I knew that if I didn't get poison ivy, it would be a miracle. What kept me working, through the humidity and relentless bugs, was the happy anticipation of archery season. Yes, it was only August, and archery season wouldn't begin for nearly two months.
Was I obsessed?
No, just smart. If you don't think a whitetail's nose is keen enough to smell fresh sawdust on the forest floor, or that they don't notice freshly-cut tree limbs, you haven't been busted by a savvy boss nanny doe.
Imagine that while you were not home, someone went into your house and hung a big painting over your couch. You'd notice it as soon as you stepped into your living room. But after a couple days, it would become part of the décor.
It's never too early to get ready for hunting season; in fact, late summer is the perfect time to plan an outing with a hunting buddy and take care of a few chores:
It's awkward to climb tree stand steps while toting a hang-on, or portable stand; it's even more awkward to strap the stand to a tree while you're standing on the steps. There are several ways around this problem.
One method is to climb the steps and install a screw-in step higher than you'll place the stand. While you're up there, drape a 40-foot rope over the step, so that 20 feet hang from each side. Climb down the steps and tie one end of the rope to the stand; pull up the stand from the ground. Tie off the rope or have someone hold it. Climb back up and position the stand, as most of the stand weight is held by the rope.
I like to use a light, 16-foot ladder stand to hang portable stands. I get the portable stand to the top of the ladder stand, then stand on the ladder platform to hang the portable stand. I remove the ladder stand and place the tree stand steps so I can use them to get to the portable stand. This may sound like extra work, but the little trouble to move the ladder stand is worth the extra measure of security it affords.
If you're placing a large ladder stand, or two-person ladder stand, think carefully and plan its location, since they are typically difficult to place and move. I make sure my "heavy-weight" ladder stands are 150 yards from an occupied dwelling, as is required by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. That way, when archery season is over, I don't have to move a ladder so that I can use it during the firearm season.
Buckle into your full-body harness, remembering that most tree stand accidents occur as the hunter moves from the stand steps into the stand. Climb up into each of your stands. The first check is for safety.
Have the storms of the last several months caused anything to loosen? Often the gusts from a strong wind storm will cause the trees to toss back and forth, which can loosen the straps on steps and stands. I like to add a screw-in step as a hand hold above each stand. This little addition, while very inexpensive, will greatly increase your stability as you step into the stand, and also give you a place to hang your pack.
Shoot from stands,
trim shooting lanes as needed
Here's where that hunting buddy really comes in handy. Climb a stand as if it's opening morning. Use a haul rope or pulley to raise your bow and pack.
Have your hunting buddy move a small target around on the various deer trails. Can you shoot to those spots? Remember to draw first, lock, and then bend your waist – without that attention to form your shots will be high. Your hunting buddy can pull your arrows and get them back up to you, and you can switch roles as you go stand to stand.
So many of us can hit dots at twenty yards with ease at the bow shop, but actual practice out of a stand is of utmost importance.
Check your pack
Those little range finder batteries seem to last forever, don't they? Well….they don't. Your pack should include extras for any battery-operated item in your pack, such as your GPS. You should carry an extra flashlight and extra batteries for both flashlights. Archery hunters should carry an extra release in their backpacks, especially if you're traveling to hunt.
Two seasons ago, my helper on a blood trail was using one of those hand-crank flashlights. With the blood trail meager, and my stress level rising, I at first wanted to tear the thing from his hands – I thought the noise was irritating.
However, after my flashlight failed, I found the noise of the hand-crank flashlight……well, comforting! We found my buck, the biggest I'd ever gotten in Pennsylvania.