May 19, 2021
I know, I hate to see deer season end, too. The thought of going months without climbing into a tree stand or riding out a biting north wind sickens me. Of course, I realize the whitetail game is a 365-day-a-year obsession. There’s always work to do, but I must admit the pursuit is my favorite piece of the puzzle. However, offseason work is essential. While tending to food plots, improving deer habitat, performing post-season herd surveys, and the like rank high on my annual to-do list, I’ll argue another task is equally important. I’m talking about gear cleaning and storage. It’s something every serious hunter should do shortly after the season ends.
Cleaning your trusty deer rifle post-season is a no-brainer, right? One would think. However, over the past three years, I’ve seen four deer hunters pull their shooters from padded cases only to find them covered in rust. I’ve seen bolts that wouldn’t slide, magazines that wouldn’t eject . . . the list of rifle nightmares goes on. Two of the four guys couldn’t sight-in at camp because their firearms weren’t functioning properly. Will you shoot your rifle during the off-season? I hope so. Still, running some cleaning pads soaked in Hoppe’s No. 9 or a similar solvent, as well as a wire brush down the bore, is essential. And don’t stop there. I always remove my bolt and take down the trigger assembly to give both a deep cleaning. If tinkering with the trigger assembly makes you nervous, pull out the owner’s manual or watch some YouTube videos.
Bows Need Love, Too
I abuse my bow, but at the season’s end, it gets a good once-over. Yes, I’ll continue to shoot it — almost every day, in fact — but it still deserves some care and an overall inspection. Luckily, this is pretty simple. Start by giving the strings a good wax-ing. Don’t go too heavy. I like to dab a little Bohning Seal Tite on the strings and cables. I even wax areas of serving, as well as my D-loop. Massage in the wax with your fingers. Then take a piece of serving or dental floss, cross the ends over one another, pull tight, and slide the created loop down the string and cables. This process will remove gunk and excess wax and get wax deeper into the string. Following the wax job, add a few drops of cam oil to your bushings and inspect limbs and riser for cracks or other damage. A Q-tip doused in CLR (Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover) is great for bolt and screw heads on the bow, as well as the sight and rest. Once the rust is gone, add a little gun oil for good measure. If you haven’t already done so, the post-season is a great time to get a silver Sharpie and mark the position of the cams between the limbs. Mark the peep height on the string, too. If you do take a shooting break, it’s nice to have some marks to refer to — especially marks that were on the money when you were busting deer lungs.
Better Battery Life
You love your Ozonics. After all, it’s saved your bacon more than once. Just be sure to treat it right during the off-season. Don’t leave a battery in your unit. Instead, charge each battery until full and then run each down to a 50 percent charge. HR-200 users will want to run standard batteries for 2.5 hours on Boost Mode and XL batteries for 5 hours.
HR-300 users can simply place batteries in the HR-300 charger and wait for the LED to turn red. Once that occurs, press and hold the “Press for Storage” button on the front until the red LED starts to blink at a once-per-second rate. You’ll know you’re at a 50 percent charge when the battery is alternately blinking between red and green.
When all batteries are at a 50 percent charge, they should be stored in a cool, dry place. This will prolong the life of the batteries and prevent them from failing.
Trail Camera TLC
There will likely be a few months when your trail cameras are in the garage and not in the woods. This is a great time to clean screens and lenses and remove and clean battery trays. It’s not uncommon to find battery corrosion in the tray. Like a battery post on your car, this needs to be cleaned.
Now is also a great time to remove all old batteries and replace any straps that are on their last legs. Of course, it’s the prime time of year to clear images off SD cards and create organized folders on your computer to save noteworthy images. Keeping detailed logs of trail camera photos can be an excellent way to keep track of target bucks, as well as overall herd numbers.
Just Take Them Down
Whether you hunt public or private dirt, take down your tree stands and steps each year. Yes, I’ve gone the lazy route and have left stands on private tracts for years at a time, replacing the straps but doing nothing else to care for the stands. This is a mistake, and it can be dangerous.
Stands should come out of the tree each year. Before storing them, inspect straps for any damage. In addition, check all other functioning stand parts: wires, nuts, bolts — everything. I use a socket and ratchet to check all attachment points and tighten any that have worked loose.
Wash and Store Those Clothes
Post-season clothing organization is a must. For me, few things are more frustrating than finding a mid-season jacket hanging in my son’s closet or a late-winter pair of bibs stuffed into the corner of the laundry room.
First, wash all your garments in your favorite scent-free wash. When they’re clean and dry, have a plan for storing them in an organized manner. A great choice for storing garments during and after the season is the Ozonics O.N.E. Gear Locker. This rugged, collapsible closet system can be used with an Ozonics field generator to create an ozone-neutral environment for your hunting gear.
Plastic storage containers are an alternative. Grab some totes and a black Sharpie and label each box. Then fold and store. Come fall you’ll know exactly where your gear is, from early season to closing day.
Last season, I helped a buddy break down a good buck. He tossed me a knife from his pack, and I could barely pull it from its leather home; the amount of blood, hair and gunk on the knife was disgusting.
You should use warm water and dish soap to clean your knives after each hunt. Never put them into the dishwasher or let them air dry. Always wipe each knife clean, and be sure to use a Q-tip or other cleaning device to remove any blood or hair that’s clinging to the area where the blade meets the handle.
After each knife is clean and dry, use your sharpener of choice to bring the edge back to life. My go-to sharpener is Lansky’s Multi-Angle Quad Sharp. This fit-in-your-pack tool features 17-, 20-, 25- and 30-degree carbide slots and a ceramic hone. It even will sharpen serrated blades.
Finally, run a rag over each blade to remove any microscopic debris, then store your knives back in their leather cases. If you don’t have a leather case for every knife, add some silicone to a cloth and apply it to all blades before storing. Silicone is non-toxic and is used often in the culinary world to prevent corrosion. With your blades coated, take some Gorilla Tape and cardboard and build makeshift sheaths for each.
There you have it! I hope these seven post-season gear tips will take your mind off the fact that deer season is over. Better yet, they should make you better prepared than ever for next season.