By Paul Annear

I used to think running trail cameras, hanging stands, and shooting my bow all summer fully prepared me for my first sit of the year in my home state of Wisconsin. But over the past few seasons, I came to realize this wasn’t enough to have me prepared to climb into a stand quietly with all my equipment and everything set as I’d like.

On more than one occasion I’d wish I had practiced pulling up my bow or trimmed tiny twigs on the tree close behind me to prevent loud snapping noises as I climb. More often than I’d like, I’d get settled on my first sit of the year and say to myself, “wow, that was noisy.”

Opening day is still a few months a way, but the planning and preparations can begin now. Here are 5 ways to avoid that terrible, sinking feeling that comes along with knowing that you didn’t quite prepare well enough for that first sit.

1. Practice, practice, practice. It might sound a little invasive, but I think it is well worth your time putting on your opening day archery gear, walking to a stand with all your equipment and rehearsing a set up in your tree stand during summer. You will find out how quiet (or loud) you are, and quickly discover which part of your rehearsal needs work. This is also a great time to do a safety check of all tree stands and straps.

2. Small details. Oftentimes, reducing noise while climbing into a stand or getting settled could be as simple as the speed at which you climb or what side of the tree you pull your bow up on. Also, it’s easy to remember the need for a hook to hang your bow, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting one for your backpack. I’ve made that blunder and had to stuff it under my seat on the platform or hang my pack below me on a climbing stick, making it difficult and noisy to reach items. Take care of this well ahead of time by getting those details taken care of during the summer on each of your stands.

3. Water! Nothing is worse than climbing my parents’ 1200 foot bluffs of SW Wisconsin in September only to realize I don’t have any water. I’m usually reminded of this mistake as my heart is blasting out of my chest and my throat as dry as sand. It’s easy to forget an item or two on the first sit of the year, but make sure water isn’t one of them. Packing a little water is a necessity for staying sharp and focused while on stand. The last thing I want to be doing is contemplating heading back to the truck early due to thirst or hunger. Pack the essentials to sit patiently during your first hunt.

4. Shoot from the tree. While you are out checking stands during the summer, take your bow with and either take a few shots into the dirt or at least pull your bow back while you are on stand to ensure you have trimmed properly. I don’t believe pretending like you are pulling your bow back is good enough, take your bow and go through the motions. This is also a good time to use a pull rope and see how many branches are blocking your bow while on the way up to the tree.

5. Don’t rush the process. Much like the hunting season itself, setting up for the first sit of the year is a process and it typically doesn’t go smooth without some prep. Getting up early enough for a hunt and ensuring all equipment is working and organized saves headaches and possibly separates successful seasons from seasons full of failure. Have a plan in place for that first hunt and for the hours leading up to it. Maybe even put together a list of the items you need to pack and the to-do items you need to complete before heading into the field.