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10 tips can help make this hunting season successful
NOW: Don't wait to get prepared for this year's hunt.

Daily News correspondent

(Published: July 4, 2004)OK, let's cut to the chase. Opening day of moose season -- the day all serious hunters live for -- is not far off. Let's assume you already know where you're going and how you are going to get there -- ATV, boat, small aircraft, an air taxi -- so now you need to prepare so you can maximize your precious time afield. Here's a 10-step program to maximize your efforts and minimize problems this season.

1) Make a list: Santa has his own checklist, and so should you. On my home computer I have several with file names like "moose," "caribou," "fly-out hunting," "backpack hunting" and so on. Each list contains everything I need in terms of gear, food and accessories, plus my to-do list of what I need to take care of before I leave home. You know, stuff like change the phone answer machine message, pay bills and tell someone where I will be going, when I expect to return and an emergency contact number in case I'm not back on schedule.

2) New license?: Have your purchased a valid hunting license yet? You can get one at license vendors all across town, along with required harvest tickets.

3) Check, repair gear: The headwaters of Moose Creek is not the place to find out your tent leaks, your stove won't fire up, the ATV is running poorly or someone snuck a few essentials out of your first aid kit and didn't replace them. Check out everything, big and small, repair or replace items that need it well ahead of time, then check it off your list.

4) Less is more: Aldo Leopold once called the hunters of his day "Gadgeteers," saying they relied too much on fancy modern gadgets and not enough on woodsmanship skills for their success. In my younger days, I used to think I needed to have one of everything in the Cabela's catalog to go hunting for a weekend. As the years have slipped by, however, I have found that the less I take, both in terms of weight and bulk, the more efficient and successful my own hunting is. The key is selecting gear wisely, bringing only the very best and making sure it has been thoroughly battle-tested.

5) Get a GPS: One gadget that is extremely useful is a compact GPS device. With it you can mark camp and give exact latitude and longitude coordinates to a bush pilot or your hunting buddies. Better yet, if you kill an animal miles from camp, you can mark it on the GPS and find your way to and from the carcass again easily no matter the weather. I still bring topographic maps and a good compass, but the GPS (along with spare batteries) sure makes things easier.

6) Practice makes perfect: The day before you leave is not the time to head to the range and sight in your rifle. Ethical hunters are skilled marksmen, and skilled marksmen are made, not born. That means setting aside as much time for shooting practice as possible. If you're buying a new rifle or rifle scope, you need extra time to get them dialed in. Bowhunters should be target shooting at least twice a week all summer long.

7) Up the down staircase: Consistently successful moose and caribou hunters can walk and can pack meat. That means they are out exercising well before the season begins, getting their hiking muscles in shape. Make sure you walk up and down hills, preferably with a loaded backpack on, to get your meat-hauling muscles tuned up. Ideally, you will combine your packing practice with breaking in a new pair of boots and wearing your hunting clothes.

8) Study the regulations: A legal bull moose is not a legal moose in every Alaska game management unit. In some areas, a moose must have spike/fork antlers or antlers with a spread of more than 50 inches. In other areas, it must have a specified number of brow tines. Restrictions abound, so make sure you know the rules where you'll be hunting and how to tell the difference between a legal and protected bull. This is also a good time to remind hunters that the law in Alaska states that all meat, including rib cage, neck meat, four quarters and back straps, must be packed out of the field before the antlers and/or cape and hide. In some GMU's you are required to leave the bone in the meat, too, until you reach your destination. Check the regulation booklet for specifics.

9) Pick your partner wisely: Other than picking the right spouse, choosing the right hunting partner is the most difficult thing on earth to do. The last thing you want to do is spend your once-a-year week of hunting with a whiner, slackered, cheapskate or incompetent fool. Your enjoyment, success and safety depend on teamwork. The last thing you need is a ball-hogging gunner with an ego problem.

10) New freezer?: Since you have done your homework, prepped your gear, picked the right partner and practiced long and hard with your gun or bow, you just know this is the year you're going to score on a big bull moose or whopper caribou bull with eye-popping antlers. Does that mean it's time to scan the newspaper sale ads for a deal on a new freezer? That's what I'm doing ...

Bob Robb is a freelance writer who lives in Chugiak.

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