A pleasant season of crisp air and cool temperatures, fall is an excellent time of year to hunt. It offers plenty of diversity, allowing hunters to pursue a range of species from turkeys to big game like elk. With various animals to choose from, fall also gives you the chance to use several different hunting weapons, including rifles and compound bows. Depending on what and where you’re hunting, certain preparation steps may be necessary. There are significant differences between hunting Alaska’s arctic for caribou and prowling the Missouri River for game birds. While small game may only be an afternoon pursuit, you may have to set up a mirror deer blind and spend several days stalking your prey for big game hunts. Despite the differences between various hunting styles, there are plenty of consistencies in preparing for fall hunting season. Our guide contains five critical ways to prepare for your upcoming fall hunts.
1. Apply for Permits
Ensure you apply for all necessary permits as early as possible. The most important permits to apply for are hunting tags. You must have a tag for each animal you kill, meaning the tags you have directly impact what you’re entitled to hunt each year. With supply and demand imbalances for most species, there are often very limited numbers of tags available throughout the season, making it necessary to apply early for any tags you want.
When the demand for animal tags, such as popular big game animals like elk, exceeds the supply, they are allocated via lottery. Each year, state wildlife agencies use the information gathered from filled tags to decide how many will be given out the following year. Depending on where you live or hunt, periods for applications can vary from winter to spring.
It’s also mandatory to have a valid hunting license from the state you hunt in. You’re eligible to buy a license once you’ve passed a hunting safety course. You don’t need to pass state-specific safety tests, but you need to buy a license for any state in which you intend to hunt. Be sure to apply for your license before the season start date
2. Practice Year-Round Scouting
Scouting is a crucial part of hunting preparation, particularly in the fall. At this time of year, visibility can be limited, and weather is often unpredictable. The more familiar you are with the landscape and habitats, the greater your odds of having a successful hunt. Failing to do your research ahead of time puts you at a disadvantage in the field.
One of the most effective ways to scout ahead of your fall hunt is to visit the hunting location. Hike or walk around the area and look for signs that animals are living there. Indicators to look for include bedding and feeding spots, shelter and water sources. Inspect them for tracks, scat or fur for clues as to what species inhabit the location. Take notes on the hunting site and try to get some good photos for further study. If state laws permit, it can be advantageous to set up cameras in the area, as this allows you to note the patterns and movements of the animals.
If you plan to hunt out of state, field hunting may not be a realistic option. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. The internet is an excellent scouting resource. Whether you use Google Earth or other map applications, you can study the layout of the hunting grounds, taking note of the terrain, hills, rivers or streams. The main disadvantage with this form of digital scouting is that there isn’t any proof of animals living at your desired hunting ground. Alternatively, you can visit online forums or blogs to discuss hunting locations with fellow hunters.
3. Check for Updates to Rules and Regulations
State wildlife agencies update hunting rules and regulations regularly. Depending on the state, updates tend to take effect every one to two years. Changes in season dates, bag limits, tag allocations and permit allocations are generally determined by wildlife biologists, agency staff and the public to increase sustainability and safety in the state.
It’s essential to be current on all rules and regulations in the state, as failure to do so can result in you doing something illegal that is punishable by law. So, whether there have been updates on particular animals, species or the type of baits and licks you can use, you should be familiar with all relevant changes when your hunting date arrives. Visit your local wildlife agency website for complete information on the current rules and regulations.
4. Prepare Your Gear and Equipment
Before packing your bags, ensure your equipment is in good condition for the hunt. Some of the most critical items in your inventory are hunting apparel. You should choose your clothing specifically for the type of hunt you’re about to embark on. For example, if you’re spending several days in the mountains, you must have a quality pair of hiking boots, base layers and a waterproof jacket, and they should be in good condition.
Stock up on scent blocker, ammunition and other important consumables. Investing in a quality hunting blind can also increase your chances of success for fall hunting. It’s an excellent tool for concealing your movements and minimizing your detection when you’re lining up a shot, as well as a warm shelter when conditions are poor. Choose a blind that’s explicitly designed for the animal you’re hunting.
5. Train and Condition for the Terrain
Hunting can be physically demanding, particularly when you have to hike several miles in the pursuit of big game. Even carrying a rifle with you for hours at a time is draining. After a prolonged period of tracking deer, you don’t want to blow your shot because of fatigue. Ensure you train throughout the summer so you’re in peak physical condition for your fall hunt.
The best way to physically prepare for a hunt is to concentrate on your hunt’s muscle groups and physical requirements. For example, if you’re going to be covering a lot of ground with a heavy backpack and a rifle, work on your stamina by going for hikes with a weighted vest or bag. Work on your craft ahead of the hunt by visiting the shooting range or getting some target practice throughout the summer.
Preparation Is Key
Failing to prepare is the downfall of many fall hunters. Whether they fail to do enough scouting ahead of time or they simply get out of shape in the off-season, many trips are wasted because hunters aren’t ready for the task at hand. If you plan on taking part in hunting trips this fall, make sure to prepare adequately. From applying for permits at the right time to investing in quality equipment, a little bit of preparation can contribute significantly to a successful hunt.