Preparation Brings Hunting Season Rewards
BY NATE KENNEDY
Here we go again! That wonderfully hectic period of time for the North American hunter. From the moment the Independence Day firework dust settles, my brain makes the unavoidable shift to the coming season.
Granted, the first day I can legally hunt deer (Sept. 27 in the Northern Zone) is two months away. Realistically, however, I know that passes quickly, and the more time and effort we put in now the better suited we’ll be when it comes time to hunt!
Camp and firewood: First on our annual summer to-do list is firewood. We are not as diligent as some when it comes to completing this task in the spring, so we’re usually working in July and August to finish stocking the wood shed at camp. Not to worry, it’s a great time to get together with family and enjoy some time in the woods. We’ll split and stack seasoned wood from last year, cut dead standing timber, and pray the bugs don’t carry us away. In college, I had some years where I did not do my part and relied heavily on family to keep the camp warm. Now, it’s my turn. In the days to come we’ll have our firewood finished and our camp cleaned up and ready for another season!
Archery: Next up is preparation for the early archery season, which should really be a year-long endeavor. As ethical hunters, we should strive to be as adept as possible with our equipment. That means shooting as often as we can throughout the year, and taking advantage of things like local archery clubs and leagues. That said, many folks do not seem to find the time, and in that case, the time is now! I myself have new arrows this year, and a recent trip to the Heritage Outdoor Sports archery shop in Phelps has me dialed in and ready to go.
For a detailed look inside the life of a small-town archery shop, the Log Talk Podcast with Pertnear Outdoors has a great recent episode with Earth Spirits Archery in Warsaw. I recently caught up with Billy Harvey of Pertnear, and asked what his No. 1 summer prep focus was for the month of August.
He responded, “You're probably assuming I’m going to say trail cameras, food plots, evening glassing ... nope. Practice shooting! I’m as guilty as everyone else, but the last couple of years I have been spending more time in the late summer practicing with my bow and gun so when the season comes, I’m ready. At this point don’t worry about where the big one is ... he will be there come October!”
Firearms: Shooting and cleaning your hunting rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders is equally as important as keeping up with your archery practice. Again, it’s best to shoot all year, but there is truly no time like the present! Shooting is a great way to test your skills and challenge yourself and your peers to grow.
Whether it is on private property or at a local rod and gun club, recreational shooting is likely relatively available to you and all too often overlooked this time of year. Shoot and clean your deer guns, but bring along an additional .22 or shotgun if possible. A few targets and some inexpensive ammunition, and you can have a lot of fun! Be safe of course, and remember that perfect practice makes perfect.
Scouting and gear prep: Scouting and planning hunts can be another exciting part of summer preparation. This year, I moved to a new area and my local hunting spots have changed considerably. I’ll continue to use OnX maps and the NYSDEC website to find new spots to scout. Next, I’ll visit each spot for a quick hike and/or glassing trip with my binoculars. With a little luck, it will pay off come October!
Moving and maintaining tree-stand locations, setting up trail cameras, and planning out which public and private properties I will hunt on which days of the season will all make the to-do list in the coming weeks. As we near September I’ll do my best to stay out of the woods, giving wildlife time to forget my scent and myself time to focus on work, family and home life before the madness of deer season sets in.
Cleaning, organizing and evaluating your gear and equipment should definitely be a priority this time of year as well. It’s a relatively inexpensive and easy task that can be done right at home. Empty, organize and repack your backpack. Clean and tidy up your decoys. Sharpen knives and restock first aid kits. These small things can be a rewarding way to spend an evening, and will put you ahead of the game for September.
Conservation and hunter education: One of the most important things that you could always focus on as a hunter or angler is conservation. Getting involved at an individual, local, state or national level are all equally important, so just do what you can. Join a local club or a state chapter, plan a public land cleanup or attend a meeting, and enjoy giving back to the resources and community that you love!
If you know youth or adults who may be interested in hunting, share your knowledge with them! The Hunter Education Program course, as well as the Bowhunter Education Program course can currently be taken online for under $20! Encourage new hunters, and invite them along on a hunt or two this season. You won’t regret it, and they won’t forget it.
I would be remiss not to suggest that you also try your best to check yourself, be present, and enjoy the summer months before they are gone. I recently journeyed to a small lake in central New York in search of summer lake trout. It was a blast! A beautiful day, a good friend, and plenty of fish. I will do my best to soak up these days as they pass, even as I anxiously await those autumn mornings in a deer stand.
Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds a master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears the final Sunday of the month.