Hunter Checklist -- Seven Things To Do Now.
Release Date: 9/24/2013
Seven Things to Get Ready for the Hunt.
Getting Ready for the Big Hunt.
You’ve been anxiously waiting all year and the fall hunting season is just around the corner. It’s time to start getting yourself and your gear ready to go afield so you can put that trophy on the wall and some meat in the freezer.
A couple of years ago Browning posted some very basic suggestions on getting ready for your hunt. You can look them over at http://www.browning.com/library/infonews/detail.asp?ID=358
Browning wants this year's hunt to be a success, so we’ve expanded on that original idea and have compiled a series of seven detailed articles to help you be totally ready when opening morning rolls around. Many thanks to Browning staff writer, Scott Engen who put many years of hunting and shooting experience into this seven part "how to" series -- it's the most comprehesive outline in Browning history. We hope you find them helpful.
1 – Annual Check-Up for Your Gun
2 – Know Your Ammo
3 – Zero Your Scope and Sights
4 – Test and Improve Your Shooting Skills
5 – Get Yourself in Shape
6 – Know Your Game and Your Ground
7 – Treat Your Wheels Right
1 – Annual Check-Up for Your Gun
If your gun isn’t up to snuff, nothing else matters when it comes time to take a shot on that once-in-a-lifetime trophy. Spend some time now to make sure your rifle or shotgun is running at 100%.
Begin with a clean, well-lit workspace, making sure that you have the right tools and materials you’ll need to complete your pre-hunt checks. If you’re going the kitchen table route, put down some old bath towels or plastic sheeting. Your better half will be less than impressed with your gun plumbing when it’s done on her best lace tablecloth.
Make sure you have your owner’s manual for reference. If you have misplaced your owner’s manual, you should get a replacement copy from your gun’s manufacturer. Copies of manuals for Browning firearms can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here or on the manual image shown at right.
If you don’t feel comfortable with working on your gun, don’t sweat it. Just ask for a little help from a more-knowledgeable shooter or seek the services of a professional gunsmith. Everyone has to start somewhere.
First and foremost, make sure your gun IS COMPLETELY UNLOADED AND CONTAINS NO AMMUNITION, and that there is no live ammo anywhere within reach of your workspace. Good gun safety procedures are never negotiable.
Next, open the action, shine some light in one end and take a critical look down the barrel. If it’s anything less than hound’s tooth clean, get out the cleaning rod, brush and patches and do your homework. Clean from the breech end when possible, alternating brushing and patching until the patches come out of the barrel as clean as they went in.
Don’t forget to scrub the bolt face and locking lugs and remember to swab out the magazine box and mag well. An old toothbrush works fine for this purpose. (Just make sure you first get all the dried toothpaste out if it, as most toothpaste contains abrasives that can harm delicate metalwork.)
Now check that the action screws are evenly tight. You don’t need to put a three-foot cheater on the wrench, just make sure they are nice and snug. Most bolt-action rifles will have at least two action screws, one at the front ring of the receiver and one behind the trigger guard. Usually it’s best to tighten the front screw first. Check your owner’s manual for more details.
After again checking to make sure the gun and magazine are both unloaded and the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, cycle the action a few times to make sure nothing is binding or dragging. If there is any unusual drag or binding, locate and identify the problem. Is it a bit of burred metal, a rust spot or an over-length scope base screw that’s causing things to hang up? Fix it or take it to a good gunsmith and have it corrected. (Remember that gunsmiths get seriously backlogged on service orders just before hunting season. If your gun needs some professional attention, getting it done in late August is usually better than standing in line in mid-October.)
Put a wee bit of good, all-weather lube on the bolt body and locking lugs. (Remember that a little lube goes a long, long way.) Keep lubes and cleaners off things like optics, special wood finishes and synthetic surfaces like camo pattern dips and Dura-Touch Armor Coating.
Now check the screws on your scope base to make sure they are snug. Check to make sure the scope’s reticle is square and level. If it needs a tweak, loosen the screws on scope rings, level it and retighten the ring screws evenly. Remember to check your scope ring screws on a regular basis. Vibration from modern air travel, a couple hundred miles of washboard gravel roads and a day pounding over goat trails on an ATV can render even the best scope mounts loosey-goosey. If your scope or sight takes a battery, put in a fresh one and have a spare in your gear bag just in case.
Give everything a final once-over and wipe the gun down with a lightly oiled rag. Slip it back in the safe or gun rack and start dreaming about the big hunt ahead. In our next checklist, we’ll talk about selecting the right ammo for your hunt.
2 – Know Your Ammo
Now that your hunting rifle’s ready to go, let’s talk ammo. Ammo is the rocket fuel that makes your rifle run properly, and when it comes to ammo, you generally get what you pay for.
Here’s an important word to the wise. Don’t try to take the cheapo approach to your hunting ammo. If you have to tighten your belt to stay within your hunting budget, do it anywhere but on your ammo. If that one bullet doesn’t fly straight and true, hit where it should and do what it must when it gets there, everything else you’ve done to prepare for your hunt becomes totally irrelevant. Don’t take to the woods with a half-box of dusty bargain bin ammo, a few of Uncle Fred’s mixed reloads and a couple rounds you found on the ground last time you were at the range.
Remember to check your rifle barrel’s twist rate. Older rifles, especially in smaller calibers like the 22-250 Remington and 223 Remington, had leisurely twist rates of 1:12 inches or even 1:14 inches. That was the industry standard back in the day when nobody thought anyone would ever want to shoot something heavier than a light 55-grain bullet out of a .22 centerfire.
Today there is plenty of good hunting ammo for these smaller caliber chamberings with bullets up to 75 grains, or even more. The problem is when these newer, heavyweight bullets are fired in older, slow-twist barrels they don’t get spun fast enough to remain stable in flight and they start to tumble end over end. (It’s pretty hard to hit that trophy buck when your bullet flies downrange like a chunk of cordwood bouncing down the highway after falling off the back of the logging truck.) Make sure that your barrel’s twist rate will properly stabilize the bullet weight you want to shoot.
It’s very important to match your hunting bullet’s weight and construction to the game you’ll be hunting. A lightweight, thin-jacketed hollowpoint designed to vaporize a gopher or stay inside a coyote with minimal damage to the valuable pelt will probably create a nasty, superficial wound to a big game animal, one that won’t be immediately fatal but will ultimately sentence the animal to a painful, lingering death.
On the flip side of the coin, a hefty softpoint with a thick jacket intended for hammering through the gristle plate on the side of a 300-pound feral hog will probably punch a pencil-sized hole right through both sides of a yearling whitetail with no immediate effect, but it will serve up an eventually fatal portion of the aforementioned pain and suffering.
As an ethical hunter you have the personal responsibility to select the right ammo for the task at hand. Every ammo maker has plenty of information available on their packaging, in their catalogs and on their websites. Many ammo companies even have consumer phone lines where you can talk to a pro for advice. Read what the professional gun writers are saying about the specific ammo you have in mind. If still in doubt, talk to the guys at your local gun store or hunting club who have actually used that specific ammo themselves on live game, and not just on paper or tin cans. Do your homework, and you’ll probably make a good ammo decision.
One more important safety item is not using rifle ammunition with bullets having a steel jacket or steel components inside the projectile. Ammunition with steel cartridge cases is fine, but always check for steel bullets. Often ammunition with steel bullets is imported from Eastern Europe or Asia and sold at very attractive prices. The problem is that when these steel-jacketed bullets hit a rock downrange they can start forest fires. As such they are banned on many public hunting lands, especially in the Midwest and West. To verify your ammo’s bullets don’t contain steel components, see if a magnet sticks to the bullet. If it does use that ammo for practice under controlled conditions at the range and not in the field.
Finally, some jurisdictions are requiring lead-free projectiles for hunting. Double-check the current hunting regulations to make sure your ammo is legal where you’ll be hunting.
Now that you’ve done your ammo research and trimmed the list down to two or three likely choices, buy a box or two of each. Make sure you pick up the ballistic charts for those loadings that shows how much the bullet drops at various distances. They should be printed on the side of ammo box or they can be downloaded from the ammo maker’s website. You’ll need them for your next sessions on zeroing your rifle and evaluating your real-life, no-excuses shooting skills.
3 – Zero Your Scope and Sights
Your rifle is ready, your ammo is ready, but are your sights ready? Now it’s time to find out. Gather up your rifle, your selected hunting ammo, sight-in targets, some masking tape, a spotting scope or binoculars, a shooting rest or bipod, a couple of small sandbags and head off to the range.
“Zeroing” is simply adjusting your scope or sights so they (and thus you) are looking at the same point where the bullet strikes at a specific distance. Once you know your scope is zeroed at a specific distance you can make some reasonably educated guesses where the bullet will strike at longer or shorter ranges, and adjust your hold accordingly.
First, make sure you understand and follow the range safety rules and range officer’s commands. Don’t be shy about asking questions whenever safety is concerned. It’s good range manners to keep your action open whenever you’re not actually shooting. Make sure of your backstop and always use proper eye and ear protection.
You need to do your sighting-in from a stable position. Ideally your range will have solid benches to shoot from. If they don’t, shoot from prone using a stable front rest or bipod, a sandbag or a backpack under your rifle’s forearm. A small beanbag or even an old gym sock partially filled with sand slipped under the buttstock helps you fine-tune to your shooting position.
Use a good-sized sight-in target with a well-defined aiming mark and preferably a grid background, usually made up of one inch or half-inch squares. This lets you make precise adjustments to move the scope’s reticle to match where the bullet strikes. A large piece of white cardboard behind the target helps you spot bullet holes that aren’t on the sighting target. You can get targets at your local gun shop or download some free targets at http://www.nssf.org/targets/
If you’re zeroing a new scope or you’re unsure about where your sights are set, start with the target at 25 yards. Take your time, focus on the sights and fire three of the best shots you are capable of. You should have a fairly small three-shot group somewhere on the paper.
Let’s take a moment to better understand the concept of Minute of Angle or MOA. Think of a full circle being divided into 360 degrees just like the dial on your compass. From there each degree is sub-divided into 60 minutes, or 1/60th of one degree of the original circle. This is often abbreviated as MOA. This becomes a very handy means of measurement for adjusting scopes and sights, since one MOA is very close to one inch of movement at 100 yards distance.
Going back to your high school geometry class, when an angle remains constant, the base of the angle increases as the distance from the apex increases. Look at the diagram below and see that while the angle (A) doesn’t change, the length of the base (B) increases as the distance (D) from the apex increases.
Think of MOA as a cone or a pyramid. The father you get from the apex or point, the wider the base must become. Thus one MOA isn’t one inch of movement at all distances. At 25 yards distance, one MOA is only ¼ inch of movement. At 200 yards that same one MOA is two inches, 3 inches at 300 yards, and 10 inches at 1000 yards. Now you’re getting the hang of it!
If the group is near the center of the target you can move the target out to 100 yards for your final zeroing. If it’s well off-center, it’s time to make an adjustment on the scope or sights to get you closer to the center of the target. (You might want to refer to the sidebar “Understanding MOA” at this point to brush up on your geometry.)
For adjustable iron sights, move the rear sight in the same direction you want the point of bullet impact to move, both vertically and horizontally. If the rear sight has click adjustments you can dial in the movement with some precision. If you need to drift the rear sight in a dovetail with a punch, it will be by trial and error.
As for scopes, most have adjustment dials or knobs marked with ½ or ¼ MOA graduations. They also have arrows indicating which way to turn the adjustment dial to move the point of impact, usually marked as “Right” for windage and “Up” for elevation. To move the bullet strike to the left or down, turn the knobs in the opposite direction.
You’ll need to decide what distance you want to zero your scope or sights for the game and terrain you’ll be hunting. If you’re hunting feral hogs or black bear in heavy brush, a 50 or 100 yard zero will work fine. If you’re chasing antelope on the high plains of Wyoming, a 250 or 300 yard zero would make more sense. A good all-around compromise is a 200 yard zero for most big game, which should put your bullet strike within a couple inches of your actual point of aim from 50 to 300 yards with most modern centerfire rifle cartridges.
Let’s look at the target below and assume you’re shooting at 100 yards with your chosen ammo. You want your bullet strike to be to be dead-on at that distance. Your windage (the side to side movement) is OK as is, but your elevation is still a little high. If you have one-inch grid squares on this sighting target, you need to make an adjustment of 2 MOA down to be dead on. That’s four clicks down on a scope or sights with ½ MOA adjustments, and eight clicks down on a scope with ¼ MOA adjustments.
Now carefully fire another three-shot group to verify that your scope is dead on at your chosen distance. Put the protective caps back on the adjustment knobs and don’t mess with your settings. (More good scope zeros are lost to twiddling and fiddling than to damaged optics or loose mounts.)
You should spend some time at the range carefully firing several three-shot groups from a bench or other supported position under good conditions with each type of ammo you’re thinking about using on your hunt.
Measure the distance between the two widest shots in each group, add them all up and divide the sum by the total number of groups to get the average group size. It is likely your rifle will show a preference for one bullet weight or brand of ammo. (You might need to fine-tune your scope’s zero at some point to your chosen ammo.)
All else being equal, the most ammo that’s most accurate in your rifle is what you want to have in your magazine when you put the crosshairs on that once-in-a-lifetime trophy later this fall.
NOTE: If you are sighting in a shotgun or have point of impact issues refer to this "Tech Terms" article here on Browning.com.
4 – Test and Improve Your Shooting Skills
You’ve got your rifle tuned up, hunting ammo selected, scope zeroed and you’re now ready to begin the chase for that trophy animal, right? Not so fast there, pard.
All those things are very important, but if you haven’t tested and honed your shooting skills so you know exactly what you can (and more importantly what you can’t) hit with your rifle/scope/ammo combination from typical field shooing positions under real-world conditions, you’re (pardon the pun) shooting blind.
All too often hunters, even those with years of experience, spend all their shooting time on the range shooting little groups on crisp paper targets from a solid bench rest. Such groups are good for the ego and make for first-rate bragging material around the campfire. However, they tell you absolutely nothing about your ability, to put a clean, killing shot on your animal from a standing position after you’ve just run a hundred yards uphill through waist-high sagebrush trying to get to where you have a clear shot.
So once you’ve got a reliable zero, it’s time to “get your butt off the bench.” Do some shooting for accuracy from prone, both with and without a sling. Shoot some groups prone off a backpack. Then practice from sitting and kneeling, again both with and without a sling. Now fire some shots from standing.
Chances are your results will be eye opening. Those pretty little three-shot bench rest groups you can cover with a quarter suddenly can’t be covered with a dinner plate when you start shooting off your hind legs. So, how do you improve your field shooting accuracy in time for the fall hunt?
First, whenever possible get closer to your game before you shoot. That means practicing your game stalking skills along with your marksmanship. Work on smooth, quiet movement to avoid alerting your quarry. Learn to walk more quietly in leaves and dry grass using a soft, rolling heel-to-toe footfall.
Match your camo to your hunting environment. Realize one camo pattern won’t cover every season or situation. Minimize the reflections from your gun, optics and gear with matte finish paint or some camo tape. Remember that most game animals also have keen noses, so take steps to manage your scent signature. Lay off the Old Spice and jalapeno garlic burgers during hunting season.
Next, get more stable before you pull the trigger. Learn to shoot prone off a bipod or backpack, and to use shooting sticks, a boulder, low hanging branch or the trunk of a fallen tree for added support from the other shooting positions. A sling is more than a carrying strap for your rifle, so learn how to use it to add stability when you shoot from the sitting, kneeling or prone positions.
Physical exertion and excitement quickly degrade one’s shooting accuracy. Do a few push-ups or run in place for a minute or two before you fire a shot and see how that affects your accuracy. Getting involved in a competitive shooting activity on a regular basis is a good way to learn to cope with stress and excitement, is a fun way to further sharpen your shooting skills and serves as a motivation to get to the range more often. Check with your local gun store or gun club or contact groups like the NRA or NSSF to see what programs are available in your area. It’s also a great idea to find a practice partner (or two) who also wants to improve his or her shooting skills.
There are other gun-handling skills beyond straight shooting. In a safe setting, practice reloading your magazine under time pressure and getting your (unloaded) rifle out of a scabbard or off your shoulder and into action in a hurry. Get out the stopwatch and put all your skills to the test now and then. Field and Stream magazine has a great series of skill-building drills for hunters in their August 2013 issue or you can see them online at http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/guns/rifles/shooting-tips/2013/08/gun-nut-shooting-challenge
Dry-firing is simply doing everything you’d normally do to fire the shot, except that no live ammo is involved. It’s a great way to learn to control your breathing, improve your hold and follow-through and refine your trigger control. It’s no secret that a healthy dose of dry-firing practice is how our Olympic shooters get so good. With today’s high prices and scarcity of ammo it’s also a low cost way to practice the basics.
First and foremost, make sure your gun IS COMPLETELY UNLOADED AND CONTAINS NO AMMUNITION, and that there is no live ammo anywhere within reach. Good gun safety procedures are never negotiable.
With your muzzle pointed in a safe direction at a solid backstop, put the crosshairs on a small, precise target and go through each step to make a perfect shot, including your follow-through. You can vary your targets to include colored dots, playing cards, geometric shapes and photos of game animals to keep things interesting. Remember, the purpose of the whole exercise is to produce quality shots, not quantity. Perfect practice helps make for a perfect performance.
Keep a notebook of your progress. Write down what you are doing right and what you need to work on. Then work diligently on strengthening your weaknesses. Set some goals and meet them. Too many shooters spend their limited trigger time doing what they already do well because it’s comfortable and helps boost their egos. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
Finally, be brutally honest with yourself and exercise self-discipline when you’re hunting. If your skills from the standing position limit your real-world hunting accuracy on deer-sized game to 75 yards, learn to work within that limitation. Don’t start wildly flinging lead at the buck stand 200 yards away in hopes of getting lucky, no matter how good his rack looks. Find a more stable shooting position that you can hit with at that distance, sneak in closer or pass up the shot with a clear conscience. It’s the ethical thing to do.
5 – Get Yourself in Shape
When we think about getting ready for the hunt, we all tend to over-focus on guns, gear and skills. The most important component to a successful hunt is living inside your own skin, and that’s you. Being able to meet the physical demands of the hunt is every bit as critical to your success as picking the right gun, ammo and scope.
While a lucky few are able to stay in top physical shape with seemingly little effort, most of us need to maintain a regular exercise program to be ready for the annual hunt. You probably don’t need to be in shape to win the next Ironman triathlon, but you will need to be able to satisfy whatever demands you’ll be making on your body, whether it’s climbing 11 feet into a tree stand or climbing a rocky ridge at 11,000 feet. If you’re a hunter, you’re also a wilderness athlete.
First, make sure you’re healthy enough to start an exercise program. That includes a trip to your doctor for the annual checkup. He or she will let you know if you’re able to start an exercise program and can often give you some good pointers on your fitness options.
Simple steps can become part of your everyday activities and will add to your overall fitness. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Pick a parking spot farther away from the door at the mall. Walk down the hall to confer with someone at work or jog down the block to chat with a neighbor instead of making a phone call or sending an e-mail or text.
Start slow and work your way up to more strenuous activity. Try for exercises that replicate the actual physical demands of hunting. There are any number of good outlines for hunting workouts available online. An excellent exercise plan is found at
Walking on trails and hiking up and down hills is ideal. As you progress, add some soft weights to a small backpack. Don’t spend money on fancy store-bought exercise weights. A couple of old hunting socks filled with sand will work just fine. Keep the load manageable so you don’t compromise your balance. You can even simulate the weight of your rifle with a three-foot length of black plastic pipe filled with sand and equipped with a sling. (It also looks just like a fishing rod case so as not to stir the emotions of others using the same workout area.)
Be aware that adding weights will add stress to your joints. If your ankles, knees or hips start to swell or hurt, back off on the extra weight you’re carrying. Make sure you take adequate time between hikes to rest and recover. Take two days off between your hikes at first, and work up to every other day on the trail. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen taken as needed before and after a hiking session are very helpful in reducing exercise-induced pain and inflammation for most people.
You’ll probably find using a hiking pole will aid your balance on uneven ground. An old ski pole from a local yard sale works well. Some hunters use a long pair of shooting sticks bound together with a stout rubber band or a piece of inner tube as a walking aid.
Since you’re going to be tromping around the hills anyway, now is a good time to start breaking in that new pair of hunting boots. Get some mileage on them so you know they fit your feet and won’t pinch or cause blisters on your actual hunt. Heck, they might even be on sale a few months before fall hunting season.
If weather or your location doesn’t allow you to get out to the hills, put on your pack and boots and hit the treadmill. Sure, you’ll get some funny looks down at the gym but remember you’re going to be enjoying some fresh elk steaks while the other gym rats will be eating tofu.
Don’t forget to eat wisely and drink plenty of water before, during and after your exercise sessions. A well-balanced diet that’s light on refined sugars, salt and fats is all-around healthy, regardless of what or where you plan to hunt. Dropping that unwanted weight, kicking the smoking habit and drinking alcohol in moderation will pay lifelong health dividends.
Having an exercise partner helps keep you motivated and gives you someone to talk to while you’re out hiking. Long walks in the deep woods in the company of a good dog are a soothing balm for every hunter’s soul.
Finally, remember that the only person who can get you into shape is you. There is no substitute for your own honest sweat.
6 – Know Your Game and Your Ground
Now that your hunting gear is squared away and your workouts include “Sweatin’ to Disco Classics” three days a week, it’s time to do some in depth study of your chosen quarry and the ground you’re going to hunt. If you’d like some great game scouting pointers designed for the average everyday hunter, or want to view the trail cam videos shown at right, check out www.thediyhunter.com. The trail cam photos at right were taken with Browning trail cameras: www.browniningtrailcameras.com
Let’s start by deciding what species of game you’re going to hunt and where you’re going to hunt it. Depending on your location, you may already have put in for your hunting licenses and game tags weeks or even months ago, especially if you’re hunting on limited access units on public ground. If not, make sure that you have all the proper tags and licenses purchased and ready to go well before the hunt starts, especially if the number of tags is limited. It never hurts to make an extra photocopy of these documents to have in your records in case you lose the originals (although in most states a photocopy cannot be used as your license -- it's just easier to get a new one if you have all the info from the original)..
Whether you’re hunting on public ground or on leased private ground, make sure you know exactly where you are and where all the boundary lines are located. This is especially important when you’re moving into your hunting area in the pre-dawn darkness or heading back to the truck after dusk. Hunting or trespassing on the wrong piece of ground, even in innocent ignorance, is not looked upon with much tolerance by landowners, fellow hunters or (so often humorless) game wardens.
Make sure your hunting maps are complete and current and your GPS gear, including some extra batteries and a vehicle charger are all good to go. Having a compass as a back-up (and actually knowing how to use it) is prudent.
It never hurts to brush up on your wild game field dressing skills. Spending a little extra time on the web or watching a good wild game care DVD can help you discover some of the finer points of gutting, skinning and caping your animal. This can give your taxidermist more material to work with as he assembles your trophy mount. It can also result in less wasted meat for more steaks and roasts in your freezer.
Don’t forget to make sure your field dressing gear, including a good selection of knives, shears and meat care items is clean, sharp organized and ready to roll. Browning has a sweet do-it-yourself butcher kit with just about everything you’ll need at http://www.browning.com/products/catalog/knives/detail.asp?fid=110G&cid=322&tid=100
Your pre-season game scouting should start now. Begin with some early morning scouting of your intended hunting areas during the first hour of light using a good-quality spotting scope or binoculars. If you plan to hunt after work include some late evenings in your scouting schedule. Don’t forget to check with any private property owners for permission to scout for game before hunting season. Your “boots on the ground” scouting period is also a great time to work any bugs out of new hunting gear like packs, clothing and such.
Today’s modern trail cameras like those from Browning are a great help in scouting more ground in less time. Check the out at http://browningtrailcameras.com . Make sure that you have fresh spare batteries and extra memory cards for all your trail cameras, and that they are well placed in areas you think you’ll find good hunting. Just like running a trap line, you need to check and service your trail cameras on a regular basis. Having a bunch of beautiful photos of that 6x6 trophy bull rolling in a wallow every afternoon won’t do you any good if they are all still stuck in the trail camera.
If you have a ground blind or tree stand, now is a good time to do any pre-season maintenance or repairs. Finding out on opening morning that your tree stand is unsafe or your ground blind is now covered in poison ivy will tend to dampen your enthusiasm. To avoid spooking your game, the sound of sawing wood and pounding nails needs to fade away long, long before the start of hunting season.
Remember, prepare now for a successful hunt and you’ll be hunting for success on opening morning.
7 – Treat Your Wheels Right
Opening day is now just a couple weeks away. You’ve done everything you can to make sure your hunt will be successful…until you look out in the driveway. Your faithful old hunting truck has seen plenty of hard use, but you think (or hope) she has a couple more good hunts left in her. Better spend some time now to make sure you hunting ride won’t leave you walking back from the dark woods.
First, be brutally honest. If you wouldn’t feel safe taking your own family camping in your hunting truck, it might be time to look at a trade-in or trade-up. Nothing lasts forever including your beloved blue 1973 GMC 4x4 with a quarter-million miles on the clock.
If you’re sticking with Old Blue, treat her to a full tune-up or check her over from bumper to bumper and top to bottom. Yes, that means getting underneath and getting your hands greasy. Make sure everything is tight and all the lube points are freshly greased, including the bearings and both drivelines.
Make sure she has good tires suitable for off-road use, including a fully-inflated spare. A second mounted spare isn’t out of the question if you’re going to be well off-road in rough country. Make sure you have suitable tire chains, a shovel and axe, a high-lift jack and a sturdy tow chain or tow strap. Don’t forget a pair of old work coveralls, heavy work gloves and a couple Browning flashlights or headlamps (with extra batteries) in case you have a breakdown far from a paved road. A midnight tow truck visit somewhere out past High Nowhere will be breathtakingly expensive.
Make sure you have a full tank of fresh gas. If the gas in the tank has been sitting for more than a few weeks, drive around town until it’s almost empty before you fill her up. Verify that all the fluids, including those in the tranny and both differentials are topped off and the battery is fully charged. Have some extra fluids, including fuel, oil and coolant and a spare oil filter in your Hell Box. (That’s the big old ammo can where you keep your basic repair tools and some spare parts for when, despite all your best efforts, things just go all to hell.) Remember to stow some matches, spare clothing and boots, emergency food and water in each vehicle.
If you have a camper or are pulling a trailer, give their preparation the same attention to detail as your did your truck, especially for things like brakes, electrical connections and tires. Same thing goes for your ATVs. Getting to elk camp and finding out there’s no spark plug in the ATV and both your propane tanks are empty will probably put a crimp in your trip. It would be a good idea to do a short pre-hunt shakedown trip with your ATV, camper or trailer to make sure everything is on order.
Make sure your license, registration and insurance are current and in order, and you have an extra copy of all those documents in each of the vehicles. A couple spare keys for each lock on every vehicle (including a hideaway) are always a good idea.
Finally, while we don’t recommend hunting solo, we realize many hunters enjoy the solitude of the woods. If you do elect to hunt alone, make sure you have left word with two or more adults as to where you’ll be hunting and when you expect to return. Having a fully charged cell phone or sat phone with you is always a good idea when you take to the woods.
We hope that these seven checklists have been helpful in getting you and your gear ready for the 2013 fall hunts. We hope that you’ll bring home a fine trophy, and a have few good hunting stories to share around the campfire.
Copyright Browning 2013. All rights reserved. No portion may be used without permission. Written by Browning staff writer, Scott Engen. The DIY Hunter images and links above are copyright and used with permission of www.TheDIYHunter.com 2013. The DIY Hunter is solely responsible for the content provided.