August in Oregon is an exciting time for hunters with the opening of black bear, deer, gray squirrel and elk season. Cougar season runs year-round. The best hunting trips—whether you go alone or with the guys—are the ones for which you are well prepared. This means making sure your hunting knives, rifles and shotguns are cleaned and oiled, bows are tight and your equipment is in good shape.
How to Prepare for Hunting Season
- Get in shape. Hunting is considered a sport for a reason. In addition to having good aiming skills, physical fitness is essential to successfully tracking, stalking, drawing a bow and lifting heavy game. Avoid getting winded and alerting animals to your presence by starting an exercise routine and checking the outdoor chores off your honey-do list.
- Practice. The wrong time to figure out that your shooting skills are rusty is after a miss in the field. Tune your bow or rifle and mentally prepare yourself before the season begins.
- Scout your spot. Land regulations change, so it’s good to find out if your favorite spot is off limits before the season opens. If you need help finding a prime spot, talk to the local game warden, hunting club, area farmers or wildlife department office to learn about promising areas to start. When you find a good area, consider setting up trail camera to monitor the population of the game you seek and their movement patterns.
- Get educated. In Oregon, youth under the age of 18 who hunt outside of their parents’ property must pass an approved Hunter Education program, receive a Hunter Education card and have a hunting license. Kids ages 9 to 13 can participate in an approved Mentored Youth Hunter Program, which allows them to hunt without a license as long as they are with an adult who is 21 or older and has a valid license. Keep in mind that youth-related regulations vary by state. If this is your first time hunting, consider sitting in on a Hunter Education class anyway to learn some great tips.
- Secure hunting licenses and tags. Apply for your hunting license and purchase the appropriate tags early. Keep in mind you may need extra stamps if you plan to hunt in a wildlife management area.
- Check your gear. The last thing you want is your equipment falling apart after lining up a shot. In the weeks before your trip, set up your gear and test it to make sure it works and is in good shape. Don’t forget to replace the batteries in your gear and make sure rechargeable equipment still holds a charge. In addition, try on your hunting clothes to make sure they fit and see if they need mending.
- Order updated maps. Use the latest aerial photos and topographic maps to see what surrounds your hunting spot.
- Clear a path. If you have permission, clear a path to your hunting spot before the season opens so you can approach it quietly.
- Know the rules. Know all the details regarding the regulations regarding the game you want to hunt so you’re aware of all the bag limits, fees, permit requirements and legal hunting methods. For example, you can use a .22 caliber or larger handgun or rifle when hunting black bear, but you can’t when hunting elk. If you see a moose, it’s always off limits. Not knowing or following the rules can result in hefty fines or jail time.
Caring for Your Hunting Knife
Hunting knives are an essential tool. Regardless of the type of game, every hunter has one. A good knife is an investment in your hobby, and caring for it properly will ensure its longevity.
- Use your hunting knife as a pry bar unless it has a pry tip.
- Stress the springs in a multi-blade folder by opening more than one blade at a time.
- Throw hunting knives into trees or other objects. Use throwing knives instead.
- Use your knife as a makeshift screwdriver.
- Chop wood with your hunting knife.
- Store hunting knives in leather sheathes for long periods.
- Rinse off and sharpen your knife after you use it or at the end of each day during a hunting trip.
- Clean your knife regularly and before you store it. Use a soft cloth and cleaning mix made of salt and vinegar. Alternatively, you can also purchase a special cleaning product designed for stainless steel. As you clean your knife, remove any debris and fingerprints that you see on the blade and pay special attention to any moving parts.
- Oil your knife after you clean it. Oil protects hunting knives against oxidation. General purpose, mineral and honing oil work well. Only apply a thin coat of oil; too much can make it feel sticky.
- Store your knife in a cool, dry location. Only use a sheath—leather or otherwise—while hunting.
With hunting season just around the corner, don’t rush as you prepare for opening day. Careful, thoughtful preparation and planning is the key to a successful season where you and your buddies come home unhurt.