In the spirit of starting a new year afresh and anew, it’s time to take stock of your firearms, hunting gear, and gun accessories and evaluate what needs to be tossed, refreshed or replaced. Yes, most of your stuff stays functional from year to year, but there are some things you might not have considered that don’t last forever.
First up, your firearms themselves. If you compete in trap, skeet or sporting clays seriously and shoot a higher-end shotgun, you are probably accustomed to sending your gun off for an annual service. The manufacturer will check all the parts and replace anything that’s worn out. You can certainly do this with your handguns and rifles, too, if you are a high-volume shooter, or you might choose to do some of the work yourself if you feel comfortable with some amateur gunsmithing. A word of caution before you replace any parts yourself: Be careful, and consult a qualified gunsmith if you get out of your depth or have any questions at all.
Firing pins, ejectors, extractors and springs are among the parts you should examine for wear and tear. If you shoot a lot, your magazines might eventually need to be replaced or refreshed as well. On your hunting guns, tighten all the screws, including those holding your riflescope and any screws securing your sling swivel studs, if applicable. I’ve had a stud fall out of a gun I was carrying, and it’s not something I want to happen again. While you’re at it, check the sling if your gun has one and make sure the material is still in good shape. If you carry concealed, give your holster a quick once-over and make sure everything’s still snug and secure and the belt clip isn’t getting a little loose.
Next, your hunting pack. I find it best to dump the entire bag’s contents out on the floor so I can see what I’m working with. Discard those smushed granola bars and used handwarmer packets, and replace any specialty items that might be old (for me, that’s a lip balm and a bottle of eye drops) so they’re fresh for turkey season. If you’re a deer hunter, any scents or urine you have on hand might need to be tossed, as many lose their potency pretty quickly. I consider these single-season items and toss them all at the end of deer season. Synthetic scents last longer than real urine, and scent-control sprays usually have an expiration date on the bottle. Check them and toss anything that’s expired—no use storing it until next year.
After that, take a look at your apparel. Do your socks have holes? Is your leather belt dry or cracked and in need of some conditioning? Are the laces on your boots worn thin to the breaking point? What about your waders—neoprene does degrade over time, especially if not properly dried, and now’s the time to patch any little holes or replace the waders altogether if they’re leaking at the seams or if the holes have gotten too bad. You might catch an end-of-season sale on a new pair if you need one.
Also check your gear, like waterfowl decoys, upland chaps, layout blinds, and more. I like to pull the batteries from my flashlights, headlamps and other gear to avoid the chance of them corroding in storage—just remember to put fresh batteries in before the season starts back up. Now’s also the time to clean and sharpen your hunting knives. If you use replaceable-blade knives, go ahead and order a refill so you won’t be caught without fresh blades next season.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s time to take a look at your treestands and safety gear and see how it’s all fared through the season. Make a note of any cables that are showing signs of wear, any steps that need tightening or replacing, etc., and come back to fix them in the spring or summer if you don’t want to do the work in the dead of winter. If you leave your stands up all year, consider pulling any foam seats, carpet or chairs if you’re concerned about animals getting to them. Bungee straps and ropes can dry-rot and corrode when left out in the elements, and screws and bolts can rust over time, so examine all connections and anything that’s securing your treestand. Replace anything you have the slightest concern about, or make a mental note to do so in the summer closer to next hunting season.
You should be wearing a safety harness with a lifeline every time you get in your treestand, but these items don’t last forever. Did you know that safety harnesses come with an expiration date? Materials deteriorate over time, even if the harness isn’t being used heavily, and your harness needs to be replaced when it expires. Manufacturers generally use an expiration date of five years after manufacture or after purchase, and while of course your harness doesn’t magically become unsafe after five years and one day, this is nothing to play with. Replace your harnesses and buy a new lifeline and connections every five years to stay safe.
The good news is that most of your gear will be good for a long time and doesn’t need to be replaced each year—ammunition, gunpowder, most cleaning oils and solvents, your hunting clothing, packs and bags, and much more will last for years with proper storage and care. But it’s always a good idea to go through your stuff once hunting and competition season is over and toss, repair or replace anything that’s expired or past its safe and effective lifespan. Out with the old and in with the new!