5 Must-Dos Before Opening Day

Posted on August 12, 2013



Andy Surra is the TSO Editor

Andy Surra is the TSO Editor

I’m the type of hunter that thinks about being in the woods all year long. Sadly, due to the life demands of being a responsible adult I spend more time thinking about being in the woods than actually being in the woods. If you are like me, then here are 5 things you Must-Do before archery deer season. Do these and you will be ready come opening day.

Make a Checklist.

Don’t procrastinate! If you do, then you will end up running around at the last minute getting everything you should have prepared half-finished during the final weeks leading up to the season. That only leads to mistakes and mistakes will keep you from filling your tag. If there is one thing I have learned from my father about preparation, whether it be racing prep or hunting prep, it is to make a list. Every week the TSO #3 Chevy Monte Carlo heads to the racetrack to do battle with drivers from all over the state and the car doesn’t leave the shop until every task has been checked off my old man’s list. Every essential detail can be found on his checklist including seemingly trivial items like Doug Surra’s driving suit, helmet, and racing gloves. Having the car and driver ready for the race gives you the best chance of winning on Saturday nights.

The same concept should apply to your preseason hunting preparation. Make a list of all the things you need to do before opening day and post it in your home somewhere easily visible. Hang it on your refrigerator, put it by your alarm clock, or even pin it to the visor of your car or truck. These reminders will motivate or guilt you into checking items off your list. Making a checklist will help you stay on schedule so you are ready for a successful season.

Use your 3D target to consistently hit the vitals during your practice session. Be sure to shoot from different angles.

Use your 3D target to consistently hit the vitals during your practice session. Be sure to shoot from different angles.

Practice shooting, then practice some more.

The most important factor of bowhunting without question is practice and tuning.  Ethical hunters never step into the woods for a bow hunt unless they are confident in their ability to make an accurate shot. Shooting practice is usually the difference between successful and unsuccessful hunts. Every season hunters fail to connect with their targets in the field because they simply didn’t hone their shooting skills.

You can gain a great deal of confidence your abilities as a marksman simply by practicing a few times a week.  Start with field tips to hone your skills and fine tune your bow before moving on to broadhead tuning and 3D targets. Learn how to maximize your practice session here.

Be sure to practice in your hunting element. I target shoot from an old ladder stand as well as my ground blind and climbing stand to increase my sense of comfort and minimize mistakes. Everyone has banged their bow off the side of their treestand and spooked a shooter away. Practicing from your stand will help you avoid such a disaster.

Take a seat. There is no better way to scout your location.

Take a seat. There is no better way to scout your hunting location.

Sit your location.

The use of elaborate trail cam setups for scouting and stand location are all the rage for today’s modern bowhunter, however, the most commonly overlooked preseason prep technique is the good old-fashioned sit. Spend one or two nights per month sitting in your stand in a mock hunt scenario. This will give you vital information. Many trial cameras only capture pictures and video of animals within 60 feet of the camera. Unlike photos and videos taken by a trail camera that simulate your interaction with deer at or around you stand location, sitting is the real thing. You can sit from your treestand and discover a branch you missed or forgot to trim that is blocking your shooting lane or the sneaky seldom used exit route a trophy buck uses that the other deer neglect.

I loathe the idea of schlepping through the woods during the summer and leaving my sweaty scent and other signs behind for deer to inevitably find so I have numerous cameras set up on food sources, high traffic trails, and bedding areas to help me pattern deer. That said, one or two trips a month for a sit shouldn’t ruin your location and the information you can collect can be critical to your season’s success.

Exercise is particularly important for older hunters.

Exercise is particularly important for older hunters.


I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Last year, during the summer prior to deer season I fractured my right femur and my strength and mobility was severely limited. My wife, Sara, assisted (and by assist, I mean did) all my preseason prep on the off-chance that I healed faster than normal human beings and was cleared by my doctors to go hunting.  Months of rigorous physical therapy ensued. (Shout out to Sue at Drayer Physical Therapy in Camp Hill, PA. Thank you!) Although I didn’t heal faster than anybody else would have, I used my excellent persuasion skills and somehow convinced the doctor and my physical therapist to clear me to hunt. I struggled to do all things. From Climbing to dragging i was diminished. It was very frustrating. Last season’s difficulties showed me how physically demanding hunting can be.

With the average age of the Pennsylvania’s hunting population increasing every year, it is important to work exercise into your preseason preparation. Working on your overall fitness needs to be a priority, especially for older hunters. The physical demands of dragging a 200 lbs animal through rough terrain over long distances can be life threatening for older hunters with a history of heart condition. I recommend a walking routine of 3 miles twice a week for hunters over the age of 55.

Younger hunters need exercise too. You can avoid sweating buckets and ruining a scentless approach with some cardio work. Running 2-3 miles a day, 3-5 times per week, will get your heart rate up and allow you to sneak into the woods undetected without sweating. You will also find dragging easier if you are willing to incorporate a weight training regimen to build strength throughout your entire body. A comprehensive workout routine will enhance your overall hunting experience.

AND… Who doesn’t want to show off their deer hunting abs at the beach?


When crossbow hunting I use the Horton Vision175 featured above.

When crossbow hunting I use the Horton Vision175 featured above.

Equipment check.

Ah, yes. Finally, we come to the most tedious tasks that is often avoided and forgotten. Time to clean, organize, and remove the human scent from that giant pile of wadded clothing on your basement floor. (This can be avoided entirely with proper post season storage but that’s an issue for an entirely different blogpost).  It’s time to buy new arrows and broadheads. Time to wax your string and lube your bow cams. This is also the time to double-check your safety equipment and make sure your harness doesn’t have any tears and flaws.

Do these 5 things and you will be ready for opening day. Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

As always, if you have any questions or comments email us at teamsurra@gmail.com.

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