THE HUNTER’S SPRING CHECKLIST

IF YOU’RE SE­RI­OUS ABOUT HUNT­ING, THE SEA­SON NEVER ENDS. HERE ARE NINE THINGS YOU NEED TO DO AS SOON AS THE WEATHER TURNS WARM.

Gun World - - Hunt -

Idon’t know about you, but rarely a day passes through­out the year that I don’t think about hunt­ing. It might be a new idea for a stand lo­ca­tion, shop­ping on­line for a new scope or sim­ply or­ga­niz­ing my gear so it will be ready for next fall. And while plan­ning in April for a hunt that will hap­pen in Novem­ber might seem like overkill, if you are ded­i­cated to your suc­cess in the field, there’s a lot you can be do­ing at that time of year.

You’ve sur­vived win­ter’s deep freeze on a steady diet of veni­son, but as the world thaws, it’s prime time to start plan­ning for the next year. Here are nine items that must be on your spring “to-do” list.

1. BUY NEW GUNS

It prob­a­bly doesn’t take a lot of coax­ing to con­vince you to pur­chase a new gun for hunt­ing, but if you’re go­ing to pull the trig­ger (pun in­tended), now’s the time to do so. Why? Be­cause store shelves aren’t de­pleted by masses of last-minute buy­ers, there’s time to or­der what you re­ally want and get it in time for the sea­son; and you can prac­tice shoot­ing from the bench, as well as field po­si­tions. Give your­self a lit­tle time to get to know your gun—it will pay big div­i­dends later in the year.

2. WORK UP LOADS

Maybe you aren’t go­ing to buy a new ri­fle but plan to im­prove the one you’ve got. That re­quires find­ing the very best load for your gun, and that could take a lit­tle time. I don’t know about you, but I am al­ways look­ing for the right bul­let/load com­bi­na­tion to wring the most ac­cu­racy out of my ri­fle. Con­se­quently, start­ing load test­ing early gives me time to tweak the recipe as needed. Also, if you have a spe­cial hunt com­ing up—say, a Coues deer or an­te­lope hunt that will re­quire a long-range pre­ci­sion load—now’s the time to start ex­per­i­ment­ing with what works and what doesn’t.

3. AP­PLY FOR TAGS

If you’re think­ing about hunt­ing in the west­ern United States, it’s time to start ap­ply­ing for tags. Dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tion dead­lines, so you need to spend time check­ing out the var­i­ous sites and see­ing what’s avail­able. If you don’t want to spend that kind of time, let pro­fes­sion­als, such as the team at World­wide Tro­phy Ad­ven­tures (www. World­wideTro­phyAd­ven­tures.com), help walk you through the process. If you wait too long, your op­tions are lim­ited to over-the­counter tags and ex­pen­sive landowner per­mits in some states.

4. VISIT LANDOWN­ERS

Take time in the spring to stop in and visit with landown­ers who have let you hunt on their prop­er­ties in the past. A gift isn’t out of the question, ei­ther, and you can ask if it’s all right to hunt the fol­low­ing year. It’s also a great time to knock on doors and pro­cure a place to hunt for the fall. It also shows the landowner you are at least re­spon­si­ble enough to plan ahead. More and more landown­ers are leas­ing their hunt­ing grounds, so learn­ing what’s avail­able early in the year will help you pre­pare and bud­get for the fol­low­ing fall.

5. CLEAN OUT YOUR PACK

The same pack I had neatly or­ga­nized in Septem­ber is usu­ally a clut­tered mess by Jan­uary. Gear has been pulled in and out, and my re­serves of cover scent are usu­ally low. That’s ex­tra bad, be­cause I’ve in­vari­ably left an old ap­ple core or half-empty bot­tle of deer urine in there, and the thing reeks. Grab­bing your pack the day be­fore the sea­son starts and dig­ging around in­side, look­ing for the rangefinder you lost last year, is usu­ally fu­tile. Give your­self time early in the year to or­ga­nize your pack and add any nec­es­sary items you might have for­got­ten.

6. GET IN SHAPE

Im­proved phys­i­cal fit­ness helps you suc­ceed as a hunter, but switch­ing from reg­u­lar to diet Moun­tain Dew a few weeks be­fore the opener isn’t go­ing to cut it. Real fit­ness gains take time, and try­ing to rush it will yield poor re­sults and likely cause in­jury. Start small and im­prove grad­u­ally, and you’ll be in bet­ter shape for fall. Most hunters know they should go for walks, and they might even lift weights, but don’t over­look stretch­ing (which re­duces odds of in­jury, by the way), core train­ing and diet. You don’t have to look like John Rambo to hunt, but im­prov­ing your fit­ness level will help you travel deeper into game coun­try.

7. SCOUT

This is the most ob­vi­ous spring ac­tiv­ity, and for me, it’s the most fun. The woods are start­ing to turn green, fawns and elk calves are drop­ping, and you might even be lucky enough to stum­ble upon a few morel mush­rooms (in­ci­den­tally, it’s also the time when bears are com­ing out of their dens and look­ing for food, so keep that in mind).

8. PREP YOUR HUNT­ING AREA

Why do so many hunters de­cide to pa­rade through the woods the week be­fore sea­son and hang stands? That gives all the game in your area a heads-up just prior to your hunt, so add those chores to your spring checklist. This is also the time to es­tab­lish food plots, plant trees (see the side­bar at the top of this page), mow fields, start clear­ing a path to your stand and have your hunt­ing area ready for open­ing day. You’ll have to do a few touch-ups later in the year (such as adding her­bi­cide to food plots and trim­ming shoot­ing lanes), but have the bulk of your work done by July.

9. CON­TROL PREDA­TORS

You and I aren’t the only ones happy when fawns hit the ground in spring. Preda­tors—par­tic­u­larly coy­otes—are cruis­ing in search of food. In many ar­eas, coy­ote hunt­ing is an op­tion through­out the year, and in the spring, they are par­tic­u­larly at­tuned to the sound of fawns in dis­tress. Use that to your ad­van­tage. Ad­di­tion­ally, preda­tor hunt­ing helps keep your skills sharp for the fall. GW

Spring is a great time to prac­tice field-shoot­ing po­si­tions such as stand­ing fire off sticks. These African Sport­ing Cre­ations sticks are light enough to carry and pro­vide a sta­ble rest—if you have prac­ticed enough to be­come fa­mil­iar with them. Spring is a great time to be in the woods, be­cause you can gather a great deal of in­tel with­out scar­ing game just be­fore sea­son. Look­ing

for sheds is pro­duc­tive, be­cause it pro­vides in­sight about where bucks are

com­fort­able.

You should be­gin work­ing up loads for your ri­fle early in the year. If you don’t hand load, this is the time to ex­per­i­ment with fac­tory of­fer­ings to find one that works.

You don’t have to be in great shape for most hunts, but you do need to spend some time work­ing out to en­sure you can han­dle the ter­rain. This will in­crease your odds of suc­cess and de­crease the chances of a hunt-end­ing in­jury.

Think­ing of hunt­ing the Amer­i­can West? You’d bet­ter plan on ap­ply­ing for tags now, be­cause many dead­lines for draws hap­pen dur­ing the spring and early-sum­mer months.

Spring plan­ning will pay big div­i­dends in the fall. Do­ing your home­work early makes it eas­ier to con­cen­trate on one thing—mak­ing a clean shot—come fall.

Clear­ing ar­eas around stands should be done early in the year, be­cause too much dis­tur­bance just prior to the opener will spook game.

Early spring is a great time to set up trail cam­eras and de­ter­mine where an­i­mals are mov­ing. It will also give you an idea about sur­vival rates and fawn pro­duc­tion. There’s no off sea­son for preda­tor con­trol. Knock­ing down coy­ote num­bers equates to more game, and it’s also a great way to keep your skills sharp.

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