A rapidly approaching cold front, complete with rain that washed out World Series Game 6 and near gale-force winds, might call for a weekend spent clearing the decks for the bulk of the hunting seasons and the usually grand fall-winter fishing ahead. Besides, LSU is not playing and that alone frees up several Saturday hours.
Now it’s up to you to put whatever meaning you want to “clear the decks.”
It could mean tackling that honey-do list - it helps when it comes to getting that “yard pass” you’ll need for coming deer, duck or rabbit hunts or for that can’t-miss fishing weekend.
Even better is to tend to the chores most outdoorsmen usually wait until the last minute to tackle.
Hunters, you know this drill. You came back from that late-season duck hunt, wiped the shotgun down, stowed it and haven’t taken a look at it for almost nine months now. Shotgun shells are laying loose in the bottom of your blind bag and, most probably, your favorite duck call is filthy and decoys are dulled by long-dried mud.
Back when David Reynerson was knee-deep in gun repair (and not managing Bowie Outfitters), he told a story about a duck hunter who brought his shotgun in the Monday after opening weekend.
“Look at this,” Reynerson said. “No wonder the gun didn’t operate.”
The automatic shotgun, broken down into the three main groups - receiver, trigger and stock - was filled with duck feathers.
“How they got into the receiver and into the trigger I don’t know, but all the guy told me he did was put a little oil around the bolt and believed he was ready for action. And he wondered why it didn’t work.
“It ruined his entire weekend. He said the ducks were really flying,” Reynerson said.
OK, so take out your favorite weapon, whether it be shotgun or rifle, or even a bow or crossbow if the weather’s been too hot to get into a stand with those weapons, and make sure they work.
Check bows and crossbows for string wear and check pulleys to make sure they’re operating.
For guns, make sure they’re unloaded first.
“You’d be surprised how many hunters put away loaded weapons after the season,” Reynerson cautioned - then break them down.
If there is a bullet or shell in the chamber and it has jammed in the chamber - this happens more times than you’d think - then don’t try to force it out. Take it to a gunsmith, and make sure to keep the bolt open.
Cleaning kits are inexpensive, and if you can’t clean it, then take it to a reputable gunsmith to have the work done. If you don’t know how to break down the weapon, most smiths are happy to explain the procedure for your gun or rifle.
If you clean it, remember to wipe off excess oil from all moving parts. Too much oil can get gummy, especially if you get it dirty on that first hunt, and excess oil can ruin wooden stocks.
After cleaning, and only if you have access to a shooting range, fire the weapon.
Now for the accessories:
• Check nuts, bolts and chains on climbing stands along with any wooden slats for wear. Replace as needed.
• Put fresh batteries in flashlights and other electronic devices. Check for corrosion.
• Wash decoys. Retouch chips and scratches and, for rubber decoys, apply a very light coating of mineral oil. If you look at ducks on a pond, their feathers shine and the light coat of oil will help the decoy’s appearance. Check decoy strings and weights, too.
• If you use a “duck boat,” make sure it runs. Unlike outboards, Go-Devils and surface-drive engines do not need to be in the water to run. Crank them up. It’s best to find out if they work now, rather than to find they don’t crank on opening morning.
• Check the cranking battery and any frayed wires on these engines. Little critters like to gnaw on wires, and weather can crack wires, to. Check any and all fuses.
• And, opening morning is not the time to find out your hip boots or waders have a hole just below the knee.
• For boats with outboards and all other trailers, this might be the best time to make sure lights are working, wires are serviceable, ground-wires are tight.
• Check out the trailer’s bearings and hubs. Even trailers with “buddy” bearings need to be inspected and bearings, especially the inside bearings, need to be cleaned and repacked.
• Summer-long use demands you check, clean and oil fishing reels, probably replace line and clean the guides on fishing rods.
Then, with the time remaining, you can always reorganize your fishing tackle.