Hunters prepare for opening day

PLAN AHEAD: Hunters who take the time to prepare and scout ahead can generally look forward to a more successful hunting season. (Pioneer photos/Justin McKee)

PLAN AHEAD: Hunters who take the time to prepare and scout ahead can generally look forward to a more successful hunting season. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

Deer hunters counting the days to Nov. 15, Hunters that put in the most work tend to be more successful

BIG RAPIDS — It’s time to start getting ready for the biggest day of the hunting season.

Nov. 15 to hunters is like Dec. 25 is to children. But like families making preparations for Christmas, deer hunters wanting to have success on the opening day of firearm season also need to get ready.

Jack Snyder, 71, of Remus has shot 25 deer in his lifetime. Both he and his son, Jeff Snyder, 46, are successful bow hunters, who also are getting ready for the the 15th.

“Jeff does three to four food plots at the start of fall,” Jack Snyder said. “We put out allotments of (food for deer). That makes a difference.”

“We spend a lot of time with the (trail) cameras,” Jeff Snyder said. “The cameras tell you what’s out there. Just be patient. Opening day, we’ll see eight or nine bucks. We’re only after the monsters.”

James Miller, area wildlife technician for the DNR, who works out of the Paris field office, said most hunters will make sure their equipment is shooting straight.

“They’ll go out to the range and get their rifles sighted in, or shotgun, depending on which area you’re at in Michigan,” he said. “From that point, they make sure they’re checking their stands, putting out trail cameras and things along those lines. Now that we allow bait, a lot of hunters will put out bait and set up small baiting stations for deer.”

Preseason work usually pays off for hunters.

“The more prepared you’re for the season, typically the more success,” Miller said. “But hunting is hunting. Just because you’re the most prepped individual on the list doesn’t mean you’ll always see deer. Most people who put in their time have more success than people who take a lot less effort toward their hunts.”

It’s obviously tough to predict weather for Nov. 15, but hunters should obviously be prepared for
anything.

“You watch it from a couple of days out,” Miller said. “Typically, going online anymore, you can see what’s going on. For me specifically and most of the guys I know who hunt, we’ll watch the weather for a couple of days if we have a big hunting weekend coming up and try to plan.

“You want to see what the wind direction is like, how strong the wind is going to be. If you have a stand that’s blocked a little bit more from wind down on the ridge or something along those lines on your windier days, most people try to hunt those spots compared to an open field where the wind will be really strong.”

Weather reports tend to be reliable enough for hunters to abide by, Miller said.

Avid hunter Josh Mead, of Bitely, said scouting is critical for hunters.

“You have to learn the trails and where the deer are moving, where they’re at, where they’re bedding and where they’re feeding,” he said. “If you don’t know any of that, you’re just hunting blind.  Predominant winds are usually out of the north and northwest, so placing your blind properly so you don’t get winded (is critical).”

Hunters also need to check their clothing and equipment.

(Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

(Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

“That includes binoculars, flashlights and making sure they have fresh batteries,” Mead said. “Getting out there in the woods, you should have some extra rations, water and stuff like that in case you get stranded or lost, even some experienced hunters still forget that stuff. They’re thankful another experienced hunter is with them.

“Scouting is the most important thing. A trail camera is a good tool to have. It lets you know exactly what’s coming around, what’s passing through and what’s feeding in those areas.”

Before deer hunters could use trail cameras,”you looked for scrapes and rubs on the trees,” Mead said. “For feeding areas, you’d try to find oak trees, and berry patches and things the deer would feed on.”

Jake McMillon, of Baldwin, also looks forward to Nov. 15.

“They should make sure their firearm equipment is functioning properly,” he said. “You should try to be as scent free as possible and put all the chips in your corner.”

Hunters should also enter the season with a strong patient attitude, McMillon added.

Another active hunter, Dustin Gallentine, of Irons, said hunters should make sure they sight in their guns.

“They can get bumped, knocking your sight off,” he said. “I always make sure I wash off the cologne off me. I use spray-on scent killer or odor eliminator.”

Hunters also need to make sure they follow DNR regulations for proper licenses.

“When you shoot a deer, make sure you have the right tag for it,” Gallentine said. “And make sure you practice safety.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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