Opening day has a way of sneaking up on hunters. Between work, school, housework and family obligations, prepping for bowhunting is easy to put on the back burner when life is full of responsibilities and time is limited. If the archery opener is around the corner and last year’s snacks are still in your backpack and your bow hasn’t been out of its case, don’t worry. You still have time. Here’s how to get ready for bowhunting in under a week.
A bow shop is your first stop. You can find the closest one here. Even if you haven’t touched your bow since last season and feel that it’s OK, it still needs to get checked out by a technician. Have them inspect the rest, peep, bowstrings, D-loop, servings and timing. Ask to have it paper-tuned, which is when you shoot an arrow through paper to ensure it’s flying straight. Different holes through the paper can indicate something that’s slightly out of tune, and your technician can adjust the bow accordingly.
While you’re at the shop, pick up some string wax if you don’t have any. Wax prevents strings from drying out and snapping. Every time you draw and shoot an arrow, a tremendous amount of energy moves through the bowstrings. This creates wear and tear. Keeping the strings waxed extends their life. Properly maintained bowstrings can last up to three years. If the bowstrings look dry and fuzzy, they need wax. Waxing is simple. Apply the wax to the bowstrings and rub it into the strands with your fingers.
The ability to make an ethical shot is critical in bowhunting. Don’t go into the field until you’re confident in your abilities. If you’ve neglected to practice until now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be ready in time. Shooting just 15 minutes a day can give you the reps you need to make the shot.
Check to make sure your bow is still sighted in, especially if your technician made tuning adjustments. Just because your sight was on last year doesn’t mean it stayed that way. Travel, storage, weather and time in the field can change things. Shoot at every distance you would potentially make a shot. Practice drawing back and holding to help build muscle. If you plan to spot-and-stalk, practice shooting from your knees. If you plan to shoot from a treestand, practice from an elevated position. With just days left before your hunt, every arrow counts.
Broadheads have more surface area than field tips, so they can magnify flight imperfections. Tune broadheads by shooting them alongside field tips. Shoot the broadhead first to avoid cutting vanes or damaging shafts. If the broadhead and field tips form a group, you’re ready to hunt. If the broadhead hits a different spot on the target, it’s time to troubleshoot the problem. For a detailed look at how to tune broadheads, read “Make Your Broadheads Fly True.”
It’s time to make an opening day game plan. With your hunt just days away, check the weather. A hot forecast might mean it’s time to hunt over a water source. Think about what your target species is up to this time of year. Are they in the rut? What are they eating? Understanding their habits and movements will help create a plan. If you set a treestand last year, make sure it’s still safe before your first sit. Setting up a ground blind is quick and easy, but try to get it in place a few days before you plan to hunt to let the animals get used to it.
Make a physical checklist, on paper or on your phone, of everything you need for the hunt. Gather each item and cross it off your list as you place it in the pack or bow case. This will ensure you have everything and give you time to borrow or buy missing items. Make sure your bow case is packed with a bow, arrows, broadheads, rangefinder, release and quiver. Your pack’s contents will vary slightly depending on the type of hunt. But on most hunts, you’ll need water, food, headlamp, binoculars, toilet paper, wind indicator, hunting tags and licenses, field-dressing kit and layers for weather changes. A cellphone or satellite communication device and a first-aid kit are also important.
Game animals have an amazing sense of smell. Before you throw on your camo, make sure to get the household scent off. Wash your clothes with a scent-eliminating detergent and then hang them outside to dry. Keeping them outside will help get rid of the unwanted scent. Store them in an airtight bag or tote and put them on right before you go into the field. In the days leading up to the hunt, don’t use any heavily scented lotions, perfume, cologne or hair products. Many hunters use scent-eliminating personal care products like soap, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant during the entire season. You can find these products as well as a scent-eliminating spray at archery shops.
Most bowhunters would love to spend all year getting dialed in for opening day. But for many hunters, life too often gets in the way. Whether it’s from procrastination or an overwhelming load of responsibilities, prep time is often limited. But with the right attitude and commitment, it’s possible to get prepared in under a week and find success in the field.