I don’t know about you, but rarely a day passes throughout the year that I don’t think about hunting. It might be a new idea for a stand location, shopping online for a new scope or simply organizing my gear so it will be ready for next fall. And while planning in April for a hunt that will happen in November might seem like overkill, if you are dedicated to your success in the field, there’s a lot you can be doing at that time of year.
You’ve survived winter’s deep freeze on a steady diet of venison, but as the world thaws, it’s prime time to start planning for the next year. Here are nine items that must be on your spring “to-do” list.
1. BUY NEW GUNS
It probably doesn’t take a lot of coaxing to convince you to purchase a new gun for hunting, but if you’re going to pull the trigger (pun intended), now’s the time to do so. Why? Because store shelves aren’t depleted by masses of last-minute buyers, there’s time to order what you really want and get it in time for the season; and you can practice shooting from the bench, as well as field positions. Give yourself a little time to get to know your gun—it will pay big dividends later in the year.
2. WORK UP LOADS
Maybe you aren’t going to buy a new rifle but plan to improve the one you’ve got. That requires finding the very best load for your gun, and that could take a little time. I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for the right bullet/load combination to wring the most accuracy out of my rifle. Consequently, starting load testing early gives me time to tweak the recipe as needed. Also, if you have a special hunt coming up—say, a Coues deer or antelope hunt that will require a long-range precision load—now’s the time to start experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.
3. APPLY FOR TAGS
If you’re thinking about hunting in the western United States, it’s time to start applying for tags. Different states have different application deadlines, so you need to spend time checking out the various sites and seeing what’s available. If you don’t want to spend that kind of time, let professionals, such as the team at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (www. WorldwideTrophyAdventures.com), help walk you through the process. If you wait too long, your options are limited to over-thecounter tags and expensive landowner permits in some states.
4. VISIT LANDOWNERS
Take time in the spring to stop in and visit with landowners who have let you hunt on their properties in the past. A gift isn’t out of the question, either, and you can ask if it’s all right to hunt the following year. It’s also a great time to knock on doors and procure a place to hunt for the fall. It also shows the landowner you are at least responsible enough to plan ahead. More and more landowners are leasing their hunting grounds, so learning what’s available early in the year will help you prepare and budget for the following fall.
5. CLEAN OUT YOUR PACK
The same pack I had neatly organized in September is usually a cluttered mess by January. Gear has been pulled in and out, and my reserves of cover scent are usually low. That’s extra bad, because I’ve invariably left an old apple core or half-empty bottle of deer urine in there, and the thing reeks. Grabbing your pack the day before the season starts and digging around inside, looking for the rangefinder you lost last year, is usually futile. Give yourself time early in the year to organize your pack and add any necessary items you might have forgotten.
6. GET IN SHAPE
Improved physical fitness helps you succeed as a hunter, but switching from regular to diet Mountain Dew a few weeks before the opener isn’t going to cut it. Real fitness gains take time, and trying to rush it will yield poor results and likely cause injury. Start small and improve gradually, and you’ll be in better shape for fall. Most hunters know they should go for walks, and they might even lift weights, but don’t overlook stretching (which reduces odds of injury, by the way), core training and diet. You don’t have to look like John Rambo to hunt, but improving your fitness level will help you travel deeper into game country.
This is the most obvious spring activity, and for me, it’s the most fun. The woods are starting to turn green, fawns and elk calves are dropping, and you might even be lucky enough to stumble upon a few morel mushrooms (incidentally, it’s also the time when bears are coming out of their dens and looking for food, so keep that in mind).
8. PREP YOUR HUNTING AREA
Why do so many hunters decide to parade through the woods the week before season and hang stands? That gives all the game in your area a heads-up just prior to your hunt, so add those chores to your spring checklist. This is also the time to establish food plots, plant trees (see the sidebar at the top of this page), mow fields, start clearing a path to your stand and have your hunting area ready for opening day. You’ll have to do a few touch-ups later in the year (such as adding herbicide to food plots and trimming shooting lanes), but have the bulk of your work done by July.
9. CONTROL PREDATORS
You and I aren’t the only ones happy when fawns hit the ground in spring. Predators—particularly coyotes—are cruising in search of food. In many areas, coyote hunting is an option throughout the year, and in the spring, they are particularly attuned to the sound of fawns in distress. Use that to your advantage. Additionally, predator hunting helps keep your skills sharp for the fall.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.