Be prepared, savor fall hunts, keep the spirit alive

General any-weapon hunts for deer started Monday in many parts of the state, and with most bird seasons already open, October is the heart of hunting season. It’s full of busy weeks and weekends as we head into the field and our favorite hunting spots.

It’s a great time of year to forge new memories, revive old friendships, spend amazing moments outdoors and, hopefully, bring something home for the frying pan and freezer.

It can be challenging because you have so many hunting opportunities available. Here are some things to consider to help get the most out of them:

Double check your license and permits: Not very exciting, but few things spoil a hunting trip quicker than a citation. Make sure you have the correct license and permits for the animals you are hunting, and they are for the area you are hunting. It’s your responsibility to purchase the correct licenses and permits, not the person at the sporting goods store. Also, remember to fill out your hunt reports in a timely manner.

Check your vehicles: Tires in good shape? Electrical and water systems working in your RV? Batteries fully charged and in good condition? All registrations up to date? We ask a lot of our vehicles and RVs during hunting season, and breakdowns can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if vehicles have to be towed out of the backcountry.

Make checklists: There’s so much to bring along on your hunting trips and so many small-but-important items. Charging cable for your GPS unit? You don’t want to be 50 miles from a town before you discover you don’t have it. Gun oil? Might come in handy if you have a rainy day in the woods. Smartphones are a good place to store checklists. So are good, old-fashioned, pocket-sized spiral notebooks, which are low-tech and fool proof.

Expect to succeed, and be prepared: This goes beyond having a sharp knife and a game bag. If the weather is warm, have a game plan to get an animal out of the woods and properly cooled and stored, whether it’s hanging at camp or at a meat processor. Carry all the essentials with you when you’re hunting because you never know when you will harvest an animal.

Be a keen observer: Nature is a mystery you will never unravel, but it drops clues on you every time you’re outdoors. Do ducks fly more before a weather change? How does a full moon affect when and where you see animals. Does a chattering squirrel mean there’s something moving in the forest? Why is there consistently more signs of game in certain areas that appear exactly like other areas?

Celebrate the process: Keep the spirit of the hunt alive by sharing a meal prepared with wild game, or host a potluck where everyone brings a favorite game dish. Get together and make sausage, jerky or hamburger from the game you harvested. Meet for an evening and share photos and stories from your hunts. Camaraderie is a big part of hunting, and there’s no reason it can’t continue after hunting camp ends.

Roger Phillips is a public information specialist at Idaho Fish and Game and is a former Idaho Statesman outdoors writer. He writes occasional hunting columns for Playing Outdoors.