The days are getting progressively longer. The winter is nearing an end and that means more time in the field. Spring hunts offer the chance to hit the woods well ahead of most big game hunting seasons. Spring gobblers are wary. And locating emerging black bears often requires patience. Before you dust off your skills on one of these hunts, you’d better dust off the gear and make sure you’re prepared.
1. Check Boots and Clothing
Hopefully you carefully cleaned and waxed your hunting boots before putting them away. If not, it might be time to show them some love. Start by rinsing the dirt and leftover grime off your boots. Once they’re completely dry, apply a generous amount of Kenetrek Boot Wax. Let it sit for an hour and then remove the excess with a clean rag.
Likewise, take inventory of your hunting clothing. Make sure everything is clean and ready to go. If needed, apply a fresh layer of DWR (durable water repellent) finish to your rain gear and softshell garments. Nikwax offers a great lineup of products for this purpose. Spring showers and even snow are a real possibility during bear and turkey season!
2. Break Out the Calls
Prepping your gear for a Spring turkey hunt is about much more than organizing and packing a bag. Practicing your call sequences and brushing up on technique is critical. Without practicing, you might blurt out a call that doesn’t sound right at all. If a turkey is close, it might vacate rather than move closer to examine the situation.
Listen to clips of turkeys talking and practice with your calls to imitate the sounds and sequences. Calling instructional videos are also an excellent resource. Learn to send out location sequences and prepare yourself mentally to play the patience game in the field. Overcalling is a common mistake.
In addition to turkeys, calls can be effective for Spring black bear hunting, too. Fawn or calf distress calls, as well as rabbit and other typical predator calls can be used to bring black bears into range. You can use the same diaphragm elk calls you would for elk hunting – start practicing and give it a try this spring!
3. Streamline Your Gear
A spot and stalk Spring bear hunt might require a fair amount of hiking and a lot of glassing. Likewise, Spring turkey hunts often require hunters to find strategic locations and then wait for the birds to make a move. In either case, you want to be ready to quickly leave your truck and get into position.
Begin streamlining your gear by examining pack contents and anything you’ll need for a long sit. A butt pad is nice while sitting for long periods, whether calling turkeys or glassing green mountainsides for bears. You want to be ready – but you also need to stay mobile. Like so many hunting situations, there’s a balance between being prepared and over packing.
Take inventory of your accessories and make sure you have a sharpened knife and other accouterments in your field dressing kit. For a spring bear hunt, you’ll want game bags and cordage. On these hunts, consider our Magnum Pack for black bear sized game. This pack comes with four quarter bags, a meat parts bag, a camp meat bag and a trophy cape bag for the hide.
Finalize your pack contents well in advance of the hunt to avoid forgetting essentials like extra ammo, headlamps and any other gear you carry on a regular basis.
NEW HUNTER’S TARP
The Spring hunts will be a great excuse to check out our new Hunter’s Tarp! Weighing only 5 ounces, this 100% waterproof sil-tarp will serve a number of purposes. During spring snow showers and rainstorms, the Hunter’s Tarp will pitch quickly using the 4 included stakes along with a trekking pole or tree branch. In addition to being an impromptu field shelter, it’s also perfect for field dressing game when you need to set quarters on the ground or debone meat in the field. Finally, use it as a pack liner when you’re hauling out that bear meat and hide. Even under heavy weight, blood won’t soak through the double silpolyU™ coating, keeping your pack clean.
4. Prepare Your Decoys
Decoys can be a major asset to turkey hunters. When your calls bring a turkey into the area, decoys can help draw that bird into shooting range. There are many theories about how to setup decoys but the main idea is to entice a tom into shooting distance. Using several hen decoys is common and adding a young Jake to the mix adds a realistic element to the spread. Decoys come in many different forms but the lightweight versions are ideal for carrying in the field.
The paper-thin decoys are perfect for longer hikes into hunting locations and they move when a breeze comes through. This adds to the realism and can bring a tom close with confidence. In some cases, the tom might actually make contact with the decoy. Ideally, you will locate the turkeys first and setup the decoys in a manner that forces them to move past your shooting position.
5. Check Your Optics
If you’ve got a Spring bear hunt on the horizon, take time to check your optics before the hunt. With a lens cleaner and cloth, carefully clean your optics of any dust and debris from last season. Make sure eye pieces are rotating smoothly and that everything is in top condition. Better to discover any issues now, than in the days before your hunt.
Similarly, take a close look at your tripod and any other glassing necessities. Check to see that legs are extending smoothly and that everything is in order. After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time behind the glass on that upcoming Spring bear hunt!
6. Check Your Weapon
Whether you’ll be toting a bow, shotgun or rifle for your Spring hunts, spend plenty of time over the next several weeks practicing. Shotgunners can use a piece of plywood to test the spread and shoot at small targets before the hunt. Archery hunters should practice shooting at close range and from awkward sitting positions. If you’ll be hunting Spring bears with a rifle, take the time to get dialed in at the range. Then, make sure to spend time practicing with your weapon while wearing your hunting gear.
It’s time to get excited for those first hunts of the New Year! But don’t wait until the final days before your hunt to go through your hunting gear checklist. Start now and be ready for that next adventure!
By Zach Lazzari and Ryan McSparran