12 Ways to Prepare for Deer Season Now

By Darron McDougalMay 26, 2017

Will you be ready when the big day arrives?

If you’re a last-minute deer-season prepper, it’s time to change old habits and get on top of your preparations so that when opening day dawns, you’ll be confident and ready. Following are 12 ways you can prepare for deer season starting now. Go!

Bow-Kill a Hog or Turkey

turkey looking

Live targets are the ultimate preparation for your next hunt.

No practice compares to the real thing. To lock your pin on fur, feathers or scales and execute a perfect shot will supplement your shooting skills like a backyard target cannot. When you make a lethal shot on any wild animal, it bolsters your confidence.

In contrast, if you head out this fall and the first animal you get a shot at is a huge buck or bull, will you hold it together and make a good shot? Why wonder when you can know? Hopefully, in addition to killing a hog or turkey, you’ve been practicing your shooting on a lifelike 3-D deer target, too. But again, nothing replaces meat making.

Place Mineral

Where legal, placing mineral out for your deer in the spring will bolster herd health and antler development. Don’t buy just any mineral, though. Read labels carefully. Avoid “minerals” that are actually glorified salt bombs. Deer demand proteins, nutrients and minerals, so shop for mineral blocks or powder that offer these essentials. Monitor these sites with trail cameras to see what deer roam your property.

reloading feeder

Placing mineral or protein feed (where legal) will bolster herd health and antler development.

Buy a New Bow or Get Your Existing One Tuned Up

My family used to own an archery pro shop, and each September, bows were brought in for service by the dozens – some with de-railed or broken bowstrings, others with nocking points completely amiss, and still others with broken accessories or just generally requiring a major tune-up.

Is one week before the bow opener enough time to take a bow to a pro shop and have it serviced, then get it sighted in and hunt-ready? Or, is it enough time to purchase a completely new rig and become confident and proficient with it? No. Don’t wait, people. If you’re buying a new bow or need your existing one serviced, get it in today. Besides getting acquainted to major changes, it just makes good sense not to rush when you can handle business now – months ahead of bow season.

archery pro shop

If you plan to buy a new bow before fall, don’t delay. Do it now so you can become confident and proficient with it.

Check Treestands and Climbing Aids for Safety/Functionality

If you leave treestands out in the woods, squirrels and weather can damage the strap and other workings, so visit the stand prior to hunting season to make sure it’s safe to hunt from. And, if you find it is safe a few months before you hunt, don’t assume you can just climb right in safely when you hunt. Double check it again every time you hunt. And, of course, always employ a safety harness equipped with a lifeline.

If you removed your treestands after last hunting season and stored them in a shed or garage, still check their workings. Make sure bolts are tight and straps are safe. Also address any pops or squeaks.

Hang Treestands

Sometimes new spots are discovered during the season, and stands must be moved or adjusted to capitalize on current deer movement patterns. But, for the tried-and-true stands that annually produce, hang them now. Don’t procrastinate and “get to it later.” Do it now.

hunter hanging lonewolf

Hang stands months before season to let deer adjust to the noise and scent you disperse while hanging them. If you leave stands out year-round, check the straps and hardware to ensure they’re safe to hunt from.

Cut Shooting Lanes

When you come home from work and walk through the front door, the aroma of apple pie is something you immediately notice. It doesn’t happen every day, and when it does, you notice it. The same thing happens when you make changes to the deer woods. Deer notice.

Now, I’m sure most of us, at one point in time, have clipped a branch or twig that cost us a deer. Of course, this can be avoided by cutting thorough shooting lanes. But, doing it even a couple of weeks before you plan to hunt causes too much commotion, scent dispersion, etc. Fundamentally, the changes will put deer on alert for a time, and depending on how much you cut, it could cause them to avoid the area entirely, at least during daylight hours.

To that end, get out right now and cut shooting lanes around your treestands. It will give the deer plenty of time to adapt to the changes before season opens.

trimming shooting lanes

Cutting shooting lanes during season, unless absolutely necessary, is a mistake. Do it early and thoroughly.

Practice Yardage-Judging Skills

In a perfect world, we’d all have ample time to use our rangefinder before shooting at a deer. But, there isn’t always enough time to make it happen. And, rangefinders are electronic and susceptible to failure – not likely, but it can happen. In these cases, it pays to be a skilled yardage judger. If you hunt from a treestand, hang one in the backyard and get in it, then guess yardages to objects both near and far. Make a guess, then confirm your accuracy with the rangefinder. It may be a difference-maker this fall when you’re faced with a now-or-never shot opportunity.

Shoot Outdoor 3-D Tournaments

Can you perform under pressure with money on the line and your buddies watching over your shoulder? If so, then your odds of holding together when a bruiser buck appears are far higher. Find a shoot near you at www.3dshoots.com.

Shooting flaws are best discovered on the practice range when shooting at foam.

Get in Some Cardio

Augmenting your lungpower by regularly running or participating in other cardiovascular exercises will help you to control your breathing. Controlled breathing is a huge part of staying calm when the buck of your dreams shows up. Even if you’re walking only 200 yards from the truck and hunting from a stand, you, too, can benefit from cardio exercise. Prepare your heart and lungs now for an adrenaline jolt this fall.

Check Your Broadheads for Accuracy

shooter at full draw

Check your equipment…and then check it again. Do your broadheads fly like darts?

Practice shooting with broadheads before season opens. It will instill great confidence, and you’ll know that – not wonder if – your equipment is all set and shooting accurately. I preach this often: I don’t care if your broadhead package reads “Flies just like a field point!” or “Field-point accuracy.” Don’t trust it. Shoot broadheads – yes, even expandables – before you hunt with them. I often find variances from arrow to arrow. So many factors contribute to broadhead accuracy, or lack thereof, so see for yourself. Only then can you hunt confidently.

Finalize Your Rut Vacation

Research moon data from past rut hunts and compare it to the moon data for this November. Plan ahead to schedule the optimal week off. Of course, any time you hit the woods in November, anything can happen. Fact is, deer will rut no matter what. But, the moon and weather certainly impact daylight rutting activity. Make your plans now, and put in your time-off request at work.

Make Back-up Plans

Too often, we (myself included) have big expectations for certain stand locations or certain weeks of the season. When your plan A crashes and burns, you’d best have a plan B and C. Address this before season even begins to save hassle and headaches when plans crumble during season.

There you have it. Get off the couch and start executing every piece of the puzzle now. Preparing to succeed is a rather complex process. I mean, there are far more things to consider than the 12 items I’ve presented here, and if you wait too long to plan and prepare, the season will sneak up on you, and you, like so many others, won’t be ready. Is that any way to start off deer season? I think not.

Darron McDougal
Darron McDougal is a full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Antigo, WI with his bride, Becca. He's hunted in 12 states and successfully taken elk, bear, hogs, turkeys, pronghorn, whitetails, and mule deer, most with archery equipment on DIY hunts. The McDougals enjoy all things hunting and shooting. They believe in God and love to travel.
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