A 'make ready' week in the outdoors
By Luke Clayton
Aug 30, 2022
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This past week, the ‘post flood’ week in my neck of the woods, was an interesting time for me. I learned a few things that might help you in your outdoor adventures and spent some time under an ancient oak my buddy and I discovered during a scouting trip on a track of woods he is in the process of purchasing.

Late August has always been a ‘make ready’ time for me, an in-between month, hot weather keeps many fishermen off the lakes especially during the heat of the day. Hunting seasons begin this week with the dove opener and in another month, it will be time to climb into those bow stands in pursuit of whitetail deer.

I spent some time earlier this week setting up a new ladder stand near a corn feeder only a half mile from my home. I’ve hunted the spot many times and taken several ‘eater’ wild hogs here using my Rattler thermal scope on my little bolt action .223 but I also enjoy hunting with my compound bow. For this I needed a stand with some elevation within 25 yards of the feeder.

There are all sorts of tree stands on the market, everything from climber stands to saddle stands where the hunter actually hangs from the side of the tree in a ‘saddle’, much like a lineman on a power line crew. That’s not for me!  I prefer a much more stable ladder stand but even those can be tricky and a bit hazardous to erect solo. 

Old-style ladder stands simply lean against a tree trunk and one climbs up to the seat and tightens a ratchet to secure the stand to the tree. With this old style, it’s a safe practice to have someone on the ground to stabilize the stand as another climbs up to secure it. 

Ladder stands now have have ‘jaws’ or grippers that can be activated from the ground that securely hold the seat of the stand to the tree trunk as one climbs up to secure it. I had absolutely no problem safely setting up this new climber stand solo.  Set up is quick and simple, lean the ladder stand against the tree and use a ratchet to tighten the strap that is attached to a couple of ‘hooks’ with gripping cleats that lock the stand in place. 

It’s also a great time to think ahead about hunting boots. Through the years, I’ve worn many different types and styles of boots, everything from the high-top boots that sell for around $80 at box stores to boots designed for upland hunting on dry ground.

Many factors come into play when choosing a boot for hunting and I’ve come to the conclusion that no single style perfectly suits all conditions encountered in the field. I have learned that quality boots that keep my feet warm and dry cost about twice what I paid for those ‘box store’ boots that looked very good on the store shelves but often leaked like a sieve the first time I had to wade water and much of my fall and winter hunting is done in wet conditions.

I currently have two pair of boots that are comfortable, dry and fit just about any conditions I might encounter. They are both Irish Setters by Red Wing Shoes. One pair of 8-inch waterproof hunting boots are great for hunting in areas without deep standing water and around camp. 

The others, called Mudtrecks, are 17-inch rubber snake boots that have a comfortable insole which makes walking in rough terrain more comfortable. The side zipper is very handy for putting the boots on and taking them off. Anyone that has ever worn high-topped boots knows how challenging this can be, especially with thick socks. Neither of these boots required a ‘break in period’ and was comfortable from the first hunt.

The ancient oak I mentioned at the beginning warrants a bit of explanation. One of my best friends and frequent hunting partner owns a tract of land that is an outdoor paradise. It offers great creek fishing as well as good hunting for deer, hogs and squirrel. He’s in the process of buying an adjacent tract of woodland and he invited me to scout the land with him and determine good spots to hunt.

We came upon an ancient oak that appeared to be nearing the end of its long, long life. Some of the major limbs had died and the old oak, although still alive, had the appearance of a tree that had been around at least a couple centuries and witnessed much.

My buddy and I stopped under her giant limbs and I mentioned that the old tree could easily have had squirrels running through her branches that were hunted by Civil War soldiers when they were boys! Children from another era that grew up on the old abandoned homeplace up on the hill probably had rope swings in her branches. If only this old tree could talk, I could spend hours listening to what she had to say.

A grove of smaller oaks grew around the old oak and they, now in their prime, were loaded with acorns. This will be a great spot to set up a deer stand. In a month or so, acorns will cover the forest floor around the old oak and she and her offspring will once again supply food for the animals that inhabit her neck of the woods. Long live this grand old tree but I think not. Her hollow trunk will soon become a nesting site for critters and she will continue to be a useful part of the forest until her bark and wood goes back into the soil to provide nutrients for another oak that will one day take her place. 

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website