There’s a lot of time, energy and effort that goes into preparing for the shot opportunity each hunting season. We spend countless hours in the off-season with chores designed to help us punch tags during the hunting season. But what about when you finally punch those tags? Are you ready for what comes next? Have you prepared for the post-shot chores that come with a notched tag? Unfortunately, many of us never give it a second thought. Here’s a story of my recent success in the deer woods, as well as the ways I failed to be prepared to punch tags.
I made my first climb into the treestand last week during the first week of Tennessee’s archery season for deer. I had been out earlier in the week with my kids for the opening weekend, but this was my first chance to climb into the stand on my own. The air was cool, and the wind was perfect. Everything felt just right. I had high hopes for letting some arrows fly in an effort to reduce the number of does on the property I was hunting.
Sure enough, as the final hour of daylight closed in, I had 4 deer pop out to my right. They caught me off guard, coming from my downwind side. A big momma doe came out with her fawns, and then a lone doe popped out at 25 yards. I came to full draw and let the arrow fly. The small group bolted out to 40 yards but quickly stopped, unsure of what had just happened. The doe I shot slipped into the woods and tipped over, just 75 yards away.
I was just beginning to calm my nerves back down when 4 more does slipped out from the timber to my left. I grabbed my bow from the limb and drew back on the last doe to step out. I watched my shot fly perfect before the doe took off in a death run across the corn stubble. Two does in five minutes on my first treestand sit of the season. I was fired up! And then it hit me how ill prepared I was for my success. I had prepared for everything – except for actually killing deer. In my defense, I had left in a hurry after finishing up work and getting the kids in from school. However, these items still could have been prevented with a little more work on the front end. Here’s a look at the ways I failed to prepare to punch tags.
Shortly after climbing down from the tree and digging through my pack, I realized I didn’t have a knife. I had left it in the other truck. It was bad. I feel naked without a knife, and here I was with no pocket knife, skinning knife, gut hook, or anything. It was a classic rookie mistake. And though I use the gutless skinning method more and more these days on deer, when I am far from the truck, I will often yank the guts out to help cut down on weight for the pack out. On this night, however, that would not be an option.
No Deer Cart
The next issue I dealt with was the fact that I didn’t bring my deer cart. I’ve got a really slick in-line wheeled cart that makes hauling out two deer at a time doable for one man. But not this time. It was back at the house, out behind the shed. “A lot of good that thing is doing me at the house,” I thought to myself. What makes matters worse, I didn’t even have a deer handle, drag rope, or anything for pulling these deer out of the woods. I ultimately resorted to using my Hunter Safety System harness and tree tether to drag my deer out of the woods. Next time I’ll be better prepared.
No Hitch Haul
Once I finally got my deer back to the truck I realized I didn’t even have the Hitch Haul on the back of my Suburban. I can’t remember if I cussed my luck out loud at that point, or just thought it in my head. Either way, I was ticked. The Suburban has more than enough room for all the deer I’d ever want to kill, but I wasn’t prepared for the bloody mess that would follow. As much as I tried to fight it, I still managed to have blood spill onto the upholstery and rear carpet – a smell that is still lingering. The Hitch Haul will now stay on the back of the truck for the remainder of hunting season.
No Meat Pole
Or course, when I got back to the house, the meat pole wasn’t ready for work. I would have to dig gambrels out from the shed, prep my rope and winch, and several other chores that should have already been done. I have a great meat pole setup right behind the house, but it should have been ready to go before I pulled up with dead meat in the back of the truck.
No Butcher Tools
The next day when I pulled the boned-out meat from the fridge to grind, I realized I didn’t even have my grinder and butchering tools. I let a friend borrow them last year and they were still sitting in his garage. I couldn’t seem to shake my lack of preparation following my successful deer hunt. Don’t let this be you. Prepare now to have all your knives, grinder and other butchering tools in place and ready to go when you bring meat home.
Prepared to Punch Tags – Conclusion
I once again vowed to get all my stuff together before I step back into the deer woods. I will be prepared to punch tags the next time the opportunity rolls around. The items mentioned above are simple, quick fixes that should never even be an issue. It simply takes slowing down long enough for a little post-hunt prep that will make your life much easier when you kill deer this season. Are you prepared to punch tags this year?
Comment below and let us know about your favorite tools for handling game – field to freezer – after you make the shot.