Start Planning Now for Hunting Season

Start Planning Now for Hunting Season

Preparation is one of the keys to success, and that’s definitely true for hunting deer or other game. Start now to get ready for the autumn hunting seasons.

If you’ve never arrived at your hunting spot without missing a piece of gear, bully for you. I’m guessing you’re among those who plan well ahead or are organized from boxer shorts to broadheads.

For those of us who aren’t, a blown opportunity because of lack of planning is part of our history. Unless the day is one of those “this is absolutely perfect” opportunities, the best you can do is laugh about it. If you ruin a perfect day, well, the memory will fester until the next chance rolls around.

One morning I arrived pre-dawn for a bowhunt at my spot. Everything was great. Checking my backpack, I had everything. I had everything. I had ever … where the hell is my crossbow cocking rope? I sighed. Yelling and cussin’ wouldn’t help. I’d taken out the cocking device when reshuffling my pack. Dagnabbit.

Another morning, I grabbed my old .30-30 lever-action. Dang sure would’ve helped if I had remembered to get the box of ammo. In my rush, I forgot it. I’ve also forgotten to grab my safety harness, which resulted in a ground blind hunt. I don’t climb trees without a harness. If you don’t, please consider changing your ways.

Hunting seasons are coming quickly. Blacktail deer season opens in mid-July in central California. Whitetail season opens in south Florida in late July. Those are the first two deer seasons that I know of in the U.S. Then the floodgates open with “velvet buck” whitetail seasons in the Southeast, big game seasons in the Rockies and deer, bear and moose in Canada.

Forgetting things like a rope cocker or .30-.30 ammo is a bummer. But those are piddly compared to what you should be doing now to prepare for autumn. Here’s a short checklist to get ready for hunting season.


If you’re fortunate to draw a tag in states where draw hunts are the norm, you probably have your license. Most draw hunts require license purchase to apply. Either way, double check to make certain you have the right ones, zones, all the tags, requirements and so forth. You don’t want to think you’re in Zone ABC and end up in Zone ABD.

If you haven’t purchased your license or tags yet, find out what you need and compare costs. For non-resident hunters, you may be able to get a multi-day hunt that covers your trip dates. Make sure you put the correct dates. You don’t want license to expire before your hunt ends. Compare the cost of an annual nonresident license, too; for only a few dollars more, you might be able to make a few trips and enjoy other hunting opportunities.

If you’re hunting waterfowl, do not forget the federal HIP permit for the state in which you’re hunting. Also check whether you need a state waterfowl stamp. The federal waterfowl stamp arrives in mid-summer. Make sure you’re good with any other stamps or requirements for upland birds, conservation zones or special public areas.


“Bah, I’ve been a bowhunter for 28 years so I don’t need to practice.”

Seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady threw footballs for more than 35 years. Stephen Curry shoots 3-point shots every day. Jon Rahm goes to the driving range when he’s not playing in a PGA Tour event. Opera singers and symphony musicians practice every day, too.

But, yeah, you’ve been a bowhunter for 28 years so you’re good to go. Got it.

Practice isn’t a bad thing. Ego is a bad thing. You don’t have to shoot two dozen arrows every day. You don’t have to fire multiple boxes of ammo at the gun range every weekend. If you’re a waterfowl or upland bird hunter, you don’t have to shoot 500 rounds of sporting clays every weekend.

But, you should be practicing. Make it fun. Make it count. Shoot three arrows a day with perfect form and mental vision of a buck standing there. Go to the clays range and shoot the easiest shots. Why? Confidence and fun. Go later and shoot the toughest ones, to reinforce your skills. Shoot 50 or 100 clays and go home. Compete with a buddy for a beer or burger.

Practice isn’t always perfect nor is it always fun. But it’s necessary.


If you hunt locally on land you own, awesome. You probably already are out there doing chores, camera work and keeping tabs on things. If your land is hours away or in another state, chances are good you’re making a trip here and there for the same things.

If you are going DIY or with an outfitter, though, it’s time to start considering travel routes, airline flights, hotels and other things like that. Get your plans in order for lodging. Double-check airline flight schedules, rental cars and baggage fees. A bow or gun case may be an “oversized” case and cost more. Don’t get surprised at the airport the day of your flight.

Should you fly with ammo? Some folks do and follow the guidelines. Others buy upon arrival, which is fine if you’re not worried about getting it. Common ammo cartridges should be available. Unique ones may not be, unless you check ahead. If you’re flying with a scoped firearm, you’ll want to check it at the range to make sure baggage handlers didn’t play “Toss the Rifle Case!”

Stuff happens. Double check everything. Ditto for bows, too. In Saskatchewan two years ago we were checking the zero on our scopes after long flights. A screw was loose on my scope mount. I got it tightened and back to “good to go,” but without that range visit my next morning in the woods would’ve been a headache.

Start planning now for hunting season and you’ll be light years ahead on opening

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