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Plan ahead to make deer opener more enjoyable

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My friends call me "boy scout."

My wife, Erin, actually coined the term, but it quickly caught on between hunting buddies. This mainly happened because, even though I've never donned a merit badge-adorned sash, I take pride in careful preparation, especially before going afield during the hunting season.

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This is particularly true during deer firearm season, which starts at noon on Friday.

Since my first time hunting North Dakota whitetails in 2002, I've experienced the full gauntlet of Mother Nature's wrath; from sweltering heat to sub-zero temperatures, freezing rain to full-fledged blizzards - all during the first few weeks of November.

Weather is hard to predict (just ask a meteorologist) and because of this I like to err on the side of caution. If the forecast calls for pleasant conditions, I make sure to bring a winter jacket and long johns. When the "computer model" shows a high chance of overcast skies and rain, I'm sure to pack extra bug spray and sunscreen. Call me paranoid, but you'll think twice after you trudge back to the truck early when you could have been snuggled comfortably in your stand.

Next to proper attire, having adequate fuel is critical. Yes, checking the gas gauge on your four-wheel drive could keep you from having to walk back to town, but you'll never make it that far if you forget to properly fill your personal fuel tank.

No matter how far into the bush I meander, a package of homemade goose jerky is always in my backpack; the protein helps keep energy high while the salt replenishes any lost during perspiration. Chances are you'll find candy bars, dried fruit, granola and plenty of water helpful, too.

While participating in whatever style of hunting you prefer, whether that means sitting on a hillside or pushing cattail sloughs, you're going to burn calories. As the temperatures reach either end of the spectrum, your body consumes fuel as it attempts to cool down (sweat) or warm up (shiver). That, and dragging a 200-pound buck out of a walk-in only hunting area is bound to put your body in overdrive.

Keeping properly hydrated and having enough food isn't just key; it could be life-saving.

Helpful hardware

Quick, before reading any further: do you know where your deer tag is? Dig it up, track it down and keep it in a safe place. If all else fails and you can't seem to find it, contact the North Dakota Game and Fish department at gf.nd.gov and they can ship you a replacement tag in a few business days.

Then make sure you check and double check that your tag is on your person; you don't want to shoot the buck of a lifetime only to discover your deer tag is back home, still clinging to the fridge by a magnet.

Other hardware to consider is a multi-tool, such as those manufactured by Gerber or Leatherman, which comes in handy more often than you may think. I can't tell you how many times my trusty Leatherman has, for example, removed a jammed shotgun shell or tightened a loose scope ring.

Most multi-tool models also contain some kind of knife, key for gutting game or slicing through stubborn knots. I prefer having a gut-style knife on hand, which makes the messy task quicker a limits the chance of puncturing the bladder.

Besides a knife for gutting, grab a saw to bust through the pelvic bone. The one I prefer is a t-handled model called a SagenSaw. It quickly zips through bone like butter and comes equipped with a blunt end that won't dammage internal organs.

Also, make sure to brign gun cleaning supplies. Solvent, gun oil, and a push rod or Bore Snake will suffice for normal ware and tear. An absorbent towel for drying a wet gun could save you the headache of rust in the future.

Other odds and ends include matches or a lighter, toilet paper - a multi-use product good for when nature calls or as a fire starter - a first-aid kit, a rope to haul your deer if you have to walk and a camera because, let's face it, "buck in a truck" pictures have been done.

Now, for a bit of humility. For years Erin has been trying to get me to wear rubber gloves for gutting deer.

"Yeah right," I would say, rather smugly, "I don't need those."

But I was wrong (oh man...I'll never hear the end of this). I wore rubber gloves for the first time last season when it was bitterly cold and windy. Not only did they help keep nastiness off my hands, but my flanges stayed relative warm through the gutting process. Afterward, because my hands weren't sticky with blood, I was quickly able to slip on my warm hunting gloves, eliminating any chance of frost bite.

If you've been like me in the past and shun the thought of rubber gloves, give it a try this season. You'll be glad you did.

And one more bit of advice: if you think you brought enough of something, bring extra.

Because take it from a "boy scout," if there is one thing I've learned from all my years of hunting, it's there is no such thing as being too prepared.

Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer as well as an avid hunter and fisherman. He can be reached at 701-451-5717 or tshoberg@westfargopioneer.com.

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