It’s late in the evening November 14, and you’re digging through a box of stuff in the closet. You’re frantically searching for those blaze orange gloves you just know you have somewhere. You’re probably laughing right now, because we’ve all been there and done exactly that. There are always a few things that end up waiting until the last minute before deer season gets here. I’m going to try really hard to not let it happen to me again this season. Michigan’s firearm deer season happens every year on November 15. For many of us, it’s like a holiday. Schools are closed, vacation time saved all year long gets used, and we go hunting. There are things that need to be done to get ready for another season, so you might as well get them taken care of now.
Is your gun ready?
Something that every hunter needs to do each season is make sure his or her firearm is ready for the hunt. This means several things. It needs to be sighted-in, cleaned, and well-supplied with ammo. It’s always best to not wait until the day before to do that, but it happens. Every hunter needs to be familiar enough with their firearm to ethically hunt with it. This means target practice. The hills around my Northern Michigan home have been echoing with the sounds of people doing just that for the past several weeks. Remember that even a firearm that was on-target last season should be shot and checked before this season. I like to take each firearm I use and check to make sure all of the bolts are tight. I then thoroughly clean the firearm before going out and shooting several rounds to make sure I know my point-of-aim. I then clean it again and recheck the bolts. In the age of ammo shortages, it’s best to make sure you have a good supply of ammunition before the season gets here. You need to shoot enough before the season and make sure you have enough to get through the season, too. I have multiple tags and plan to fill them all, so I make sure I have enough ammo on-hand to handle everything I plan to do with my gun.
Keep it together, man
As I gather up my hunting gear, I keep all the essential stuff in one place, and I keep it where I know where it is. I’ve been using a Plano Sportsman’s Chest to store and tote all of my gear this year, and so far it is the ticket.
The basics you need to have
- Multiple flashlights: I have some of those higher-end, lithium-powered, LED flashlights that are popular, but expensive. They are nice, last forever, and are small. Need to find a blood trail in the dark? How about your truck? Having a flashlight is a must.
- Extra hats, gloves, socks, and hand warmers: Staying warm can make the difference between a good hunt and going home early and empty-handed. A couple of fleece hats and gloves are cheap insurance against getting cold. I also like those small disposable hand warmers. Throw one in your hat and your head stays warmer. The secret to keeping them working right is letting air get to them.
- Knives: “Any man ain’t got a knife, ain’t much of a man.” One of my old co-workers was fond of that saying. The fact of the matter is that a good knife is a necessary part of hunting. I like to keep a set of fixed-blade knives in my pack. I have a small skinning knife and a bigger knife with a gut-hook on the blade. I also like keeping a multi-tool around; the tools aren’t perfect, but can come through in a pinch.
- Field dressing stuff: I know that disposable field dressing gloves aren’t “cool,” but with all the different diseases floating around, I’m in the “better safe than sorry” crowd. Plus they work well for keeping the heart and other tasty bits. I buy a multi-pack and toss the extras in the trunk.
- Zip ties: Zip ties are great tools for fast fixes in the field. Have a sling break? I did, and I fixed it with a couple zip ties. They also work well to fasten your kill tag on your deer.
- Survival gear: If you’re venturing out into Michigan’s ample public lands, or any land you’re not familiar with, or you’re by yourself, make sure you have some survival essentials with you. I carry a small, compact first aid kit, a good lighter, and, of course, my cell phone. If your phone has it, make sure you have the locator features turned on. If something bad happens, your loved ones can track your phone and get help to you that much faster.
Orange you ready to go yet?
If you’re deer hunting during the November 15 to 30 firearm deer season, you have to wear a hat, vest, cap, jacket, or rain gear that is at least 50 percent hunter’s orange in color and visible from all sides. I like to wear a vest and a hat, which I might swap out if I’m hunting from a ground blind. You’ve got to have something, so make sure you’re covered now. You also have to remember that it’s the second half of November in Michigan. It’s not going to be warm, so dress appropriately. Scent control is a major issue for deer hunters, too. I am a firm believer that you need to control your scent and have had great luck using ScentBlocker Trinity Blast spray. During an archery hunt this year, I was sitting in a ground blind due to extremely high winds. I ended up with two deer within 10 yards behind me. Yes, they were downwind of me for over 20 minutes. They eventually spooked due to the arrival of a flock of geese. I was wearing a ScentBlocker clothing and had used the Trinity spray. When November 15 gets here, Michigan woods turn orange with the army of hunters chasing after the wild and elusive whitetail. Not being ready can ruin a good hunt, so remember to sweat the details in the hours leading up to opening day. Make a list if you have to, just don’t forget to take care of everything you need to make the most of the greatest time of year. And for those of you headed off to deer camp, save me a pasty, eh. I’ll be there around the 23rd.