Boost Your Hunting Success: Don't Overlook These Pre-Hunt Essentials

Boost Your Hunting Success: Don't Overlook These Pre-Hunt Essentials

For many, including myself, planning the hunt is almost as exciting as the hunt itself. E-scouting with Google Earth, OnX, Basemap, or whatever mapping system you use and ensuring I have my weapon dialed in and all the new gear needed is just fun.

However, it's important to remember that overlooking crucial aspects of gear preparation each season can lead to unforeseen issues. While oversights may never become a problem, others can quickly derail a hunt or pose a safety concern. To avoid these potential pitfalls, there are specific steps we can take ahead of a hunt. While these steps may not be as thrilling as planning the hunt, they are crucial and worth your time.



First and foremost, if you need new boots, it's essential to buy them now. Whether your boots are new or old, it's crucial to ensure they are ready for your hunt. If your boots are a pair you’ve had for a while, make sure they are properly cleaned and oiled. Brush off all dirt and debris and inspect them. If they are in decent shape, treat them with the proper products ahead of the season. Some aren’t concerned with scent, but I prefer to avoid any extra unnatural scents, so I like to let the boots air out after treatment before a hunt. Another thing to consider is the condition of the laces. They are inexpensive, and I can speak from experience: walking five miles back to a trailhead and driving an hour to get laces after a boot lace malfunction is not the best use of your hunting time.

Boots - Whether your boots are new or old, you have some work to do to ensure they're hunt-ready.

Backpack and Bino Harness

Of course, you need to ensure that your bino harness and backpack are in good working order, but I want to discuss cleaning them more. These items collect and store a surprising amount of dirt and odors. I've tried to perfect the art of cleaning these items properly for years, and this is the best method I've come up with:

Remove the bag from the pack, throw it in the washing machine with scent-free detergent, and run it through with warm (not hot) water. If doing this, buckle the buckles and turn the bag inside out. This step may not be crucial, and the bag can be cleaned with the rest of the pack, but it's an option.

Next, fill your bathtub with hot water, submerge the frame and suspension system, and let them soak. Drain and refill the water with hot water after the water cools down. Re-submerge and scrub thoroughly with dish soap, which is effective at breaking down grease and dirt. Once that process is complete, take the pack outside and hose it off until the water runs clean.

If the pack is extremely dirty or bloody, use a garden hose sprayer to clean it off first before going through the routine. I follow the same routine for the Bino harness.


 Clean Pack - Packs hold more scent than you might realize; clean them periodically to avoid detection. 

Need a NEW Pack? Upgrade your pack here!


I am always surprised how many people don't prepare for their safety in an emergency. They don’t carry even a basic first aid kit or have a plan for help if needed. At the very least, a fully stocked first aid kit to handle minor cuts and bruises is necessary. Having a quick clot and a tourniquet is also a good idea, but I'll leave it to you to decide precisely what to carry. Open your first aid kit and ensure you have the necessary essential items. If you used some band-aids, ibuprofen, or anything else during the previous season, replace them. The time to find out you forgot to do so is not when there is blood spraying all over the place.

Another crucial safety item is an inReach or similar communication device. Many folks suspend their subscriptions in the off-season, which is perfectly fine. Before leaving on your hunt, ensure your subscription is activated and the device works correctly. These things can be hard or

impossible to fix when you're away from phone service. Again, where safety is concerned, these things need to be dealt with before the hunt, not once things go sideways.


Emergency - Ensure your medical kit is fully stocked; it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Backpacking Gear

If you don’t backpack hunt, feel free to skip to the next section. If you do, let’s dive in.

Sleeping Pad: A functioning sleeping pad is essential not only for your comfort but also for your warmth. Few things are as vital to your warmth when sleeping as being insulated from the ground. Inflate your sleeping pad and submerge it in water. If you see leaks, patch them or get a new pad.

Tent: Depending on your tent or tipi, it may or may not have come from the factory with sealed seams. If they weren’t sealed initially or it's been a while, consider getting some seam sealant and doing it yourself. It may not often be an issue, but as they say, when it rains, it pours, and the last place you want to experience this is inside your sleeping quarters.

Water Filter: One item I always seem to forget is my water filter. If it's been a while since your pump or gravity-fed water filtration system had a new filter installed, now would be a good time to replace it. Water is high on the list of the most valuable commodities on a hunt, so ensure your filtration system is clean and in good working order.


Get an Edge

I have a serious question: are your knives sharp right now? Often, I find myself packing for a trip and realize my knives are dull. Whether you sharpen them yourself, have a friend do it, or send them off to the factory to be sharpened, the time to do so is now. I’m not too proud to admit that I am not amazing at sharpening knives. Due to this, I prefer to buy from companies that allow customers to send their knives in to be

sharpened and fixed free of charge. I do a pretty good job of keeping an edge on my knife with my Worksharp sharpener, but once a year, I like to send my knives back to the factory to be inspected, maintained and sharpened. That way, I go into my hunts knowing I have a razor-sharp knife ready for the task at hand.


Sharp - Sharp knives can prevent many headaches during a hunt, so keep them well-honed.

Never Miss, or at Least Try Not To

OK, honestly, I have missed plenty of shots on game. However, I would love to have an excuse for why I missed, usually it’s my failure to execute in the moment of truth. There was one time when it wasn’t my fault, and although it was ten years ago, it still stings.

I had made a massive climb to the backside of a ridge, out of sight of a beautiful 170” high-country mule deer. I made my way over the top and slithered my way to the cliff's edge where he had been bedded, only to find an empty bed. I started poking around and soon saw him feeding a short distance away, well within my effective range. I ranged him, drew my bow, and felt good about the release. Then, I watched in horror as my arrow flew a good foot over his back, and I watched the buck from my dream scenario run out of my life.

I sat down in disbelief that I had blown this incredible opportunity. People sometimes miss, and I accept that, but I was floored by how far I missed this shot when I felt I had executed it well. As I sat there kicking rocks, I ranged the spot again, and that’s when it hit me: the angle compensation feature on my rangefinder had malfunctioned. The shot was a steep downhill shot, and instead of giving me an angle-compensated distance, it gave me a line-of-sight distance. I had to send the unit back to the company to be replaced, which was nice of them, but it didn’t help me get that shot back on that beautiful mountain buck.

The moral of the story is to ensure you know how to use your rangefinders and their different modes and ensure they function correctly.

Rangefinding - This image shows a Leupold rangefinder reticle. Familiarize yourself with your unit's modes and verify they work correctly.


Don’t Let the Little Things Be Big Things

This is not the be-all-end-all list of things that must be prepared before the season. There is obviously a lot that goes into preparing for a hunt. These are a few things that, after 30+ years of preparing for hunts, I make sure to get done. As mentioned, I love the prep, but glossing over some of these details is easy. Some of them are little things that can turn into big problems if they don’t work correctly or can negatively affect your hunt. Take the time now to cross them off your list so you can confidently return to the fun stuff of planning and the hunt itself, knowing you have done the necessary things to ensure a safe and productive hunt.

About the Author:

Zach Bowhay is known as a hunter and writer who has successfully hunted many species all across the western states and beyond. Specifically he is highly regarded in the western hunting community as an expert in DIY elk hunting on public lands. For 15 years he has been a well-published writer, sharing his love of the outdoors and expertise in both gear and tactics through his writing as well as video and photos. When not spending time with his wife and three kids he can be found roaming the mountains of the west in the pursuit of adventure.

Find him on Instagram

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