So it’s been another good, long season. If yours was anything like mine, the grind started 5 months ago, back on September 1st. Or perhaps even sooner for those lucky enough to chase honkers in mid August. Either way, it’s all over now. Time to switch gears, drop a line through the ice and start getting ready for spring turkey season. But first… what to do with all the gear that just got done taking a beating for the last 5 months? Decoys, decoy bags, sleds, blinds, boots, camo, waders, guns, trailers, generators, aerators, and the list goes on.
I’m not sure how everyone else takes care of their gear, but a good end of the season inventory and clean out is absolutely necessary for me. I usually start with the small stuff and go from there. I’ll grab all of my camo, including bibs, jackets, waders, backpacks, or any other garments that have pockets where I may have stuffed something into.
Once I have everything pulled out, I’ll quickly go through each piece and make sure all of the pockets are empty. I try to separate things into piles as I go. A pile for hats, gloves, face masks etc., a pile for things that need to be washed, and a pile for things that just need to get put away. After taking care of those items accordingly, I can move onto other things like guns, choke tubes and shotgun shells.
Again, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have multiple guns, with multiple choke tubes and gun cases for each, and a plethora of shells for a variety of different winged critters, all scattered between trucks, backpacks, jacket pockets, shell boxes, tool boxes and any other apparatus that can hold any of those items. We all try to stay as organized as possible, even during the heart of the season, but let’s face it, if you chase them as long and as hard as a lot of wingmen do, you’re going to have things scattered everywhere by the end of the season.
So for starters, I just try and get everything together and in one spot, or even in one room. I like to have some space when I start this process. I’ll pick an empty room and clear the table/s so I can lay things out in the open to see what I have. Often times I’ll grab a couple old bath towels and spread them across the table or counter. This is where I like to lay my guns and choke tubes out. The towels help in a couple ways. They protect the guns and the furniture or table they are sitting on, and keep the surrounding area free of gun oil and grease. From there I can clean, inventory and put away my guns and choke tubes, then organize the rest of my gun gear and shotgun shells appropriately.
Next on the list is decoys, blinds, and decoy trailer. This usually takes a bit of time. I start by pulling everything out of the trailer. Next, I go straight for the blinds. I’ll get a big trash can lined with a 3 mm contractor bag and start cleaning blinds out. Shell boxes, spent shells, water bottles, snack wrappers, ear plugs, and mixture of corn stalks, wheat stubble, tumble weeds and alfalfa…all into the trash. Most layout blinds have zippers on the end of the foot bags that open and you can fairly easily dump everything right into the trash bin. Once I have all of the trash cleaned out of blinds, I’ll either fold them up into their smallest form for storage, or, if you finished your season like me, with a wet, muddy end of the season hunt, I’ll set all of the blinds up and stick them in a sunny windy spot do dry out before putting them away.
Once I have the blinds situated I’ll dive into the decoys. I pretty much go through each decoy one by one. Physically pick each one up, look it over, check for cracks, broken parts/pieces, excessive mud or blood, and either put them in organized piles and decoy bags, or set them aside for repair and/or maintenance. When feasible it’s nice to have a bucket of warm water and a rag or two handy to wipe mud and/or blood off the decoys as you go. That’s not always possible but it’ll save some pre-season work if you’re able.
After I’ve gone through all of the decoys and have them as clean and organized as possible I’ll give the decoy trailer a good once over with a broom or air hose, before I start packing it back full of clean, dry blinds and decoys. Everyone has their own system so I won’t go through the details of how I pack my trailer, but staying organized is important. Think things through before packing your trailer or shed. What items are you going to need to get to first? In other words, don’t pack all of your duck hunting gear on top of your goose hunting gear that you’ll need to get to come the end of August. Common sense…right?
Most of the hard work is done once I get all of my gear sorted and organized, but I’m usually left with several piles of items that need repair, maintenance, or replaced. Broken straps, ripped decoy bags, bent stands, holes in waders and boots, bb holes in decoys, touch up paint, replacement decoy anchors and lines etc. etc. What to do with these items is a judgement call. Can it be easily repaired or should you just buy a new one? That all depends on each person’s situation and availability of resources. I try to fix as much as possible but time is precious now a days so my time spent fixing things is often worth more than what it would cost to replace it. Again, that’s a situational judgment call.
No matter what I decide to do with the broken gear, my end of the year clean up and inventory helps keep me organized, and gives me a head start on next season’s preparation. It’s always sad closing those trailer doors for the last time, but feels good to know that I’m in good shape going into next fall. Knowing what I have, and also what I’ll need before next fall is a good way to slide into the off season.