The modern firearm general rifle season is less than a month away this year and we have a measly 8 days to score a buck in many of the Eastern Washington game management units, a little longer in Western Washington. That means you'd better have your game face on come October 16th because you're not going to have much time to dilly-dally around.
Get in Shape
I guess I'm a little old school, preferring to hike or bike as far away from roads and people as I can when I'm deer hunting. Every year there's a story or two about a lucky bugger that scored a good buck within spitting distance of camp, but by and large the odds of getting into good numbers of animals goes up substantially the further you get away from people. It's a helluva lot easier to do this, and not pay for it later, if you're in at least decent shape.
My preseason, take-the-edge-off workout regimen consists of two miles a day on the treadmill, followed by three sets of fourty calf lifts, sixty total situps, three sets of twenty lunges with dumb bells, and an upper body workout with dumb bells. I do this four days a week for six weeks prior to hunting season and will mix in a few hikes and mountain bike rides before the opener. Two weeks before the opener I'll crank out three to four miles on the treadmill each time I visit the evil machine, wearing my hunting boots to get the ol' dogs, my feet, callused up and ready to roll.
Even though this isn't the Insanity workout it serves me well and allows me to travel further and hunt longer than most other hunters in the field.
Don't have the time? Taking the dog for a long walk, pushing the kids up a hill in the stroller, and walking on lunch break are things you can do to get the feet and legs in shape. Something is better than nothing at all.
Has it sunk in yet…eight days! You finally see a legal buck within range and a swirling wind wofts the scent of your campfire and cigar laquered bad self up his schnozzola and before you can get the rifle up…he's Ghandi. All you needed was a few more seconds…right?
Scent control is about increasing the odds of success and with only eight days we need all the help we can get. There are so many products out there nowadays that it just doesn't make any sense to not take advantage of them.
A product that I started using a couple years ago is Scent Away by Hunter Specialties. I found a kit at Sportco that contained laundry detergent, boot powder, shampoo, bar soap, and deoderant. I've gotten in the habit of using this stuff religiously before each and every deer hunt and it helps.
All of my hunting clothes are washed twice in Scent Away detergent and then I tuck them away in a Scent Safe garment bag until it's time to hunt. Remove all the Christmas tree scent thingy-me-jiggers from your vehicle and if possible keep the de-scented clothes in the Scent Safe bag and don them in the field just prior to hunting. Don't spend a bunch time de-scenting your clothes only to re-scent them in the vehicle on the drive to the woods.
By doing this you can also avoid fuel contamination when you're juicing up the truck at zero-dark-thirty on the way to the woods. Wear rubber gloves or use a bunch of rags to keep fuel off your hands and avoid standing directly in front of the filler tube, as the fumes are just as obnoxious. There's no sense in going thru all this trouble only to head out smelling like a molotov cocktail.
If you're apt to lounge around the campfire spinning yarns at night toss the hunting clothes back in the garbage bag and jump in a pair of sweats.
Once the hunt starts I use Solid Scent Wafers in fresh earth to further mask my scent and I constantly watch the winds direction. If I'm approaching an area that looks promising I'll approach it from down wind of deer that could be using the area. If the wind swirls around or I screw up, however, the scent control precautions I've taken will hopefully buy me a few seconds to get off a shot.
Sighting in at the Range
I wasn't very serious about deer hunting at first. The year was 1989 and a college team mate had asked me to go deer hunting with him. I'd hunted plenty with a shotgun, but the premise of sighting in a rifle was lost on me.
On opening morning I worked my way onto a hillside full of buck brush and I'll-be-damned if there wasn't a fork and horn mule deer standing broadside looking at me at a hundred and fifty yards. Seven shots later the deer was still standing there, likely wondering what all the darned ruckus was about. I quit shooting, sat down on a rock, and laughed until I cried. The deer walked off.
I enjoyed the heck out of that trip and vowed to roll up my shirt sleeves and do better. When I hit the range later to test out the guns accuracy the bullets weren't even hitting the paper at a hundred yards.
I still shoot the same old gun, a Belgium Browning 30.06 that's been glass-bedded and fitted with a Burris 3 X 9 scope. It's not a sniper rifle, by any means, but I've managed to harvest fourteen deer with the old girl since that day in '89 because I've honed it's accuracy at the range. I could've bought a better and more modern rifle a long time ago…but again…I'm old school.
For starters, I'd find a good ballistics chart on the internet and study up on your caliber and ammunition. I use the Winchester Ballistics Calculator to chart the Winchester XP3 150 grain loads that work great in my Browning.
I sight in at two inches high at 100 yards, which puts the bullet dead on at 200 yards with seven inches of drop at 300 yards. Last year I held six inches above the kill zone at 250 yards to take my beautiful Washington blacktail. The shot was a perfect double-lunger and the deer was down quickly. Had I not studied the ballistics chart and done my homework at the range I would have probably guessed on this shot and possibly missed.
Getting the Gear in Order
Within the next week I'll spend some time laying out all the gear on the garage floor that'll be utilized on the hunt. It's already packed away in a sealed Tupperware container in the garage and doesn't take long at all to organize.
I'll hit my binoculars with an anti-fogging agent, check both the day pack and the frame pack for rips or tears, sharpen knives, and check the batteries in my head lamp and two way radios. I yard on my Danner Pronghorn boot laces to make sure they're not going to break and organize first aid kits, emergency supplies, and any other necessary items like game bags and a buck hoist.
Hopefully it's donned on you by now that there isn't much time this year to score a buck here in Washington. We've got a little more time in Western Washington to tag a blacktail, but the Eastern Washington hunts, specifically in Chelan and Okanogan counties, are going to be short and sweet. Get the work done before hand and buy yourself a few more seconds out there this year. Those few seconds can mean the difference between success and a big buck story.
Start doing your homework right now by logging onto the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website and checking out the upcoming hunting seasons. Oh, and send me a photo of the buck or elk you get this fall. I'm into that sort of thing!