Preparing for the upcoming big game season is an important ritual every year. You need to get your gear and land in order to make the most out of the season, that much is obvious. But it is also a great way to extend the amount of time you spend thinking about and working towards a successful hunting season. We have 5 tips to motivated you to get a jump start on preparations for the 2016 big game season.
First, where you intend to hunt is key to keeping it legal. If you own land or have access to public or private land you need to make sure you have the tags and proper license to hunt for your targeted species. Be sure to know the dates for entering state lotteries for tags if that is required in your area or the state you intend to hunt in. Check state fish and game websites to be sure you’re clear on all of the latest regulations, including any that are changing for the current year.
If you’re planning to hunt with a guide, advanced planning is an absolute must. Established guides in prime hunting locations typically book up fast, many for years in advance. When your making your arrangements, make sure to be clear about what you need to provide and what the guide provides. Some guides are able to guarantee tags and sometimes that is the responsibility of the hunter. Traveling out of state add’s additional complexity to the mix, so leaving plenty of time to iron out the details will make sure you have a successful hunt this year.
No matter where you are planning to hunt, or who you are hunting with you can scout the area ahead of time. If you are traveling to hunt, you’ll need to rely heavily on scouting virtually. Use tools like Google Earth to check out the terrain and topography. Use sites like Weather Underground to view historical weather patterns and get a better understanding about what to expect. Read local blogs and forums to glean any insights you can that will help when you arrive for your hunt.
If you are able to visit your hunting site you have a lot more options. First, make sure you are familiar with the area from a safety standpoint. Know how to get in and get out without losing your way during no or low-light times of day and if there is any dangerous terrain to avoid. Look for natural food sources, plan out where you will set up blinds, and if possible place your blind ahead of time to make sure your quarry is used to its presence.
Food Plots and Trail Cams
Use the location of natural food sources to select the ideal locations to build your food plot. If you are mindful of the natural travel patterns of the game you are hunting, you can chose the location for a food plot that will offer the greatest advantage.
Another great tool that has become almost indispensable is the trail cam. Throughout summer, using a trail cam will confirm the presence of game in an area as well as the travel patterns that you need to know.
Being in the right place at the right time is only half the battle. You need to have the right gear in working order to make a big game hunt successful. Your gun or bow is the most obvious point of failure. Make sure your weapon is in peak operating condition. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, you MUST spend time shooting and sighting in your weapon before the season get’s underway. This is even more critical if you have recently purchased a new rifle, bow, or optics. Replace any broken or failing parts and make sure to clean your equipment thoroughly. Make sure your ammo supply is also in good shape from a standpoint of quantity and quality. Certain calibers have been hard to come by in recent years. Don’t wait until the last minute as sourcing new gear and completing repairs can take time.
There are a myriad of other things that need to be checked out if they haven’t been used in awhile. Make sure your knives are sharp and in working order. You will have some form of navigational aids, compass, GPS etc… that need to be checked out for accuracy. Any first aid kits should be updated/restocked. This is a great time to check on your camping gear as well, whether or not it will be used on your big game hunt. Make sure any clothes you plan to use are well worn and broken in. You want to make sure that they are comfortable and have an inoffensive scent profile. You have a lot of time in the summer to get this right.
Making the Shot
Now you are in the right place, at the right time, with the right gear. You have almost everything you need to make your trip a success and the rest comes down to skill. Sharpening your skills in the off season is not only necessary but probably the most fun part of preparing for a hunt. Make sure you are comfortable with your bow or rifle and any optics you chose to use. Know how your specific ammo choice responds to environmental factors like wind. Practice at the range of distances you are likely to face in your hunting scenarios. 50-200 yards is a good starting point.
Know when and where to take the shot. You want to maximize your chance of a quick kill. None of us wants to maim an animal. A true hunter does everything possible to guarantee a swift and merciful harvest. Your skill with your rifle or bow is paramount to achieving that goal. On that note, it is just as important to know when NOT to shoot. Know the anatomy of your quarry, have a plan, and wait for the right moment. That is the hallmark of all great hunters.
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