That magical time of year for hunters is once more at hand.
Monday the opening of dove season offers the official start of six months when one or more game birds or animals are in season locally.
All of them doves, ducks, geese, rabbits, squirrels, quail, snipe, woodcock, and of course wild turkeys in the spring have their fans and provide special moments of pleasure. But when it comes to number of participants and serious sporting pursuit, whitetails stand head-and-shoulders above all other species.
If they havent already done so, local hunters should be in the short rows, of preparation for this years deer season. Last weekend I was on my hunting property with two friends taking care of some last-minute get ready chores clearing trails, getting food plots ready for seeding, repositioning stands, trimming around stands, cutting shooting lanes, and the like.
Other than waiting for seed to sprout and putting one final stand in place, its now pretty much a matter of waiting for the arrival of bow season later this month. Then comes muzzleloader and modern gun seasons, and for the dedicated whitetail enthusiast the glory days carry until New Years.
Right now there are steps every deer hunter needs to take if he hasnt already done so in anticipation of the season. I imagine many local hunters will be putting feeders in place. I dont like the concept, think the legislature meddled where it should have left matters to the experts, and have all sorts of reservations about the practice of baiting deer. Ill have more to say about that in a later column, but the simple reality of the matter is that the practice is now legal.
Beyond that, heres a sort of checklist of things to remember as the season approaches:
• If you havent done so, get your hunting license for 2013-14. You may also want to consider obtaining doe tags, which are available (up to four per person) at $5 per tag. They let you take a doe throughout the modern gun season rather than only on specified doe days.
• Make sure you have plenty of shells and sight in your gun. Never mind the fact that Old Betsy may have been a pure tack driver at the end of last season, this should be an annual ritual. It gets you comfortable, gives you confidence that your scope is sighted exactly right, and lets you try out new ammo at the shooting range. The same holds true for practicing with a bow, except this time in spades, or firing a muzzleloader.
• Check your equipment. You will want to be sure you have bug spray and a functioning Thermacel unit (with scent wafers and accelerant). Likewise, its time to get any new gear you need, and even if you dont think purchases are necessary, Im guessing that a stroll through your favorite sporting goods store will change your mind.
• Check stands whether ladder stands, climbers, or fixed platforms to be sure they are safe and functional. The last thing you want to find is something isnt working, or is unsafe, in the pre-dawn mists of opening day.
• Do some scouting, but do it sensibly. Stomping through the woods three days in advance of the opener is definitely not recommended. Instead, scout from a distance where possible, or do your looking for tracks by placing trail cameras during the middle of the day when deer are least likely to be active.
• Finally, remember the first few days you hunt on a given piece of property can be conducive to some of your best chances.
Deer wont yet be attuned to the presence of humans. That translates to a bit less wariness not that they are ever blissfully unaware a bit more likelihood of movement during daylight hours, and a generally higher likelihood of success.
It isnt my favorite time of deer season nothing can match the cold, crisp mornings and evenings of the hunters moon in October and the time of the rut but its a great time to be in a stand.
Hunt safe, remember that venison is a healthy and tasty meat, and be ready for opening day.