By Jason Herbert

For most “normal” people, hunting season is a hobby.. something they do each fall. For guys like me, who happen to be obsessed with whitetail deer, waterfowl, and turkeys… I pretty much think hunting all year long. But, regardless of the situation- full on addict like myself or hobbyist, and the game- elk, deer, turkeys, etc… we all have one thing in common- preparing for the season opener. Here is an informal checklist that I like to follow to help me prepare for each fall hunting season.

Exercise

The first and most important thing I like to do every day… not just leading up to hunting season, is exercise. Exercise is proven to help fight depression and anxiety, as well as boost heart health, help manage weight, and ironically enough- actually offers a boost of energy. It is important that humans sweat from physical activity at least once a day to cleanse our bodies of toxins we build up as well.

I like to run every other day, and on the “off” days, I lift, cross train, or cut wood. Some people like to walk and hike, others ride bikes and swim. Whatever the workout, the point is to get out and be active. A hunter that is in good shape will sweat much less, and smell better than one who isn’t used to the activity. Also, they’ll stay in better physical and emotional health throughout the season, and be able and willing to go that extra mile to find better game, etc… In many chases, hunters rarely walk more than 100 yards from their truck to stand- and the deer take notice. Just think of all the untouched land you could have to yourself if walking a mile wasn’t that big of a deal!

Let’s face it, humans were designed by God to work for our food, to run and hike and chase down big game animals. Red meat was a treat, and not a three time a day occurrence. Embrace your inner caveman and get in shape before this hunting season. You might just find yourself running for fun… long after the hunting season and NFL playoffs are over.

Check Gear

I learned this the hard way… several times, make sure to check gear before each season! There’s not a lot worse than going out and realizing as a giant buck walks past that your rangefinder battery is dead… or when attempting to field dress some birds, only to notice your kid used the knife to carve a wooden spear. Yes, crazy Mr. Murphy and his law will always reveal himself to the unprepared hunter. With busy lives and demanding careers, it’s often hard to devote any more time to hunting than the hunting itself, but always double check gear before embarking into the field.

I like to sharpen all of my knives, replace batteries in any electronic devices, clean out my backpack of stagnant water bottles and stale granola bars. It’s also a good idea to check over anything that could be a safety issue, like guns, bow strings and ammunition.

Hang and Check Stands/Blinds

I don’t want to make this a lecture, but it is VERY important for people to always check treestands before each hunting season. Years ago my cousin fell from a stand that he hunted the season before, left “in great shape” and of course, opening morning, when he stepped into it in the pitch black darkness, for some reason it gave way. We all know people with similar stores- if a treestand is left out throughout the year, for safety’s sake- be sure to loosen the straps and chains, double check all for their integrity, and then re-hang. I’ve also heard stories of hunters heading out to the “old honey hole” stand only to realize it had been stolen. Also, one guy I used to work with learned he lost hunting permission when he walked to his favorite stand on the opening evening to find it all piled at the bottom of the tree, with a note from the landowner telling him he couldn’t hunt there any more. Anti-hunters love to see us fail, and fall whenever possible. Let’s not give them any reason to point fingers.

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Jason setting up his Redneck Bale Blind before the season begins.

I also like to hang fresh treestands each summer. I usually post season scout, and have a good idea where I want my new stands to be. When I hang the stands, or with sets from previous seasons… I like to aggressively trim all of my trails and shooting lanes. Even a little twig may cause a big problem if my arrow hits it. So, I blaze away with my chainsaw or pruners, making sure everything is nice and clear.

The same goes for ground blinds. I have a great Redneck Blinds Bale Blind I use for turkey hunting. I left it out this summer because the food plot I turkey hunt in is also one I will deer hunt on. I drove by it the other day while checking my trail camera and noticed I need to trim some weeds before archery season begins. No big deal… but not the kind of surprise I want when I’m hunting. The moral of the story is here, check stands and blinds, it could possibly be a safety issue.

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The author and a gigantic doe he shot with his bow out of the Bale Blind.

Food Plots

A true farmer at heart, I LOVE to plan, plant, and maintain food plots for several reasons. First… I like offering the game animals extra food to eat. Second, I know these locations create high traffic areas come hunting season, and lastly, it’s very rewarding for me to see the results of my efforts with animals enjoying the feast I offer.

When planing and planning food plots, consider the goals and outcome. Many want a high traffic area that will attract many game animals in hopes of shooting one. I tend to plant them as deer magnets, but rarely hunt directly on them. Rather, I hunt well down and cross wind of my plots, knowing that mature bucks in my area don’t show up till ell after dark. But… they do get on their feet during shooting hours and scent check the plots for hot does or danger before arriving. My strategy is to leave the plot alone, let the deer feel safe eating there, and try to kill the wise old buck who is cautiously scent checking it from downwind. Sometimes it works, but that’s a whole different story.

My spring plots, created for turkey hunting and spring nutrition for whitetails are mostly cover. Clover is easy to plant, will grow almost anywhere, and contains a large amount of crude protein. I generally establish a clover plot in the spring, with mowing and spraying for weeds and willing before I plant. Once established, I’ll just mow the plot a few times each summer, and re-seed each spring. Once established, a clover plot is about as good as it gets for deer and turkeys.

Food-Plot

Jason’s buddy Jim tilling under a mowed and sprayed food plot site.

Although they are everywhere, I like to plant beans and corn in my plots as well. The deer love to eat them, and will really appreciate my offerings once the farmer’s crops have been harvested. These types of plots attract animals from the moment they break the soil surface all the way through the winter.

I’ll also plant brassicas like kale, turnips, and radish. These greens will become sweet treats for the animals once a few frosts hit them in the fall because the starches in the leaves turn into sugars. Then, throughout the winter if there is a build like a turnip or radish below the ground, the hungry deer will continue to dig for them. These brassica plots are generally decent places to find deer in the late fall and winter months.

Like I said, I generally don’t hunt directly on my food plots, but more or less use them as a reason for deer to stick around on my properties longer.

Poor Man’s Foodplots

Being a teacher with four kids allows for a lot of family time, and little money. So… my dad and I have perfected what we call the poor man’s food plots. My dad’s fields are rented to the local farmer. Each late summer, right around August 1st, he’ll buy a few pounds of turnip and radish seed. He then takes a few ibuprofen in advance, and heads to the cornfield. He crouches really low and spreads these tiny seeds throughout the fields. What happens is that these companions grow well together. The manicured corn offers the seeds shade and protection from weeds. Also the corn is usually irrigated, but if not, it’s at least collecting a lot of moisture with the dew each morning. In turn, the turnips and radish sprout in between the corn rows and grow quite well for the remainder of the summer months. When the corn is harvested, the turnips and radish remain, continuing to grow. We have done this for years now with great results. And really, it requires little time and investment, other than the price of the seeds.

Another thing we like to do is simply fertilize the weeds around our treestands. Deer and other animals are amazingly sensitive to healthy offerings and pick up on these spiced up weeds rather quickly. It’s really amazing how much the animals love native weeds and browse that have been fertilized. Once again, not a lot of cost involved or time consumed, just the one time appearance to drop the fertilizer.

Mineral Sites

Another pre-season chore is to update or create mineral sites. Deer and other game animals crave minerals and creating a site is each. Be sure to check local game laws because sometimes these are considered bait, and not always legal. We like to either buy livestock mineral blocks at the local farm store, or purchase granular mineral and create our own powdered mixture. When making the powder, I get two parts mineral, one part calcium, and one part salt. This is just one option, several recipes are available online. Either way block or powdered, We like to dump them on the ground in specific areas and if it’s the powdered mixture- we ix it with the solid if it’s a block, we just leave it alone. Due to the salt content of the minerals, we also always leave our near a water hole because generally after visiting, the deer will be thirsty.

More hunting season preparations to come in part 2 next week.