I do it every year. I tell myself I’m going to be better prepared, I’m going to be ready earlier, I’m not going to wait til the last minute. But every year I still do the same thing. I get busy, I lose track of time and before you know it the season is almost here and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So that being said, you can probably imagine what I’m doing right now. The headless chicken dance. But not all is lost. I’ve still got a solid idea of what I need to get done and a few weeks to get moving on it. With an October 1 archery opener in Michigan, I like to have all of my in-field prep done ,at the absolute latest, by end of August. That way the woods has a full month to calm down with no pressure. So with that in mind, my to-do list for the end of August is pretty long. To help you all make sure you’re completely on top of the game, I thought I’d share a few of my top priority items to complete before the end of August.

Make A Game Plan: Now is a great time to do any last minute scouting neccessary to help you devise your game plan for the early season. Make sure your aware of what food sources deer are using now and what food you think they’ll be using come the opener. They can definitely be different between now and then. Plan out your stands based on this information and make sure you consider prevailing winds come Fall. Now is the last best chance to confirm bedding areas, double check travel routes and confirm any other suspicions about deer movement on your property before the season is upon you. Lastly, I like to tentatively map out my initial hunts in regards to what stand locations I want to hunt (if wind cooperates) throughout the early weeks of the season. From early season, to the October lull, to the early pre-rut things can change a lot. So having a game plan in place for this constantly changing situation can be helpful.

Entry and Exit Routes: This is also a great time to nail down stealthy entry and exit routes to your stands. This is an area I’m still learning about, but it’s something I’ve finally realized is a big deal. If possible, find creeks, ditches or anything else that can help you get in and out of your stands without being seen by deer. Some folks, like Bill Winke, go so far as to pick stand locations just because of great access routes.

Finish Your Fall Plots: Here’s an area where I’ve got a lot to work on. I just started spraying some areas for my fall food plots and I want to plant in the next couple weeks. Make sure you’re aware of the ideal plant dates for whatever forage your planting and don’t be late! Lastly, even if you’re in a rush, don’t forget that soil test. Taking the little extra time to send in a soil sample can save you a lot of hassle and disappointment in the long run.

Practice: For me and many of you, this is year round. But practicing with your bow or gun should go into over drive here in late August and September. I’ve written about this before, but this time of year I like to throw a curve ball into my practice regimen. Run a couple sprints and then shoot. Shoot lying down, kneeling, leaning back against a tree, leaning around a tree. Practicing in these strange positions now will help you better prepare for the real deal. And you just never know what can happen when a deer is in front of you.

Check Gear: Now is good time to start checking all of your gear for “quality assurance”. Some people wait til the night or two before the season, but I’ve found that if you do this and find something broke or needing replacement, it doesn’t give you much time to take care of it! Check everything now and you’ll be much less stressed in the final days leading up to the season.

Set Up Cameras for New Bucks: It’s a lot of fun getting trail camera pictures of bucks during the summer. But for most of us with small properties, the majority of the bucks pictured won’t even be on our property come hunting season! When velvet starts shedding in early September, bucks will break up their bachelor groups and move to new areas. This means there will be some new bucks on your property come September, and they’ll most likely be the bucks that are on your property for the rest of the hunting season. Get your cameras out in late August, put an attractant out (if legal) and get ready to meet your new bucks. This is really when you can build out a legitimate hit list. Just be careful not to check your cameras too often in September! Keeping pressure low is key, so I’ll probably only check my cameras once in September and then not come back til I’m hunting in early October.

If you can check these six items off your to-do list now in August, I’d say you’ll be sitting pretty come the opening day of the season. Preparation is the ticket to success in the whitetail world, so don’t let time pass you by. Get working now, because before you know it,  we’ll be hunting!