By T.J. Rademacher
We are now basically a month out from being able to get after them again fellas. In my home state of North Carolina, we are allowed to start hunting resident geese on September 1st. It’s a great way to shake off the dust and get back after it. The key to having the best possible experience in any waterfowl hunting scenario is being prepared for as much as you can be. It’s like laying down a really good paint job. The key to success is all in the prep work. Here are some things you probably should have already done if you are a month away from getting back into the grind.
If you are a field hunter, you should already know where the hot fields are going to be. Local farmers rotate crops yearly, so you should be riding around looking for fields that will probably hold birds when it’s time to start cutting. This is a good strategy for both geese and ducks. If you have been in an area for a while you will have picked up on roosts and heavily trafficked fields in these areas. These are high percentage options for good hunts throughout the season. I Try to do this early. If I can catch a farmer out without totally holding him up from something important I’ll try to introduce myself or if we know each other make sure to get permission on his land again. If you’ve treated his land with respect in the past you will likely have your spot held for this season.
If you hunt over water or moist soil units both public and private, you should already have been out looking for the places where the food is going to be. You should be knowledgeable on what ducks actually eat naturally in wetland areas or areas that flood seasonally. So, when you break into a clearing and find it choked with smart weed you can put a mark on your GPS. This is going to be a place to be looking at when the birds get here. Again, you should already have permission knocked out on private land. If you haven’t done this, you are behind and you need to go and do this to salvage what’s left. Being proactive rather than reactive is key so you can broaden your options this season.
If you hunt out of established blind sites you should have already made sure they’re still there and if they are in hunt-able condition. Go ahead and remove overgrowth to create holes for birds to land in. You’ll be way ahead of the game when it’s time to be in there enjoying your time afield. Also clear this with a landowner to make sure it’s okay. Verify that this is legal on the piece of public land you are planning to hunt. Do not just assume if your name is not on the deed. You should be scouting boat lanes and channels to make sure there isn’t going to be something that blocks your access. Again be prepared.
You should be washing decoys now if you didn’t do this before you put them up last season. Go through every one of them and make sure they are clean and any small repairs are made before they need to be in the water. All of the weights, stakes and other required items for functioning decoys should be inspected and any necessary repairs on rigging need to be made now. You should not be running to Walmart for stuff at 10:00 pm when you need to be up at 3:30 the next morning. Check batteries on your motion decoys because the lithium ion batteries may not hold a charge if you do not periodically charge them during the off season. Believe me I learned this the hard way. There is still enough time to get new ones and install them. Check your remotes on the spinners and ensure they function properly. Everything should be bagged and read to go. I label bags so all I have to do is grab and load things as I need them. It saves time and frustration when it’s late and you are trying to get ready for the next day’s hunt.
Your outboard or surface drive should have been running all summer while you were catching fish but if it has sat around for a while make sure the plugs are new and the carbs are cleaned and ready to go. You don’t want to be rebuilding carbs the night before a hunt or waiting on parts when the birds get her and it is time to be on the water. You should already have a few spare parts for items that routinely need to be replaced. I’ve learned this the hard way as my current outboard has aged. You should be constantly inspecting and doing proper maintenance on your motors, boats, ATV/UTVs, and hunting wagons because they’ll take care of you if you look after them. Stop using ethanol gas in small engines, it’s not worth it even if you’re a college kid one budget. It destroys fuel lines and will clog jets on carburetors.
Your blind bag should have that 5-month old granola bar stash cleaned out and restocked. You should already have a Ziploc bag of toilet paper ready to go. For further information, refer to my article about blind bags earlier this year. It will get you squared away in a hurry. Layouts and frames should be prepped and function checked. Get that first layer on the blinds so all you have to do is blend them the morning before. Your hedge trimmer should be ready to go for grassing blinds now and all your brush cutting items should be located and in your truck box so you aren’t digging though the bottom of a trailer for them when it’s time to use them.
Check your gear. Make sure it’s still in good shape. If you have a pair of waders make sure you function test them before opening day so you can repair them or get a new pair. Make sure you have some wader patch kits available. If you can afford it, have a backup pair if waders. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It’s a huge save when you find that briar patch or forgot about that barbed wire fence.
Long story short you should have never stopped working on stuff after the season ended. If you are under the gun it’s time to prioritize and get stuff taken care of so you aren’t chasing your tail for the next month. The off season is just another season for you to be keeping the excitement alive. Also you should have been shooting your shotgun during the summer so you are ready to take advantage of your opportunities when they present themselves. Don’t be shaking the dust off with that first group of birds. It’s time to get after it boys and girls. Here’s to another successful season!