It may not feel like it yet, but big-game hunting season will be here sooner than you know. The last thing you want is to learn, in the dawn light of Opening Day, that your hunt is already over. If you're hoping to harvest a deer for the freezer in November, now is the time to ensure that your bases are as covered as you think they are. That's especially true if you (like many American hunters) haven't really been out in the woods and fields since last rifle season. Here are four things to do before you pull the trigger on your 2023 big-game hunt!
1- Find Your Paperwork
First, get your legal paperwork squared away. (We’re assuming that you’ve already taken your Hunter Education course—if not, start here!) The next most important thing is to get your hunting license. You should be able to do it online, but if so, be sure you’re using your state wildlife agency’s website to do it! Here is a list of them. If you find the list confusing or you’re not sure which license is the one you really need, you can call your regional wildlife safety office (their phone number should be on the wildlife agency’s website) for advice. When in doubt, ASK!
2- Check Your Clothing
Hunting clothing is, in general, made to last and last. That doesn't make it immortal, especially if you tend to store it somewhere damp like a basement. Mother Nature may have taken a toll on your hunting togs in a number of ways, like moth and mold activity or changes in body weight. Make sure it still fits and is in good repair ... and then get it aired out as best you can. The idea is to get as much human scent out of it as possible. You can hang it outside on a clothing line, or wash it in a special scent-erasing detergent.
3- Check Your Hunting Area
Do you use a tree stand to hunt? If so, it's critical that you check it now to ensure that it'll hold you safely when hunting season arrives. (Click here for a fuller explanation of how to do that.) Even if you're more of a spot-and-stalk hunter, you'll still want to have a look around the area you intend to hunt. Look for natural hazards, like fallen trees, that may impede your progress in the dark. If you'll be hunting from a static position, check out your shooting lanes. Are there any branches in the way or other changes to the landscape? Now's a good time to give them a little manicure.
4- Practice With Your Rifle
All ethical hunters know that it's critical to zero your rifle, but many don't bother doing much practice ahead of the season. Range practice with the rifle, optic and the ammunition that you intend to use come hunting season may be expensive (yes, we know about the price of ammo these days), but it's highly recommended. Marksmanship is a perishable skill, so unless you've already put in some trigger time very recently, now is a great time to polish it up. And, of course, you'll zero again right before the season starts!
Murphy's Law says that "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time." We're a law-abiding bunch here at the NRA, but we'd like you to know that it's okay to break Murphy's Law this season, and every season.