5 Ways to Prep for Deer Season This Summer

5 Ways to Prep for Deer Season This Summer

Last deer season, I saddled up for the first sit of the season. That morning was unseasonably cool. I was riding the high of opening day and felt zero fatigue, despite my 2:30 alarm. I settled in long before sunrise, anticipating a quick, successful hunt on my family’s property. But, as light broke, I began to notice the lack of clear shooting lanes. I’d hunted this property my whole life but neglected to get back there for some offseason prep.

When full-blown shooting hours arrived, so did a couple does—on the outskirts of bow range. The historical trail I’d seen and killed plenty of deer on wasn’t a highway anymore, and the new trail should have been apparent, even in the dark. I didn’t punch a tag that morning and had to watch eight does feed out of range. It was a lesson in summer preparation that cost me a chance to punch an opening day tag.

While it might seem like there’s plenty of time now, the eve of the season will be here whether you prepare or not. Clearing shooting lanes, hanging stands, or trail cameras are just a few ways to prepare, and certainly the most highlighted summer prep out there, but there are other things that deserve your attention, too. Here’s a few things you can do now to be better prepared come fall.


This is an evergreen chore, but you shouldn’t have any problem conducting your e-scouting during the summer months, especially if you live in the South like me. Right now, it’s hot, the humidity is as thick as gravy, and we get a surprise thunderstorm at least once a day. I used to survey new ground during the summer months until multiple encounters with cottonmouths made me rethink my timing. Now, I leave my boots-on-the-ground homework for just before the season or February.

Sure, dropping pins is a great place to start, but you need to scour those e-maps before checking this step off your list. If you use OnX, it’s helpful to utilize features like the leaf-off imagery to find habitat edges that don’t readily jump off the map.

Even if you’re pressed for time, at least driving by a potential hunting spot can be helpful. It won’t give you a comprehensive idea of the land, but sometimes it can tell you if it deserves a closer look. I’ve dropped pins on spots only to find that the road, creek, etc., on the map, actually wasn’t a road or creek at all. A quick drive-by can confirm or dispel these assumptions.

Target Practice

Bowhunting requires a regular shooting routine if you want to consistently hit your target. Most dedicated archers already have some sort of routine, but rifle hunters tend to neglect this fact until just before opening day. I’m not saying you have to burn twenty boxes of ammo or even shoot every week, but shooting a pie tin freehanded at fifty yards won’t cut it either.

Unless you’re hunting from a shooting house, you’ll rarely get that perfect broadside shot. Instead of shooting from the bench and calling it good, shoot your rifle from multiple positions. Lying prone, kneeling, and drawing your gun to your shoulder for a standing shot are great positions to practice. They’re also common shooting positions that you’ll encounter in the field.

The same goes for saddle hunters. Ever fired a rifle from a saddle? It’s not the most natural shooting position, especially if you have to shoot behind you or to your weak side (which happens often). Not only will this make you more comfortable firing your gun, but it will better prepare you when it’s time to make a quick, offhand shot.

It also helps to occasionally practice rifle drills with an elevated heart rate. You won’t be able to mimic the adrenaline rush of buck fever, but you can get something similar. Don’t worry about running a mile and then shooting your rifle, but a few burpees before taking a practice shot is a great way to evaluate how you perform when your heart feels like it’s about to explode.

Gear Check

Now is a great time to test your hunting gear. Purchasing and practicing with your hunting gear before the season isn’t just necessary but highly practical. For starters, it can save you money. Companies and manufacturers experience a boom during hunting season because it’s fresh on everyone’s mind, and a lot of folks procrastinate.

During the slow summer months, a lot of companies will run random sales to generate business. This is a great time to purchase one of the best hunting scopes, a new bow sight, tree saddle, or even one of the best hunting rifles. Purchasing gear now means you can spread out your costs and make everything a bit more affordable.

On the other hand, familiarizing yourself with your hunting gear before the season can help you create a streamlined system. This includes taking inventory, organizing your gear, and stealth-stripping anything that can clang. I like to start by checking off necessities like tow ropes, headlamps and batteries, game bags, multitools, first aid, and other less flashy items.

Next, I’ll make sure everything’s stowed in packs and pockets that make sense. You certainly don’t have to buy multiple packs, but I have two of the best hunting backpacks that I rotate between. I use one for occasional all-day sits or when I need to haul a ton of gear. The other is a minimalist pack for quick hang-and-hunts or still hunting. I’ll keep some of those less flashy items in both packs, so when it’s time to make a switch, I only need to transfer a few things.

Working Out

I’m a firm believer that a fitness routine can do wonders for your hunting (the health benefits should also entice you). While you should have started training for deer season earlier this year, anytime is a great day to start. If you’ve been training all year, consider (safely) ramping up the volume or intensity before the season gets here.

No, you don’t have to squat 500 pounds or run a five-minute mile to chase whitetails. But you don’t want to have a heart attack dragging out a buck, either. This physical and mental toughness you build with a fitness routine translates to hunting and other areas of life.

If you’re just starting a fitness routine, incorporate running into your daily schedule or at least some fast-paced walks with your hunting pack. Anything is better than nothing.

Prep Now, Reap Later

It’s tempting to put off these tasks for another weekend. However, just like deer season, there are only so many summer months, and I bet your to-do list is probably longer than you think. Don’t wait until opening day to realize you’re underprepared. After all, it just might cost you a tag.

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