It’s not often that we get to enjoy near zero temperatures and sub-zero wind chill in north Alabama. However, last week, we got just that and I have to say, it’s not one of my favorite things. I like cool weather and can tolerate cold weather, but we are just not use to those temps here and for me, it’s just not comfortable. However, there is something to be said for a bracing cold that does not dissipate with the coming of the sun – an event everyone should experience a few times, just to make us appreciate our usually mild winters.
There are a few days left in our deer, duck, and small game hunting seasons. Most end with the passing of January, and by mid-February, hunting is done and other pursuits begin to draw our attention. Even though the hunting is over, does not mean that the season is. Let me explain.
As hunters, fishermen, and outdoorsmen and women, we all understand that there is a period of preparation before each season and a smaller, but just as important preparation before each individual outing or event. Likewise, there should be a conclusion to each outing and event and to the season.
Once the hunting is over, I have a tendency to get lazy and focus my thoughts on the spring fishing that is soon to be upon us. However, your hunting gear deserves better than to be wadded up and stuck in a corner of the shed until next season. Now is the time to make sure all your gear is ready to serve again next year and for years to come.
Make sure you wash and thoroughly dry all of your hunting clothing per the manufacturer’s recommendations on the care tag of the garment. For base layers and undergarments, fold neatly and store together with your neatly folded and joined socks. For mid-layer and light outer layers, hang or fold neatly and store together. For heavy outerwear, hang up in your closet or in a designated storage area. Clean your boots thoroughly and dry completely. For leather boots, this is a great time to apply a premium boot dressing and preservative (I have had tremendous success with Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative). There are many options, but whatever your preference, these dressings will keep the leather moist, supple, and ready to go, even after long periods of storage. Synthetic fiber and rubber boots do not require as much care, but do need to be cleaned thoroughly and stored properly.
Equipment care is also paramount to an enjoyable and successful outing, so don’t skimp when it comes to taking care of the gear that takes care of you. Bows need to be cleaned, lubricated, and the strings and cables will need to be waxed for storage. It is a good idea to store arrows without broadheads attached. Firearms will need to be field stripped, thoroughly cleaned, and properly lubricated. If you are unfamiliar with this process, then please take your firearms to a professional for an annual checkup and post-season cleaning. Firearms should be stored properly and safely, with adequate airflow to prevent moisture buildup and retention (don’t store in a gun case in the closet). Ammunition needs to be stored separate from the firearms, and in a locked cabinet and needs to be kept cool and dry. Portable stands need to be cleaned, dried, and stored properly in a dry area. Waterfowlers need to make sure they clean and dry their hunting and fishing waders and store by hanging from a heavy duty clothes hanger, or by the boots using a commercial wader hanger. Decoys need to be washed, dried, sorted, and properly stored. This is a great time to do any touch-up painting, leak repairs, and general maintenance on your decoys. Rifle optics and binoculars also need some TLC at the end of the season. Clean thoroughly and make sure all surface grime and detritus is removed from the lenses using lens tissue, or a dedicated microfiber cleaning cloth or soft brush. Make sure your optics are protected by snug-fitting covers that will keep out dust and dirt during storage. ATV’s, boats, and any other vehicles utilized for the hunting season will need to be washed, dried, and hopefully have the fluids changed or serviced. Don’t overlook trailer wheel bearings as you finish up your end-of-season maintenance ritual.
And a ritual it should be. Most of us don’t have the money to replace or repair our outdoor gear every year. It is paramount that you do the best job you can when it comes to maintaining and revitalizing your rain gear. Taking some time at the end of the season to prep your gear for storage will insure that when you take it out again, it is ready to serve you well for another season.