We are in the “dog days” of summer.
In fact, it was so hot in Nebraska the other day that I saw a coyote chasing a rabbit and they were both walking!
It’s a joke.
On the serious side of things, wildflowers are in bloom, ears of sweet corn are being harvested, and elderberries will soon be ripe. The start of classes is also just around the corner.
Boating, swimming, tubing, and fishing are now widely enjoyed on hot weekends. And, believe it or not, Nebraska’s first official hunting season that continues into the fall, squirrel hunting season, is open!
But wait a second. Wait a minute.
For those of us avidly involved in the hunting lifestyle and process, the end of summer means a plethora 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 start to drift to cool crisp mornings, falling leaves, and maybe even a little snow on the ground. Ahhh, the snow cover.
Perhaps you can imagine shooting teal duck decoys on a warm, humid early September morning in your favorite wetland.
I know you have spent some time on the shooting range practicing with your firearm or bow. I know you have been repeatedly visiting reputable sporting goods stores and websites to try and purchase ammunition.
But even with some chores done, there’s more to the hunting domain than just daydreaming about the fall hunting experience this time of year.
This is the time to break a sweat, literally and in another way. Actually, it’s time to sweat the small stuff of your upcoming fall hunts that are fast approaching.
Late-summer planning avoids the rush and hectic state of sorting gear and packing up the night before your big inaugural morning adventure. It’s those small, but critical things that add up quickly and get forgotten or overlooked in the days leading up to the opening of the main hunting season.
You see, there’s a lot of hunting work to do, a lot of pre-season preparation, to not be in a compromising situation on the field.
Being someone who practices what he preaches, I recently sat down and put my fingers to the computer keyboard to develop a helpful yet lengthy checklist for you and I to use to ensure we are fully prepared when our hunting seasons roll around. in Nebraska. Here is the checklist:
____Buy ammunition and any other hunting-related supplies. Ammo procurement can be a challenge, but network with other hunters or industry experts if necessary.
____Connect with the owner of the land where you plan to hunt by phone, text, email, social media, or better yet, in person. The most important thing is to be sure that you still have permission to hunt and that some of your land has not been sold or leased. Consider giving them a gift on their doorstep, perhaps a cold box of boneless Nebraska ribeye steaks.
____Organize time off from work for crucial dates such as opening days, weekends, weeks or the peak of the deer rutting season. Also arrange lodging or make camping reservations, if you can.
____ Purchase required permits, stamps, and purchase other items required for your hunt (e.g., HIP number to hunt migratory birds such as pigeons, ducks, and geese, Eastern Zone Grouse Free Hunting Permit, state parks, etc.).
____Review hunter education requirements for youth and other youth. Take and successfully complete the online course at www.HuntSafeNebraska.org. Don’t forget the $5 Hunter Apprentice Exemption Certificate online under the heading “Buy a Permit” at www.OutdoorNebraska.gov
____ Study the current laws, regulations, and orders that apply to the game animals or birds you plan to hunt. Please note any changes or new requirements (for example, two-tier program on duck harvesting through HIP). Enter the local conservation officer phone number and the Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers phone number (1.800.742.7627) on your Android or iPhone.
____ Download new and updated apps to your mobile device to get up-to-date and detailed maps of your hunting areas. OnX would be an example of this.
____ Check your compass. Map and GPS interpretation skills. If your mobile device or GPS stopped working, could you navigate out of a remote location like the Nebraska Sandhills or Pine Ridge area with a compass and topographic map?
____Scan your hunting ground at regular intervals as we move into fall, particularly as the landscape changes. Notice when the leaves of hardwood trees change color and fall to the ground. Be aware of where certain crops are planted, when they mature, and when they are harvested. Note when the grass has been mowed and cattle or other livestock are grazing. Be aware of clues and other signs of your game. And if you haven’t already, install trail/game cameras and start monitoring them for movement of targeted game birds and animals.
____ Trim tree limbs/branches or brush for shooting lines.
____Mow or weed deer/game trails.
____Regularly water and weed spring-planted food plots, if necessary.
____Take soil samples and have them tested. Then you’ll know what to plant, where to plant, and when to plant in regards to wildlife food patches that fall on your private land, where allowed. Crops such as wheat, oats, rye, clover, turnips, and brassicas such as rapeseed are commonly planted.
____Make any necessary repairs to tree stands, box shutters, trailer shutters, etc. and clean/touch up lures and patch waders.
____Service your ATV or UTV. Opening weekend is not the time to find out your machine won’t boot or work properly.
____Gather all of your equipment, examine it, clean it, and repair or replace anything that is worn or broken. How is your camouflaged portable blind? How’s the rug under it? Carefully inspect fall restraint systems used to hunt from elevated deer hunting positions.
____Get a good, full, lightweight first aid kit to go on your hunts.
____Build a small, lightweight survival kit that includes things like a multi-tool, a lighter and fire starters, water, high-energy snacks, an emergency space blanket, and some rope or cord.
____Read reviews on the latest hunting gear. Find out if there are special deals on those highly rated new gear products, either online through reputable websites or at local sporting goods stores.
____Wash all of your hunting clothing with unscented soap and store in a plastic bag, if not completed. Even add some cedar shavings to the bag to add a frosting effect and scent.
____Purchase new supplies to reduce human scent for deer hunting.
____Put fresh batteries in headlights, flashlights, cameras, rangefinders, GPS units, etc.
____Sharpen your field knives, skinners, and other hunting knives.
____Contact your doctor or health care provider to schedule a physical exam. Schedule your hunting dog for a preseason checkup with your veterinarian.
____Acclimatize to the weather for early season hunting. Both you and your hunting dog should be on some type of outdoor exercise regimen and stick to it.
____ Practice shooting as much as possible. Just like with our physical conditioning, we also need to maintain our shooting skills. Many hunters shoot their firearms and bows only 2 or 3 times a year and that may not be enough. Enhance your shooting sessions a bit with realistic hunting scenarios, if possible. Remember, our duty as a hunter is to make an effective shot for a quick and humane kill through regular target shooting sessions.
____ Practice calling. From ducks to bucks, if you are going to use a call or call sound device, practice imitating the bird or animal you want to attract within shooting range before entering the range. Match your calls precisely by listening carefully to the recordings.
____ Start breaking in your new hunting boots. Don’t let sore blisters or sore feet ruin your fall hunt.
____Contact local butcher shops that have processed deer. Find out if they’re still going to be processing deer. Save your information, hours of operation, and possible participation 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 and check the miscellaneous items you take into 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, rangefinder, wind control device, folding saw, rubber gloves, and hand warmers.
____Put all your hunting gear in an easily accessible place, like a large plastic or wooden storage box. Better yet, neatly organize it in your hunting backpacks.
Preparing for the big Nebraska fall hunts is quite a task. But, as the old saying goes: failing to plan is planning to fail. It is so true when it comes to hunting.
Well, now you can get back to enjoying your dreams about the fall hunting experience.