A successful bowhunting and gun hunting expedition requires the right gear and techniques. But without the proper maintenance, your equipment won’t perform optimally and might fail you when you need it most. The pre-season is the ideal time for gear inspections. Checking your gear and keeping it in the best shape possible is the optimal way to prepare for the hunt.
Your hunting clothes typically feature colors and camouflage patterns matching your environment, helping you blend with your surroundings and stay out of the deer’s sight. However, deer do not exclusively rely on their eyes to detect predators; they rely more on their sense of smell. If you don’t keep all your hunting clothes cleaned and stored properly, they carry your scent and ruin your efforts to remain undetected.
Sort your clothes by type: shirts, jackets, mid-layers, socks, cold-weather and thermal wear. When it’s time to wash your hunting clothes, wash each type of clothing in a separate load using scent-free detergents. All camouflaged equipment should be turned inside out before you place it in the washing machine. This keeps your patterns from fading and losing their original colors.
Always ensure your clothes are fully dried after washing. If you put your clothes in storage without first drying them thoroughly, they will develop an unpleasant odor due to mold and mildew buildup. Use a dryer, and ensure dryer sheets are also scent-free.
If you enjoy blind hunting, you understand the importance of using professional-grade hunting blinds with robust construction and high-quality craftsmanship. Cheap, inexpensive pop-up blinds frequently need replacing and are time-consuming to maintain. To keep your blind in top condition, spot-clean the exterior of your blinds throughout the season using warm water and mild scent-free detergents to remove dirt, mud and bird droppings. Sweep the inside with a broom to remove dirt, sand and other debris. Don’t forget to inspect the roof for holes and cracks regularly.
Another essential piece of equipment that you must maintain at all times is your hunting weapon. Caring for your weapons properly is critical to avoid accidents.
Gun care is critical for proper firearm functionality. However, hunting conditions increase your gun’s exposure to dirt, grime and high humidity levels — especially if you hunt waterfowl — making regular maintenance even more crucial. Neglecting gun care can result in rust and corrosion. Wooden stocks may warp or crack. Ammunition may not function correctly.
Ideally, you should clean your firearms after every hunting session. Do not wait or leave the gun sitting uncleaned for extended periods, even if you haven’t fired a shot the whole day. Learn how to field strip your particular models, and clean the residue and grime out from your barrel, bolt and other major moving parts using the cleaning tools of your choice. These include brushes, gun solvents, lubricants, CLP-type cleaners and patches. Once you have finished cleaning your firearms, store them in a dedicated gun safe in a cool, dry environment to keep humidity out.
- Bows and Crossbows
Keep your bows and crossbows stored in a room with minimal temperature fluctuations and no exposure to humidity. When exposed to frequent temperature changes, bow and crossbow limbs continuously expand and contract, introducing timing issues and potentially bringing the bow out of tune. Never leave bows resting against a wall or a corner. Always use ceiling hooks or purpose-built horizontal rests instead.
Before the hunting season starts and after it ends, inspect your bowstrings and cables for wear and tear. If you find frays or dangling strands, that bowstring must be replaced. Don’t forget to give your bowstrings and cables a light coating of archery wax after each season to keep them in good shape and preserve their performance. If you use a compound bow and hear a squeaking or grinding noise, it may need cleaning. Use archery lubricants or powdered graphite; either will work just fine to eliminate bow squeaking.
Always store your broadheads in a separate container, organized by type. Before the season starts, you should always check your broadheads for sharpness with the rubberband test. Pull a band taut with your fingers and apply the broadhead’s blade to it. If the blade cuts the band without much effort, it’s fine to use. If it doesn’t, you may need to sharpen it or retire it from your equipment arsenal. Although this test may seem simplistic, a rubber band has approximately the same elasticity as an artery, making it an excellent way to check if your broadheads are ready for the season.
Hunting environments are harsh on optics. Fortunately, taking care of your scopes and binoculars is also fairly easy. Keeping your lenses clean does not require an array of specialized tools, but you do need to avoid potentially damaging bad habits. For instance, if you typically wipe your lenses with your shirt, this can scratch your lenses and ruin them. Avoid cleaning a lens with abrasive material and use a designated kit cloth instead. Another pitfall to avoid is overcleaning. Optical lenses do not tolerate excessive exposure to cleaning products, which can damage the lenses’ coatings — only deep clean your lenses when necessary.
You can keep three simple tools for lens cleaning: an air blower, a set of lens brushes and wet wipes. The air blower allows you to blow clean dry air at your lenses, removing surface dust and particulates. A simple set of lens brushes cleans the edges and removes those last few particles. Wet wipes are suitable for cleaning while on the field. If your gun scope or binoculars get dirty, apply a wet wipe to the objective. You can even use them to wipe your smartphone, your GPS screen or the lenses of your trail cams.
Stay on Top of Your Maintenance
Proper care and maintenance of every piece of equipment should be part of a hunter’s preparation process before the next hunting season. It’s a matter of discipline and developing good habits. These processes will become second nature in time, allowing you to be well prepared for the season to make the most of your time out in the blind.