You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone happier to see winter end than me. Of course, I'd probably be even happier if the first day of spring didn't feature 20-degree temps and the threat of snow.
But the calendar doesn't lie. Spring is here. Followed by summer. And then, at last, fall.
Deer season is creeping up on us again. While that might seem like a stretch, it isn't. It'll be here before we know it. And there is work to be done.
So here are three things you need to get done now – before summer sets in.
1. Retrieve and Maintain Stands
Treestands are one of the most neglected pieces of equipment that deer hunters own. Which seems a bit odd given that they are the only products we use to help us stand 20-30 feet off the ground. Seems to me that if there is any item in our aresenal that deserves some time and attention, it's a device that keeps us from tumbling to the ground.
Treestands should be removed from the woods each year. And spring is an ideal time to head to the woods, take down each stand and bring them back home for a little routine maintenance.
Maintaining a treestand is neither difficult nor time-consuming.
Start with a visual inspection. Look at the overall integrity of the stand, paying close attention to support cables, connecting bolts and the platform's frame.
Rusted cables should be replaced. Rusted bolts too.
Any stands with cracks in the metal should be retired.
You can usually find replacement cables and hardware on the stand manufacturer's website. If you can't, give them a call and ask.
If you intend to buy replacement bolts, nuts and washers from a local hardware store, be sure to contact the stand manufacturer regarding the type of hardware to use – not all bolts are the same. They'll tell you the exact size, length and hardness to use.
Surface rust on metal can be removed with a wire brush. Then use a quality rust-preventing spray paint to top off the exposed metal.
2. Improve Your Ground
This can mean a couple of things. For those of you fortunate enough to own hunting land (or have access to land that you can manipulate), spring is the ideal time for habitat work. Whether it's hinge-cutting to create cover or clearing areas for new food plots, there's work to be done. So get at it.
If you're like me and rely largely on public land or private ground hunted with landowner permission, spring is a great time to increase the amount of land you have access to and to better learn the land you've hunted in the past.
In a couple of days, I'll be heading to Nebraska for a turkey hunt. But the trip will also serve as a scouting session to evaluate the area's public-land potential for a future deer hunt. Public-land deer hunting can be good but you must be willing to scout a ton of ground to find those few hidden gems. Now is the time to do it.
Gaining permission to hunt private lands is easier if attempted well before the frenzy of deer season hits. Start by asking to hunt turkeys. Show the landowner that you're a respectful hunter and start to build that all-important relationship. Doing so now just might lead to access in the fall.
3. Gear Up
Deer hunters love their gear. But you don't have to love paying full retail prices for it. Now is the time to start thinking about what you need to replace before deer season arrives and, while you're at it, you might as well make a wish list of items you'd like to have.
I have a bad habit of accumulating more gear than I can really use. Lately, I've been rounding up all of the stuff I no longer use and listing it for sale. I've used both eBay and Craigslist.
I won't say that I've gotten top dollar for my old stuff, but I have cleared up a fair amount of space in my office and put a few dollars back into the gear-buying coffers.
This is the time of year when outlets get aggressive with pricing in order to completely eliminate last year's stock. This means you can stock up on items like scent, scent killers, handwarmers, arrows, broadheads and the like at a pretty solid savings.
A new bow is one item plenty of bowhunters will be considering this year. My advice: Buy one in the spring. You'll find the bow shop to be less crowded now than during the summer, you may be able to take advantage of some pre-season sales and – most importantly – you'll have the time you need to truly familiarize yourself with it before deer season comes in.
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Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.