops are planted, grass has been hayed and cattle or other livestock are grazing. Look for tracks and other sign of your game. If haven’t done so already, put up trail/game cameras and start monitoring them for movement of targeted game animals and birds.
Trim tree limbs and branches or brush for shooting lanes.
Mow or weed-whack deer and game trails.
Regularly water and weed your spring-planted food plots, if needed.
Take soil samples and have them tested. Then you will know what to plant, where to plant and when to plant with regard to fall wildlife food plots on your private land, where permitted. Crops such as wheat, oats, rye, clover, turnips and brassicas like rape are those commonly planted.
Make the necessary repairs to treestands, box blinds, trailer blinds, etc. and clean and touch-up decoys and patch waders.
Service your ATV or UTV. Opening weekend is not the time to find out the machine won’t start or run right.
Assemble all your gear, examine it, clean it and repair or replace any things that are worn-out or broken. How’s your portable, camouflaged pop up blind? How’s the carpet that goes under it? Carefully inspect fall restraint systems that are utilized for hunting from elevated deer hunting positions.
Get a good, comprehensive, light-weight first-aid kit to carry on your hunts.
Compile a small, light-weight survival kit to include such things as a multi-tool, lighter and fire starting materials, water, high-energy snacks, emergency space blanket and some rope or cord.
Read reviews on the latest hunting gear. Find out if special sales exist on those new, highly-rated gear products either online through reputable websites or at local sporting goods stores.
Wash all of your hunting clothes in unscented soap and store it in a plastic bag, if that has not been completed. Even add a some cedar chips to the bag for added cover-scent effect.
Buy new human scent-reducing supplies for deer hunting.
Put fresh batteries in head lamps, flashlights, cameras, GPS units, etc.
Sharpen your field-dressing, skinning and other hunting knives.
Touch-base with your doctor to schedule a physical examination. Schedule your hunting dog for a preseason check up with your veterinarian.
Become acclimated to the weather for early season hunting. You and your hunting dog both should both be on some sort of a fitness regimen outside and sticking to it.
Practice shooting as much as possible. Just as with our physical conditioning, we also need to maintain our shooting abilities. A lot of hunters shoot their firearms and bows only two or three times a year and that may not be enough. Kick up your shooting sessions a few notches with realistic hunting scenarios, if possible. Remember, our duty as a hunter is to make an effective shot for a quick, humane kill through regular target shooting sessions.
Practice calling. From ducks to bucks, if you’re going to use a call or call-sounding device, practice imitating the game bird or animal you want to draw to within shooting range before getting in the field. Match your calls for accuracy by listening closely to recordings.
Start breaking in your new hunting boots. Do not let painful blisters or sore, aching feet ruin your fall hunt.
Contact local butcher shops that have processed deer. Find out if they are still going to be processing deer. Save their information, hours of operation and possible involvement in the Nebraska Hunters Helping the Hungry program.
Stock up on your favorite spices, seasonings and sauces that you use to enhance the flavor of wild game meats.
Mark down and look over those miscellaneous items you take to the field. Some are necessary, others make the experience more comfortable or efficient. What are some of your miscellaneous items? Several of mine are binoculars, range finder, wind-checking device, folding saw, rubber gloves and hand warmers.
Place all your hunting gear in one, easily accessible place, such as a large plastic or wooden storage box. Better yet, arrange it neatly in your hunting packs.
Preparing for fall’s great hunts in Nebraska is a rather large assignment. But, as the old saying goes: Failure to plan is a plan for failure. It is so true when it comes to hunting.
Okay, now you can go back to indulging in your daydreams about the autumn hunting experience.