Everything you need to do before Opening Day and beyond to ensure a successful hunt.
1. Get those license(s)
It may seem obvious, but considering how often drivers’ licenses tend to disappear just before a checkpoint and passports expire the week before an overseas trip, make sure your hunting permits are squared away. Research your state’s requirements and have a clear idea of everything you want to hunt this season—several states require additional tags and permits depending on whether you want to go after big game vs. fowl. If your fishing license needs updating, take care of everything in one go. Who might come with you? Shoot them a line so they won’t back out.
2. Do a quick inventory of your gear, and restock
Because hunting’s a leisure activity, it’s tempting to skip the prep stage. Don’t. Check that everything you need and are in working order well ahead of time. Untangle your tackle box and replace those ratty flies. You don’t want to be caught out in the field without a cleaning kit, or realize you’re short of the reliably no-fail whatzits you swore were left in that inside pocket of your bag. Take a minute to see what’s new for the season, but go in with your eyes open (see #5).
3. Dress for success
It’s tempting to throw on a wooly shirt and cargo pants and be done with it, but don’t swap convenience now for six hours of misery. Make a quick list of what you need to take yourself from now through deep winter, from waterproof pants with plenty of pockets to a parka that’ll insulate you from subzero conditions. The century-old Seattle outfitter Filson has an excellent hunting section that stocks long-lasting products like shooting shirts with reinforced arms, game bags and waterproof pants. REI has a massive selection of basic outdoor gear at very reasonable prices.
4. Check your boots
Are they waterproof? Were they warm enough last year? Any holes? Backing up: Do you even have a pair of dedicated hunting boots? Now’s the time to take them in for repair or invest in a new set. Bass Pro Shops has an excellent range of boots. Repairwise, online services such as Resole America will fix things up to your specifications.
5. Research the latest techniques. Go high-tech.
Yep, there may have been developments in duck calling over the summer. And new technology is exploding, from infrared cameras to pinpoint your targets, a GPS collar for your dog and night-vision gear for early morning outings. But browse aimlessly at your own risk: shiny nice-to-have toys can blow your budget. Better to think about what would have improved your take last year and search for those.
6. Pack good food, adequate snacks and plenty of water
Think high protein, complex carbs, twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Avoid excess sugar, white carbs and energy drinks; they’ll cause a crash that’ll leave you drained. Pocket a few quick snacks like almonds, bananas or a peanut-butter granola bar instead.
7. Plan an ultimate trip
If you’ve fantasized about visiting a hunter’s Valhalla, make this the year it happens. Wisconsin and North Dakota are consistently ranked as the best places to hunt a wide range of game (and Wisconsin has the most public hunting land in the U.S.). Both benefit from splendid vistas. Seattle’s Puget Sound and Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake provide painterly backdrops for waterfowling, and the Black Hills of South Dakota does the same for big game. If you want to go the full Hemingway, Tanzania has been ranked the greatest hunting spot in the world. Just brush up on your lion-takedown technique.
8. Be a gentleman during the week
Nothing wrong with a sophisticated humblebrag once you’re back to the land of the suit and tie: This subtle hunter-print tie and duck-patterned pocket square telegraphs that you’re a sharpshooter both on the field and off.