The Trail Less Traveled: Thoughts for your upcoming hunting season

Larry Case photo

As hunting season nears, make a checklist to make sure you are prepared.

Yes it’s here, hunting season that is, and I know that you are not ready. I say this with complete confidence because I readily admit that I am not ready. What shall we do? Wring our hands and lay awake at night worrying about it? No, like the old Indian chief in the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales," we will endeavor to persevere.

Think back and you will recall we go through this about this time every year. Somehow summer glides right into early fall and while it seems that you were at the beach only last week, then the kids go back to school and the cherry tree in the backyard is shedding leaves. Somehow another summer of your life has passed and those ol’ bucks are out there scraping that velvet off of those antlers. They are getting ready, and you should be, too.

So as always, your humble outdoor scribe is here to help and offer advice and guidance (!?) as to how you may be better prepared for the 2018-2019 season.

• Get your gear (stuff) in order. This is something of a tradition for outdoor writers; it is the time where we crank out a list of things for you to check on your equipment. I should know, I have done it myself. Most of us don’t give much thought to our hunting gear in the blazing hot days of summer. Get everything out and give it a good look-see. Boots almost surely need to be cleaned up and treated with some waterproofing, guns need to be checked and probably cleaned. Go to the range with your deer rifle now and make sure you are sighted in. Try to avoid the day before season rush to see if your rifle is shooting where it looks. Take the time to check every screw on your scope rings and mount. You will thank yourself later.

How about ammo? If you have ever tried to find your favorite load for your deer rifle the day before season opens I bet you don’t want to repeat it. Same goes if you need arrows for your bow. Speaking of that bow, you have already started evening shooting practice sessions, right? Well if you haven’t, don’t feel too bad. Get it out and start punching holes in that target.

You are definitely late if you haven’t dragged your treestands out and checked them over. Examine all of the nuts and bolts and the straps which connect you to the tree. This is important, as it could save your life. Do the same with your safety harness. Anything that is worn or frayed toss it and replace it now.

Many of us never give a thought of checking maybe the most important piece of equipment that we have, the vehicle that gets us to the woods. Now is the time for a tune up or an oil change if you need one. How are your tires and battery? Getting stuck back in the middle of nowhere makes a good story later, but at the time it is no fun. (Believe me, I know.)

License please. Most of us that hunt don’t think of this when we talk about hunting gear but it is important. First, do you have a license for this year? Some state hunting licenses are good for the calendar year, others run one year from purchase. Make sure you know if your hunting license is up to date.

Believe me when I tell you that the Department of Natural Resources offices will get calls the day before squirrel or deer season opens wanting to get little Johnny in a hunter education class so he can get his license. Many of these same callers will then become indignant when they are told that no class is available just now as they have been offered for the last month or so. Getting a hunter education card for those who need it takes a little prior planning. This isn’t just for the kids. Are you planning a hunt to one of the western states this fall? Most states in the west now require a hunter education card no matter what your age.

• The mind game. I have been thinking about this one for some time. While we are rushing to get ready for another season, trying to get everything we think we might need and wondering if that monster buck you saw last year is still around, let’s pause to consider a few things. Maybe we need to get our mind right before we hit the woods.

It’s no secret we live in a world these days which seems to be running short of the milk of human kindness, and unfortunately we see this among hunters and other sportsmen. Conflicts between hunters and fishermen, hikers, bikers and anyone who plays in the outdoors are going to occur. Our public lands belong to all citizens of the USA and with just a little bit of courtesy and kindness for our fellow hunters most conflicts in the woods can be avoided.

We don’t all hunt the same way, but if our hunting methods are legal we should respect our fellow sportsmen and women and give them the leeway to follow their hunting pursuits as they see fit.

Bow hunters don’t always agree with hunters who use dogs, stick and string bow hunters may not approve of someone using a crossbow, and rifle hunters may not like how the deer season is set. Whatever the possible conflict, it is up to us as ethical hunters to show that we can overcome these problems and get along. If you know a hunter may be in a treestand in a certain area, maybe run your dog in a different cover today. If you pull into a place on public land and find another hunter ahead of you, how about putting the truck in gear and trying another spot? Most of our public land is woefully under used anyway.

So, my brothers and sisters in camo, do you get my point? Hope so. Here’s to having a safe and enjoyable season. I will try to have the truck ready if you will promise to bring some extra shotgun shells and lunch for me. You know I will forget.

Keep your guns clean, your knife sharp and take a kid hunting!

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, West Virginia. He has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for the Daily Citizen-News. You can write to him at larryocase@gmail.com; follow him on Twitter, @LarryCase13; or visit his website, www.gunsandcornbread.com.

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