Ben-Smith.jpg

Ben Smith is a Laurel native and former baseball standout at Laurel High School. Smith begins his 14th season as the assistant baseball coach at William Carey.

Preparedness always goes a long way. That statement holds true, no matter what you’re doing. In sports, usually the team that is better prepared is the team that wins. As our unlucky friends to the southeast are about to find out, those that are prepared for a hurricane usually come out better than those who aren’t. If being prepared makes us better, why not apply it to hunting season, as well?

The Mississippi archery season is about to open for those north of Highway 84. Sorry to you guys hunting south of that line, you’ll have to wait until the 15th before you take to the woods. That being said, how prepared are you for the season? Have you checked all of your gear? Have you shot your bow? Have you scouted the area you intend to hunt? Are you ready for something unexpected? This article is as much for me as it is for anyone else. Lord knows that I’ve had my fair share of unexpected problems while hunting and fishing. I’ve had so many mishaps that it’s a wonder that the paper still prints this as a serious outdoor column and not a comedy piece. My only saving grace is that I try not to repeat the same mishap over and over. I’m a slow learner but having a potential life threatening issue come up will get your attention fast. And it doesn’t have to be life threatening. Anything that takes away from your hunting experience, and success, should be avoided if at all possible.

First things first: check your gear. When I say to check your gear, I don’t mean give it a good once over to make sure it looks okay. I mean get it outside and put it through the same situations that you will encounter while on your hunt. If you plan to use a climbing stand, please for the love of all things, strap it to a tree at your house and thoroughly inspect it. I hear of far too many people being injured, or killed, each year due to treestand negligence. Make sure your cables are in good condition and there are no cracks in any pins that go with the stand. You might also want to check your backpack straps for dry rot. You can take it from yours truly that it really sucks to get a couple of miles deep into the woods only to have your strap break forcing you to carry your stand out by hand.

Make sure you check the gear in your pack, as well. If you’re hunting in Mississippi in early October, it will probably do you some good to carry a Thermocell. Constantly battling mosquitoes will ruin a hunt quick, not to mention make you feel miserable. Make sure you have enough fuel in your butane cartridge and replace your wafer from the last time you used it. If you plan to use a range finder, make sure you have a new battery in it. Also, get it out in the yard and check to see if it’s still accurate. It would be a shame to shoot at a buck of a lifetime only to find out your range finder is 10 yards off.

Next, practice makes perfect. Please don’t be that person that never shoots their bow until the day before they go hunting. Bow hunting is hard. Well, it’s hard unless you shoot a crossbow. You owe it to the deer to have practiced shooting a target plenty of times before you attempt to kill that deer. The best thing you can give that deer is a clean shot and a quick death. Not only is this the most ethical thing you can do, it’s also better for your meat that you intend to harvest. It doesn’t take much time to get out in the yard and shoot your bow a few times every couple of days. If you can’t find time to practice beforehand, then you have no business going hunting with a bow.

Third, scouting your hunting area gives you an advantage. In baseball, we have scouting reports of teams that we are going to play. If we know a team’s tendencies, or what a hitter can’t hit, it gives us a great advantage toward beating that team. The same can be applied to deer hunting. First, know your prey. You should have a general understanding of where your deer are bedding, what foods they are eating during this time of the year, and their peak times of movement. Think of it as your scouting report. If you plan to go hunting this weekend without having been to your land, your chances for success decrease a lot. A lot of hunters rely solely on the use of cameras for scouting, and that might be enough. However, there is no substitute for boots on the ground. A camera is not going to always tell you where your deer are coming from, or where they are headed. Check out your hunting area by actually looking the land over with your own eyes. Also, there are plenty of free apps that provide you with satellite imagery that can give you a good idea of where your deer are bedding. Some of these apps even provide a topo map that will help you pick travel routes for deer. Look for pinch points and water sources for this time of the year, and you’ll get a general idea of the best place to hang your setup.

Finally, make sure to be prepared for the unexpected. Changes in the weather, a broken shoelace, impassable waterways, and other hunters can change a hunt in a hurry. You’ll want to be sure that you have a backup plan in case things don’t go the way you intended. Possibly the most important thing that you can do before hunting is make sure someone else knows where you are going to be. Cell phone service isn’t always available in some of the places that you will go. In the event of an emergency, you’ll be much better off if someone is aware of where you are and what time you’re expected to be back. Happy Hunting!