Ever left a pack in storage to come back the next season to find the vinyl lining dry rotted, the bag strap chewed through, and a family of small rodents living in the water bottle pocket? Yup, me too.
Ever wondered if a stand’s tree strap will last all year?
Let me go ahead and save you some thought by telling you, from experience, neither the tree strap nor the cheap harness that the stand came with will last very along in the elements. Also, 20 feet is much higher once you start falling.
You must take some time during the offseason to make an inventory and maintain all your equipment — the big stuff like weapons, ATVs, and stands; also little things like coats, pack, and boots.
Organize Your Gear
Making a list of your most used equipment will save you time and money so you can stay on top of maintenance.
Make a master packing list. Note whether or not you need to replace the gear soon. For example, does your rain gear leak? Is your tree stand squeaking?
To avoid losing equipment during the offseason, I recommend getting one or two large foot lockers with locking latches. Make sure they’re the heavy-duty variety. The large tool boxes from the hardware store with wheels work well for storage too.
This guarantees you a dry, airtight, secure place to store all of your equipment. One for clothing and packs that you don’t want to get contaminated with scent, and another one for everything else.
It’s also portable. You can take everything you own for hunting with you when it’s time to go deer hunting. It’s an excellent system and works well whether you have a man cave, garage, or the corner of your living room to keep your gear.
Stuff Sacks & Gear Kits
Try and categorize every piece of equipment you use and group them all together. So when the time to hunt comes, you can load a stuff sack containing your “Shot Kit” which carries everything you need after your shot.
Same with what I call my “Travel Kit”:
- few bottles of 5-hour Energy
- power bars
- some cash
- backup phone battery
- spare headphones
- baby wipes
- germ ex
- an eye shade for sleeping during long trips
You can make these kits for overnights, repair kits, advanced first aid, navigation and food prep. Essentially anything you need in the backcountry can be divided into a system.
Try and get your gear organized into pods or stuff sacks so you can grab those bags and load them into your pack. The less time you spend packing before your trip, the more time you have for hunting.
Tree Stand Maintenance
Tree stands just need to be kept clean, dry, and away from rodents or sunlight. A garage is fine as long as there are no mice.
All of the webbing should be stored in an airtight bag so it doesn’t absorb moisture and is protected from degrading. Otherwise, you’ll risk the integrity of your life-saving equipment.
Before the season, it’s a good idea to use a scentless oil for every joint on the stand and check the integrity of any sound dampening material that is there.
Replace any of the little plastic washers that are cracked and take measures to prevent rust during the season by protecting the finish or paint on the metal.
Stands that stay in the field year-round can often be modified to use chains instead of straps for attaching to the tree.
Ladder stands are an excellent example, not only does this make them more theft resistant, but it also makes them safer by not having to worry about the integrity of the webbing from year to year.
If you need to, get the stand secured and use bicycle inner tubes cut into section and zip tied onto loose areas. It works well as sound dampening material that won’t hold scent.
The basics of keeping your guns and bows clean and lubed go beyond just cleaning them after you take them shooting.
If you’re like the majority of hunters who drag out their rifles before the season’s opener to check zero, make sure you store your guns in a way to prevent rust and damage.
Either keep moisture absorbers, dehumidifiers, or a thick coat of packing grease on the bore and action of your gun so you don’t have to visit a gunsmith before opening day.
Same with a bow, make sure the string is waxed if you’re going to pack it away for a while. For both guns and bows, make sure you have enough arrows or ammunition to keep you going all season.
The way you store these items is largely what determines how long they last, and leaning them up in the corner of your closet is the wrong way to go about it.
Switching arrows or loads in the middle of the season is a chore and take the valuable time you could be hunting.
Other Tips for Your Equipment
For everything else you need for hunting, here’s just some general tips:
DRY OUT EVERYTHING!
Noting kills gear like mildew. That smell will never, ever, ever, come out and will force you to buy new equipment.
Backpacks, boots, layers, raingear, and clothing are all susceptible. Not to mention tents, tarps, sun shelters, and any cloth case or bag.
Have a drying day at the end of the season and wash, dry and properly store everything you used.
Have Separate Containers
Don’t keep estrus scent in the same bag or tote as your sleeping bag or ghillie suit. Just keeping an open bottle of deer urine in the same tote can contaminate them.
But if you insist on keeping scents, gun cleaning agents, or bug sprays with your equipment, use the Dry Sacks sold in the camping aisle. They’re completely air and water tight and much more durable than Zip-lock baggies.
Don’t Dig through Storage
Once you store your gear for the season, leave it. There’s no reason you need to see your equipment right now. Most of the damage comes from when people tear through, looking for something, and don’t put it back correctly.
If you know that you’re going to need your rain gear for camping or your release for archery practice, don’t put it in the storage. You can also buy a second set of equipment just for hunting. It sounds expensive but it’s cheaper than buying new stuff every year.
Last Gear becomes the Backup
Don’t throw away the gear you might use. When you upgrade something, keep the old piece of kit on as a backup.
If you get a new backpacking stove, for example, keep the old one in your truck’s tool box just in case.
Plan and Have Fun!
It’s not fun to make a midnight run to Walmart for subpar equipment the night before opening day.
You’ll have more fun on the field, not to mention be more efficient, if you plan out what gear you need, what you need to upgrade and repair what’s broken.
Making your budget stretch throughout this whole process is just as important, and the offseason is the perfect time to accumulate the gear you need without dropping too much cash all at once.