The last thing you want at the start of next season is to unpack your hunting gear only to find items are missing or damaged by rodents, mold, or mildew. That’s why it’s important to spend the time and effort now to maintain your gear properly so it will continue to perform year after year. Here are our recommended steps for cleaning and storing your gear so you can begin next season organized and ready to go.
1. Select a storage location. The location of your storage area is one of the most important things to get right. To minimize the risk of damage from moisture, heat, cold, dust, insects, pests, or thieves make sure that your storage area is:
Thoroughly check to ensure the area is free of any damp spots or leaks. Use moisture absorbing packets or a box of baking soda to help absorb any type of moisture that could develop over time and encourage the growth of mold or mildew.
Gas cans, cleaning supplies, paint, and other substances that are commonly kept in garages, sheds or basements emit strong odors that can be absorbed by anything left in the same room. Similarly, keeping your gear in your closet can cause it to absorb scents from your other clothes.
Extremes of temperature can wreak havoc on many types of equipment, not to mention lead to the development of unwanted moisture.
All your equipment should be stored in a locked, secure location, away from children or potential thieves.
UV rays break materials down and exposure to the sun can lead to temperature changes.
Your storage location should be easy to access so that your gear is still available for any quick or unexpected opportunities at an off-season hog, predator or exotic animal trip.
2. Gather all your gear.
It’s likely that after using it all season, your gear may be in a variety of places such as your house, car, garage, or hunt camp. Take the opportunity to gather it all together and take a thorough inventory. Inspect everything and take note if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Don’t forget to inspect your First Aid Kit for anything that will expire before the start of next season.
3. Remove blood, dirt, and debris.
Especially if you harvested any animals during the season, thoroughly clean all equipment used (such as tarps, game bags, backpacks, knives, saws, etc.) of blood, dirt or debris and completely dry or oil them in preparation for storage.
4. Disassemble and clean tents, portable deer stands and blinds.
Take down tents, portable deer stands and blinds to inspect their component parts (screws, bolts, cables, straps) for any evidence of wear, tear, stretching, corrosion, or loose parts. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and drying them (preferably outside) before storing in a sealed bag or container.
5. Perform routine trail camera maintenance.
There are many reasons to keep your trail cameras out all year long, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to clean, inspect and update them as the seasons change. This can also be a good time to install a steel security box for increased protection or a LIT-22 to improve battery longevity in the colder months.
6. Clean your weapons.
Follow the owner’s manual for step-by-step instructions on how to clean your bows, blades or firearms. In general, you will want to make sure they are clean and dry before storage. You can also take the opportunity to apply wax or a thin layer of lubricant to the ones that need it. Before you put them away, check that all mounts and screws are tight.
7. Clean your hunting boots.
Remove any laces and use water mixed with a little bit of scent-free soap to wipe off all the dirt and mud. Once the boots are clean, you can spray them with a scent-eliminating spray and leave them to dry overnight. Once they’re completely dry, apply a waterproofing wax or spray if needed, then replace any laces and they’re ready to put in storage.
8. Clean and dry your hunting clothes.
If using a washing machine to clean your hunting clothes, run it once or twice on an empty cycle with unscented detergent or baking soda to remove any residual scents that could transfer to your clothes. Otherwise, wash your hunting clothes by hand in a large sink or tub.
Wash all your hunting clothes according to the directions outlined on the labels. Use an unscented detergent, baking soda, scent-free sportsman’s wash or a special product formulated specifically for outdoor wear like merino wool or waterproof fabrics. Keep your loads light to ensure a thorough cleaning. Once washed, air dry your gear, preferably outside, and store everything in a dry bag that will stay sealed so there’s no possibility of absorbing any scents.
9. Clean optics.
Clean optics like binoculars, rangefinders, and scopes by using a lens brush to remove any debris. Then, use a lens cleaner and a microfiber cloth to softly clean the lenses in a circular motion, being careful not to apply too much pressure which can cause scratches on the lens surface. Safely store your clean optics in their original packaging or a padded case to protect them from dust and potential impact damage.
10. Properly store electronics.
Take the batteries out of flashlights, electric callers, headlamps, rangefinders and other electronics to avoid the possibility of corrosion.
Proper care and storage are important. Following these steps will not only extend the life of your hunting gear but also save you valuable time when you pull it out again next season.