Getting your archery gear in shape before the hunting season is not only smart, it's necessary.
Scott Root is a regional conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He's also an avid archer. He provides the following tips to help you prepare for Utah's 2013 archery deer and elk hunts:
Shoot, shoot, shoot
Inspecting your archery equipment now, to make sure it works right and that you have all of the equipment you need, is a great place to start.
Once your equipment is ready, it's time to practice your shooting.
Similar to hunting with a rifle, you have to shoot accurately to take an animal with a bow and arrow. But unlike a rifle hunter, an archer must use stealth and patience to sneak within at least 50 yards of his or her target.
"Just like with golf," Root says, "a lot of frustration can result if you haven't honed your skills. You need to practice shooting until you're as accurate as you can be."
Gather your equipment now
Early July is also a perfect time to download one of the many archery equipment checklists you'll find on the Internet.
"It's not uncommon to drive all the way to deer camp," Root says, "and then turn around and drive all the way back home because you forgot your arrow release, range finder, bow or some other piece of equipment. Want to save yourself that extra trip? Start gathering your equipment now."
In August, Utah's backcountry will probably be dry. Root says scouting for water sources that deer and elk will use during the hunt is a key to finding success. "In addition to hunting near water," he says, "carry plenty of water and snacks for yourself in your backpack."
Root says several websites offer checklists that help you know what items you should carry in your backpack. These items include a GPS unit, a knife, game bags, and a flashlight and extra batteries. "But plenty of water should be at the top of the list for anyone heading into the woods in August," he says. "Right now is also a great time to start loading your hunting pack with non-perishable food items."
Root also encourages you to visit an archery shop, a sporting goods store or an archery club to learn about the latest technology in archery equipment.
Bugs and clothes
Even though the archery hunt is usually hot and dry, mosquitoes and biting flies can still be a problem.
"Many hunters end their hunting trips early because they can't fend off these biting bugs," he says. "Insect repellant, and light clothing that protects you from bug bites, are often essential items to have with you in mid to late August."
Packing plenty of clothes in your vehicle is also a good thing to do. The weather and the temperature in the mountains can change quickly. "It's better to have too many clothes than too few," Root says.
Root says fire restrictions will probably be in place in August. As the hunt gets closer, he encourages you to check with the agency that manages the land you're going to hunt (usually the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management) to learn about any fire restrictions in the area.
Caring for harvested game
Because the temperature is usually hot during the archery hunt, it's vital that you know how to care for any deer or elk you take. "Temperatures in the backcountry often reach the 90s in August," Root says. "You need to quickly care for any animal you take."
Some archers choose to "bone out" their deer or elk in the field. After skinning the animal, they put the meat in bags and then put the bags in a backpack or sled before hiking off the mountain.
Root says several good videos are available on YouTube that will show you how to care for deer or elk you take.
(When transporting an animal, remember that the animal's head or sex organs must remain attached to the largest portion of its carcass.)
It's also important to know Utah's big game hunting rules. Root encourages you to study the rules now by obtaining a copy of the 2013 Utah Big Game Field Regulations Guidebook. The free guidebook is available at wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.
Youth archery permits
If you're 18 years of age or younger, and you don't have a general buck deer permit, you can obtain an archery permit starting at 8 a.m. on July 11. That's the day special youth archery permits — for all 30 of Utah's general deer hunting units — go on sale.
You can get a permit at wildlife.utah.gov. Permits will also be available at DWR offices and from more than 300 hunting license agents across Utah.
Extended archery areas
Root says extended archery areas are another reason to hunt big game with archery equipment. The archery hunt on these units runs through November.
Division of Wildlife Resources, State of Utah