Seasoned hunters and relative newcomers alike recognize that, while hunting is fun, it’s certainly hard work — especially when it comes to pre-season logistics.
Every hunter can benefit from a thorough preparation checklist as they gather their gear and prepare to fill their tags, and that’s exactly what we’re exploring below. In this guide, we’re breaking down pre-season hunting prep into five simple steps. This quick resource will help you turn pre-season jitters into an actionable to-do list.
#1 Confirm Licenses
Before you make any preparations, start with the most important item on your pre-season checklist: making sure your hunting licenses are squared away.
There are a few key things to consider as you check on (and renew) your licenses for the coming season:
- Licensing changes – Perhaps your state just instituted a new archery licensing system. Maybe your county has introduced a new hunter’s safety course that every license holder must complete before applying for tags. Hunting laws are always subject to change, so check local regulations to make sure you’re still in compliance.
- Out-of-state hunting – If you plan to hunt out of state this season, remember that hunting licenses aren’t always reciprocal across state lines. In other words, you might need to purchase a license in your destination state to hunt legally — and you should handle this as early as possible to account for processing times and waiting periods.
- Timing – If you’re planning to hunt ducks this season, consider applying for your federal duck stamp a little closer to opening weekend. Since you can’t set an effective date more than 90 days in advance for duck stamps, postponing your application process might be a smart call if this is your first time applying for one.
#2 Review Regulations
Like renewing your license, reviewing any changes to local, state, and federal regulations is a key step in your pre-season preparations. Specifically, look for changes related to:
- Season dates – Season dates can fluctuate from season to season. Mark your calendar with any pertinent dates to ensure you’re always hunting in season.
- Bag limits – If you’re hunting a species that doesn’t require a tag in your area, make sure that the bag limits (the number of animals you can harvest each day or each season) haven’t changed from last year.
- Public land – If you’re planning to hunt on public land this year, check the hunting brochure for your specific tract for important dates, weapon and ammo regulations, and specialty hunting opportunities.
- Diseases – Some diseases, like Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetail deer, are carefully monitored. Keep your eyes peeled for any warnings related to active diseases in your ecosystem, especially if you plan to transport harvests across state or county lines.
#3 Perform Routine Equipment Maintenance
Once you’ve confirmed your licensing and taken note of any regulatory changes from last season, it’s time to get your hunting equipment ready for the upcoming season. Some items on your list might include:
- Getting an oil change, a tire rotation, an A/C recharge, or a new spare tire
- Having your boat and trailer serviced, if you plan to hunt from your vessel
- Cleaning and oiling your firearms or dusting off your crossbow and replacing your bow strings
- Running your camo gear through the wash
- Wiping any rust or dirt off of ammo or broadheads
- Inspect any stands you have on private land (tree and box stands, especially)
- Checking the expiration date on your fall arrest system (or safety harness) and replacing it if needed
Any equipment, vehicles, or tools you’ll use this season should be inspected, cleaned, and prepared for the field in advance.
#4 Set Up Feeders and Cameras
If you’re hunting on private land this season, you’ll want to start setting up your feeders and cameras about 90 days before opening weekend. This will give you enough time to:
- Attract your target species – By setting your feeders up in advance, you can ensure that your target species will already be actively using them by opening weekend.
- See your potential targets – Seeing your potential targets on a game camera is exciting — but it’s also tactical. Checking out the views from each camera can help you choose the perfect spot to sit on opening weekend and see what’s on the prowl on your plot.
Speaking of cameras, this is also a great time to break out your GoPro or action camera to make sure it’s in working order and ready to capture your harrowing hunting moments.
#5 Shop for Necessities
As you make packing lists of your tactical gear, take note of any missing items and plan to pick these up online or at a local sporting goods store before the season begins.
Some common pre-season shopping tasks include:
- Picking up a new camo set if yours is starting to fade
- Exploring new ammo and broadhead options — technologies are always improving
- Stocking up on water bottles and non-perishable snacks for the field
- Restocking consumables like scent-hiding spray, estrus, and attractants
Tackling any outstanding items well in advance will put your mind at ease before opening weekend.
Preparing for a Successful Hunting Season
Careful and thorough preparation will set you up for a successful hunting season and pave the way for a bountiful harvest. Ahead of the season, make sure to confirm your licenses, check regulations, maintain your equipment, set up your feeders and cameras, and pick up any items missing from your pack.
Best of luck this season!