If you are reading this on a Sunday, we can draw a couple conclusions…
Conclusion #1: There is a chance that you are a fantastic hunter. With archery elk opening on September 6th, archery deer opening on August 30th, and fall bear (you pick the weapon) being open since August 30th also, there is a chance that you have already tagged out on all of your big game for the year. Now you are just biding your time until October 1 so that you can slay a bunch of ducks and geese. If that’s you… Got any ideas how a fella could fill his freezer that you would like to share? If Not, then we can move on.
Conclusion#2: You have been out hunting a few times already and are wishing that you had bought a B tag, and never decided to pursue critters with stick and string.You just needed a break. Hey I been there too my friend. There is a reason why people say that any animal that is harvested with a bow is a trophy, The amount of miles covered (quietly) and the amount of work entailed in putting yourself into range with a bow is truly commendable. But you know as well as I do that the chances of shooting a critter from your couch are really limited. (If you regularly shoot critters from your couch, and you decide that you want to adopt a 33 year old fat guy… I might just know one. 🙂 )
Conclusion #3:You either go to church on Sundays, or Sunday is your “family day”. Both are acceptable answers, and I respect both answers equally. We would all love to spend every waking moment in the woods chasing dinner, but most of us have regular jobs that allow us very little free time. With only 2 days a week that don’t require a time clock, it is pretty hard to juggle your real priorities, God, Family, and Hunting! I personally try to limit my hunting excursions to one day out of the weekend (and boy is that hard to do when you got onto a good scrape the night before, or saw a ton of green heads land just after shooting light when you were picking up dec’s.) But, as for me at least, I feel that it is important to spend some time with the fam. Now when my boy gets old enough to carry a rifle and give it a go himself… Well, I should just start apologizing to my wife now…
All things being considered, I think most people fall into group #3. That being said, It is always important to hedge your bet a bit by being proactive. So here are a few things that you can do before rifle season opens so that you don’t have to waste what little hunting time that you have getting ready.
1: A man is only as sharp as his knife: It sounds silly, but a sharp knife is one of the most important items that any outdoors men can have, especially a hunter. With a little practice and a small sharpening kit you can maintain your own blades in almost no time, and its always better to start with a sharp blade and be able to touch it up. Believe me, having to sharpen your knife mid-deer stinks. You can take an hour or two (after work) and probably sharpen all the knifes and hatchets that you will need for your hunt. Another nice tool to have especially for game processing is the Piranta knife made by Havalon. They are basically a gutting and field dressing knife that uses replaceable 2 3/4″ hermetically sealed scalpel blades. If a blade gets dull or breaks, just swap the blade out. Is it a replacement for a good fixed blade knife? I don’t know that I would say that. But I do know a guy who raises buffalo, and it is the only knife that he uses for processing them out (field dressing and caping) and that says a lot.
2: Shoot your rifle: Its the easiest thing to take for granted. “It shot straight when I put it away last year.” Yes it did, but it has been stoved up in a case or gun cabinet since then, it has been cleaned and oiled, and maybe it has even been knocked around a little bit. I try to pull my shootin irons out a couple weeks before season starts and give them a good once over. Make sure all the screws are tight, run a few dry patches through the bore, then take it out and put a few rounds down range. if all goes right, the rifle prints right where I’m aiming. At this point I DO NOT clean the bore until hunting season is over, a bore that is clean and oiled will shoot to a different of impact then one that has been shot in. because of the residual oil, rifles will tend to ( but not always) throw the first couple rounds high, due to less drag, and settle as they wear off the oil. Plus it gives you a little time to re-familiarize yourself with your fire arm. I know it is expensive (I shoot a .338 Win Mag for elk, and at $50+ a box I feel your pain) But if you cant afford to burn a half a box sighting in, you probably cant afford to hunt.
3: Batteries, batteries, batteries: What do you have in your hunting kit that uses batteries? If you said everything you are correct! GPS, walkies, range finders, flashlights, head lamps, if your lucky… a camera. Yep, you already thought about those, but what about for your ATV and truck? Make sure everything has a good battery in it, and make sure they are all charged up and ready. Foul weather brings out the worst in everything electronic. While your at it, maybe change the oil, air filter, and even throw a little fuel additive in the gas tank. Be prepared for all the challenges that arise in the field, you know what they say about an ounce of prevention…
4:Packs and survival gear: This is by far the easiest and most fun pre-hunt preparation you can do. Dig out your pack frame, your hike pack (hopefully if you have been listening, your survival gear will already be in there. 😉 ) and check the condition of both, as well as what you have in inventory. Do it in the living room, in the middle of the floor and get the kids involved. If they see what it takes to do what you do, they will be super excited about it when they get to do it themselves. Matches, lighters, fire starters, knives, sharpening stones, tinder, game processing bags, meat sacks, something to boil water in… Its awesome, it is exciting, and its what you are about. Share the experience, if you don’t have kids, do it with your hunting buddies, when you compare and contrast what you carry, you may just learn something new, or you may get to share some lessons that you had to learn the hard way.
5: Fellowship: I am very lucky to have a group of friends that share the same values as myself. In that, most of our conversations usually are about either hunting, fishing or guns. Big surprise huh? No, that’s not all that we talk about, but much like every road in Idaho leads to the bunco, all conversations lead to those topics. If you want to get ready to go on your fall hunts this year, I have a super easy recipe that will get you there. Grab a 6 pack, wrangle up your buddies, and talk about hunting. Talk about how much fun last year was. Talk about the ones you got, the ones that you missed, and about “the Big One” that you just know is out there. Talk about how good the coffee was in the morning, and how tasty the beer was when you got back to camp. Talk about hunting camp breakfast! Talk about how much it rained, or snowed or whatever. Reliving last years adventure is a sure way to wet the taste buds for this year. The memories that you make afield, are addicting. The more you make the more you want to make. Start a tradition and stick to it. Wouldn’t you love to be able to one day talk to your great grand children about your hunting adventures and show them a picture like the one above?
22 days… That is all the time left before opening day of Idaho’s general elk and deer season. The time is running down, fall is in the air. I wish you all the best of luck in all of your adventures, if you don’t hunt, that’s fine, fall pike fishing is some of the best of the year, no to mention the steelhead run on the Clearwater. In whatever you do, make memories and traditions that will last a lifetime. Even one day in the field, will make the five days that you spend in the salt mines well worth it. Be safe, and good huntin’.
-Grant Willoughby 9/18/2016-