In less than a fortnight, the Texas white-tailed deer season will be upon us.
Archery hunters and those armed with Managed Lands Deer Permits have been able to hunt all month, but for hundreds of thousands of folks from the top of Texas to the bottom, the first Saturday sunrise in November may as well be Christmas morning.
With 12 days from now until Nov. 1, here’s a rundown of a dozen things you can do to be ready for opening day.
Day 12: Scope out your rifle.
If you’re at the top of your game you’ve already spent the past few months honing your shooting skills and sharpening your eyes with lots of practice at the range or in the back pasture.
It’s not too late to get in shape, but you’ve got to get on it now to make sure when the time comes you’re ready and on when you squeeze the trigger.
Take your time and shoot from a variety of distances with your deer rifle, zeroing in on making sure you’re dead-on a football field away and making proper adjustments for varying distances. If you’re limited on facilities or concerned about shooting up your expensive ammo, break out the .22 and burn up the rimfire ammo instead. You’d be surprised how much it can help to simply build up muscle memory and cut down on recoil in your preparation.
Day 11: Hone the edges.
Many folks will ante up thousands of dollars for a lease and equipment yet neglect the care of tasty venison, which is much too splendid a prize to be treated with anything less than great care. If you’re successful, you need the right tools, which include a sharpened set of knives for skinning and quartering, and a hefty cooler with plenty of ice and storage bags to protect the meat. If you’ve never quartered a whitetail, take the time to explore the basics of game care.
Trust me, when you’re feasting on backstraps and tenderloins later, you’ll be glad you did.
Day 10: Spray and wash.
With today’s scent-free hunting garments and array of masking agents, it’s easy to get complacent with your preparation, but there’s one thing that’s certain: A deer’s nose is its best sense and defense.
The easiest way to spook deer during a hunt is to introduce any kind of foreign scent in its realm, which means you’ve got to do your best to try and diminish that variable. Religiously using descenting sprays after you’ve removed all human scent from your hunting clothes always is the best plan, but it still pays off to pay attention to wind direction. Even with your best efforts to seem invisible, sometimes deer still find a way to have the upper hand.
Day 9: Get a tuneup.
I know I’ve hunted without a grunt call or rattling horns, but they always seem to come in handy right at the point you need them and don’t have them.
Especially during the rut, these implements can be the key to success for drawing in deer that you may never have seen. If you can add in a doe bleat call you’re all the more ready, and it like the others can attract a variety of whitetails.
Day 8: Plan around the moon.
Deer by their nature are nocturnal critters and when they can they’ll stay up all night, which can make hunting during daylight that much tougher. During periods of full moon deer often will feed at night and move little during the day. However, since there’s sure to be limited forage this season, they likely will move some during midday hours in these periods while being more readily mobile during the dark of the moon.
I’ve heard numerous tales of hunters sitting in a stand longer and harvesting the buck of a lifetime during the middle of the day.
Day 7: Plan around food and water.
It sounds obvious, especially in drought conditions, but deer go where they can eat and drink, and if you can hunt around these sources you’re going to simply have more success.
Feeders certainly will be the ticket this year to bringing in deer, not necessarily big bucks, but does that big bucks will follow. However, don’t just focus on the mechanical mechanism. More often than not big bucks will skirt the edges of cover around those areas, especially in the period leading up to the rut.
Day 6: Pack good chow.
I enjoy hearty deer camp food and drink as much as anyone, but I also know you can hunt better by eating smarter. It’s much easier to awake and rise well before daylight when you haven’t gone overboard on the carbs or adult beverages the night before.
Deer camp cuisine should be a good mix of fruits and veggies with good doses of protein thrown in. Personally, there’s nothing like grilling up ribeyes under a moonlit sky at least one night hoping to catch sight of a shooting star.
Day 5: Prepare to use your tags.
In these types of severely dry seasons, biologists urge hunters to harvest as many deer as they legally can, which means taking does off the range as well as bucks. During early days of this season, before rutting activity picks up, is the ideal time to harvest does, which diminishes competition for forage and helps improve the overall health of a deer herd.
Day 4: Review the rut.
Rutting conditions vary from region to region and opening day is sure to be early for the peak of the rut across most of the state. However, if you see or hear accounts of young bucks chasing does, it’s an indicator that the rut is picking up. Older bucks tend to begin seeking suitable mates after the younger ones do and being in your stand around those times could mean the difference in seeing deer you may never see otherwise.
Day 3: Practice makes perfect.
I know you’ve already checked out your shooting iron but it never hurts to take it out again and squeeze off some rounds. It all goes back to muscle memory and consistency, which could mean the difference between a clean harvest and a miss, or worse, a wounded animal.
Day 2: Hit the trail.
Don’t do anything illegal like hunting early and don’t march around your favorite deer spot, which could leave scent around to spook wary animals, but do try to get to your country early enough to get all of your preparations out of the way, such as sorting out gear, making sure feeders are working and checking out hunting vehicles.
Don’t waste opening day fixing tools instead of using them.
Day 1: Kick back and enjoy.
The best day of the year is tomorrow, so savor all that goes with it. Get a good night’s sleep after lining out all your preparations for the morning and have a good meal.
You’re in for a great fall.