Summer Checklist for Hunters

July 8, 2024 greg wagner

Summer is here. It’s hot. It’s humid. Tomatoes are ripening. Early ears of sweet corn are being harvested. Boating, swimming, tubing and fishing are being widely enjoyed now.

But, wait a second. Hold on for a moment.

For those of us who are avidly involved in the hunting lifestyle and its year-round process, summer means a myriad of things to do if we are to have a safe and successful fall hunt.

I don’t know about you, but in summer, my thoughts begin to drift toward cool, crisp mornings, falling leaves and maybe even a bit of snow cover on the ground.

With a smattering of snow cover, Steve Wagner of Gretna, NE walks to his box blind on the family farm in Sarpy County during a recent Nebraska firearm deer hunting season.. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Perhaps you can picture yourself throwing out teal duck decoys on warm, humid, early September morning in your favorite wetland.

A waterfowl hunter puts decoys out on a Saunders County, NE wetland for the Cornhusker State’s early teal duck hunting seasons. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I know that you have been spending some time on the target range practicing with your firearm or bow. I know that you have been down the aisles of nearby sporting goods stores perusing the newest hunting clothing and equipment and checking out the special sales.  In fact, I purchased a new deer hunting rifle at a bargain price.

A new deer hunting rifle was purchased at a good, off-season, clearance price from a local sporting goods business well in advance of the firearm deer hunting season in Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

But even with some tasks done, there’s more to do in the domain of hunting than just daydreaming about the autumn hunting experience this time of year.

An adult white-tailed deer buck emerges after exhibiting a series of grunts during the rut on a farm in Saunders County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

This is the time to sweat, literally and otherwise. It is actually the time to sweat the small stuff of your upcoming fall hunts.

It’s time to check over your duck decoys like these just removed from storage shed in rural Dawson County, NE. Are they all intact? Do they need a little touch up work? Are the strings that are attached to them still good and strong? Are the weights secure at the end of each string?  Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Planning in the summer avoids the haste and frantic state of sorting gear and packing the night before your big, opening morning adventure. It’s those little, but critical things that have a way of piling up quickly and being forgotten or overlooked in the days just prior to your major hunting season openers.

A high quality first-aid kit like this one is a must to take on any hunting trip. Have you purchased one or gone through yours yet? Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Remind yourself there is much hunting homework that needs to be done!

Installing and monitoring trail or game cameras is one of the more important tasks to be done by the deer hunter in summer. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Being a person who practices what they preach, I sat down recently and put fingers to my computer keyboard to develop a handy, but extensive checklist for you and me to use to make certain that we are fully prepared when our Nebraska hunting seasons arrive. Here’s the list:

____Connect with the landowner or land manager where you plan to hunt. In-person contact is best. The big thing is to be certain you still have permission to hunt and that part of their land hasn’t been sold or leased. Consider sending or shipping a gift to their doorstep after acquiring access, perhaps a cold box of Nebraska boneless ribeye steaks.

____Arrange time off work for crucial dates like opening days, weekends, weeks, or the peak of the deer rut. Also arrange lodging or make state park cabin or camping reservations.

____ Purchase required permits and stamps and acquire other mandatory items for your hunt when obtainable (e.g. H.I.P. number for hunting doves, ducks and geese, free East Zone grouse hunting permit, state park entry permit, etc.). Know the periods for purchasing big game hunting permits in Nebraska. Get details on those and acquire permits online at 

____Check hunter education requirements for youth and other young folks. Read information about and successfully complete the course online at Don’t forget about the $5 Apprentice Hunter Exemption Certificate that is available.

____ Study the current laws and regulations that apply to the game animals or birds you plan to hunt, sometimes there are changes. Put the local conservation officer’s phone number and Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers phone number (1.800.742.7627) in your Android or iPhone.

____ Download fresh, new apps on your mobile device to get up-to-date, detailed maps of your hunting areas. The 3-D GPS hunting app onX Hunt would be an example of this.

____ Review your compass. map and GPS interpreting skills. If your mobile device or GPS stopped working, could you navigate out of a remote location like the Nebraska sandhills or pine ridge with a compass and a topographic map? You might want to brush up on your orienteering skills.

____Scout your hunting land repetitively at periodic intervals as we progress into fall. Note where certain crops are planted, grass has been hayed and cattle or other livestock are grazing. Highlight any changes with the maturation of crops, habitat or landscape. Put up trail/game cameras and start monitoring them.

____Help your wildlife resource by participating in the Summer Wild Turkey Brood Survey. Find out how here.

____Trim tree limbs/branches or brush for shooting lanes on your deer hunting land.

____Mow or weed-whack deer/game trails.

____Regularly water and weed your spring-planted wildlife food plots.

____Take soil samples and have them tested. Then you will know what to plant, where to plant and when to plant and with regard to fall wildlife food plots on your private land, where allowed. Crops such as wheat, oats, rye, clover, turnips and brassicas like rape are those commonly planted.

____Make the necessary repairs to treestands, box blinds, trailer blinds, etc. and clean/touch-up decoys and patch waders.

____Service your ATV or UTV. Opening weekend is not the time to find out the machine won’t start or run right.

____Assemble all your gear, examine it, clean it and repair or replace any things that are worn-out or broken. How’s the condition of your portable, camouflaged pop up blind? Carefully inspect fall restraint systems that are utilized for hunting from elevated deer hunting positions.

____Obtain a good, comprehensive, light-weight first-aid kit to carry on your hunts or go through your existing one and add any items needed.

____Compile a small, light-weight survival kit to include such things as a multi-tool, lighter and fire starting materials, water, high-energy snacks, emergency space blanket  and some rope or cord.

____Look at reviews on the latest hunting gear. Check to see if special sales exist on those new, highly-rated gear products either online through reputable websites or at local sporting goods stores.

____Purchase ammunition and any other hunting-related supplies needed.

Your blogger acquired three boxes of centerfire rifle ammunition for Nebraska’s firearm deer hunting seasons from a reputable website. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

____Wash all of your hunting clothes in unscented soap and store it in a plastic bag, if you have not done so already. Even add a some cedar chips to the bag.

____Buy new human scent-reducing supplies for deer hunting.

____Put fresh batteries in head lamps, flashlights, cameras, GPS units, etc.

____Sharpen your field-dressing, skinning and other hunting knives.

____Touch-base with your doctor to schedule a thorough physical examination. Schedule your hunting dog for a preseason check up with your veterinarian.

____Become acclimated to the weather for early season hunting. You and your hunting dog both should start a fitness regimen outside and stick to it. It could be aa simple as evening walks.

____Practice shooting as much as possible. Just as with our physical conditioning, we also need to maintain our shooting abilities. A lot of hunters shoot their firearms and bows only 2 or 3  times a year and that may not be enough. Kick up your shooting sessions a few notches with realistic hunting scenarios, if possible. Remember, our duty as a hunter is to make an effective shot for a quick, humane kill through regular target shooting sessions.

____Practice calling.  From ducks to bucks, if you’re going to use a call or call-sounding device, practice imitating the game bird or animal you want to draw to within shooting range before getting in the field. Match your calls for accuracy by listening closely to recordings or watching videos on

____ Start breaking in your new hunting boots. Do not let painful blisters or sores on your feet, aching feet ruin your fall hunt.

____Contact local butcher shops that have processed deer. Find out if they are still going to be processing deer. Save their information, hours of operation and possible involvement in the Nebraska Hunters Helping the Hungry program.

____Stock up on your favorite spices, seasonings and sauces that you use to enhance the flavor of wild game meats.

____Jot down and look over those miscellaneous items you take to the field. Some are necessary, others make the experience more comfortable or efficient. What are some of your miscellaneous items? Several of mine are binoculars, range finder, wind-checking device, folding saw, rubber gloves and hand warmers.

____Place all your hunting gear in one, easily accessible place, such as a large plastic or wooden storage box. Better yet, arrange it neatly in your hunting packs.

Preparing for fall’s great hunts is a rather large assignment. But, as the old saying goes: Failure to plan is a plan for failure. It is so true when it comes to hunting. After all, the unraveling will come down to the last detail.

Okay, now you can go back to indulging in your daydreams about the autumn hunting experience.

Upland game bird hunters wade through a sea of Sandhills grass in pursuit of  sharp-tailed grouse north of Taylor, NE in rural Loup County. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The post Summer Checklist for Hunters appeared first on Nebraskaland Magazine.

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