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Gearing Up for Archery Season

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Fall archery season is right around the corner, and in some places, like my home state of Florida, it’s already under way in a few areas. Now is the time to start preparing and thinking about how you’re going to turn this season into a successful one. But before you go racing off into the stand, there are a few things to keep in mind that can not only help make your season more successful, but also a little safer.

A view from the bow looking over a river.

[Image credit: Alex Vail]

Gear, Gear…And More Gear

Let’s be honest, most of us haven’t really looked at our hunting pack since last season. It’s beyond time to go through it and make sure you have everything you need and that those items are in good working condition. Things like plenty of reflective tacks/tape, batteries for your flashlight, first aid kit, etc. There’s nothing worse than getting out into the field only to discover you’ve forgotten something vital at the house because you haven’t updated your pack.

A camo-colored backpack.

[Image credit: Alex Vail]

And we shouldn’t forget about probably the most important piece of gear for archery season: The bow itself. It’s vital to make sure that your bow is functioning just as it should. Ensure that each arrow you’re carrying with you hasn’t (somehow) received some damage over the course of the year and that all the fletching is in good condition. All of this, however, should be taken care of LONG before it’s time to hunt because it’s past time for practicing. It doesn’t really matter how well you’ve got your gear together when you’re out of practice in the actual shooting process.

A bow and arrows with a target.

[Image credit: Alex Vail]

Water, Water Everywhere

Depending on what part of the country you’re hunting, archery season can be anything from pretty warm to downright hellish. Here in Florida, it’s the latter. It’s practically still summer here, and scouting/trudging around in the woods looking for deer isn’t the coolest activity one can do in 90+ degree weather. Always make sure to carry more water than you plan on drinking. And don’t stop drinking. As a good rule of thumb in the heat, if you stop sweating then you’re already dehydrated.

Speaking of water, this time of the year still brings plenty of rain. Many roads will be flooded thanks to high water levels. Remember to never drive into water when you don’t know how deep it is. It seems like common sense, but I’m shocked every year at the amount of flooded trucks I see from people who’ve done just that. And it isn’t just roads that get flooded. In many instances, the woods will be too. If you’re hunting any low lying area, just be sure to have footwear that can get wet. Just because the area was dry during scouting season doesn’t mean it’ll be dry on opening day.

A view from the bow looking into the woods.

[Image credit: Alex Vail]

Naturally with rain comes thunderstorms, and with thunderstorms comes lightning. This time of the year, afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. If you’re lucky enough to have cell signal from your stand, be sure to have some sort of radar app downloaded and check it often. If not, don’t be a dummy and sit in a tall tree during a lightning storm. Seek cover immediately.

The Deer Themselves 

You can, of course, do everything right and still not see deer. This time of the year is rather unique. The deer have been unpressured for the past nine months so they won’t be exhibiting those highly pressured deer patterns. They won’t, for the most part, be completely nocturnal. However, it is still very hot out. Just like us, animals don’t want to get too hot. This time of the year, they will lay low and ride out the heat of the day in order to come out in the late evening and early morning. Don’t kill yourself by being in the stand for too long in the morning or too early in the afternoon. The bucks also haven’t really begun showing signs of rutting activity yet. You can expect to find a few rubs here and there, but rarely any scrapes. Bucks will often still be cruising around in bachelor groups this time of the year, so try and take that into account when picking a stand. It’s hard to pattern a single animal during early archery season.

So if you find yourself, like many of us, chomping at the bit to get out in the stand with a bow, just take all of these things into account before you leave. Make sure your gear is in proper working order and you’ve got everything you need. Feel confident with your shooting abilities, and always keep an eye on that weather. With any luck, you may very well be staring at a bachelor group of bucks in the near future—there are few ways to better start off a season than with a successful hunt.

Boatless Angling

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Florida is one of the top fishing destinations in the United States. People flock from all around the country to chase the wide variety of both saltwater and freshwater fish species that our state has to offer, particularly in the summertime. However, upon arrival, a person doesn’t have to look long before they start spotting big offshore fishing boat, flats boats, and bass boats. It’s easy to feel as though there’s no other option for fishing in Florida if you don’t have a boat. However, with the right know-how, a fisherman can easily take advantage of the many boatless angling opportunities here in the Sunshine State this summer.

Wade Fishing

Fish caught on a lure.

This trout was caught on a wade fishing trip. [Image: Alex Vail]

What’s one of the nice things about wade fishing in Florida? You can wear your swimsuit to wade fish almost eight months out of the year. The state has countless opportunities and places for anglers to take a step into the water and immediately begin chasing big fish. Most state parks have easy inshore wade fishing access for places like mangrove creeks and sea grass beds, but obviously not all areas can be wade fished—a combination of oyster bars and chest deep mud usually snuffs that. But even so, there are a wide range of places to choose from (particularly along the Gulf Coast) if you’re looking to get a little wet while you fish. Just remember shoes! Many of the grass beds are home to sea urchins, and that’s the last thing anyone wants buried in their foot.

Beach Fishing

A fishing rod in the sand on the beach with a sunset in the background.

[Image: Alex Vail]

What’s more relaxing than the beach? How about fishing while relaxing at the beach. Beach fishing (or surf fishing) is an extremely easy and fun way to get your fishing fix without ever having to step on a boat. With the exception of the Big Bend and Ten Thousand Islands areas, beach fishing is a perfectly reasonable way to catch a wide variety of fish. Talk to local bait shops and ask what is running in during that time of the year and in that place, and you should be able to get a rough idea of what to expect. Just remember a cooler full of ice and a lawn chair, unless you prefer sitting in the sand.

Pier Fishing 

If you don’t mind fishing alongside other anglers, pier fishing can be an extremely effective method here in Florida. A quick Google search or looking at a satellite image of the coastline will point out the piers—they’re scattered all along our coasts. Do note, however, that just like some state park entrances, getting onto most piers comes with a small entrance fee. Pier fishermen in the Gulf or Atlantic can expect to catch anything from redfish and pompano all the way up to sailfish and tarpon depending on the place and time of the year. Don’t cross off inshore pier fishing, either! Most bridges in the state have been updated in the past few decades and many of their old ancestors have been converted into piers.

Canal/Bank Fishing

A peaceful photo of a canal with trees along the sides.

[Image: Alex Vail]

It’s easy to focus primarily on saltwater fishing when one comes down to Florida. We do, after all, have plenty of it to go around. Freshwater fishing shouldn’t be overlooked, though. In fact, Florida produces some of the biggest largemouth bass in the country. Freshwater fishing without a boat isn’t ideal, but it can definitely be done. Unfortunately in the Northern and Central regions of Florida, freshwater fishing from the shore won’t be too enjoyable. Most lakes or rivers have limited access or small piers. Wade fishing in freshwater isn’t the greatest idea, either, unless you don’t mind getting friendly with our resident alligators. Southern Florida, however, actually does have quite a bit of freshwater fishing access in the form of bank fishing. South Florida is riddled with canal systems that cross the state in almost every direction. Many of these can be accessed right off of the side of the road. Inland canals are home to largemouth, bream, catfish, and even exotic species like cichlids and peacock bass. Canals closer to the coast often get landlocked tarpon and snook as well. It certainly isn’t uncommon to reel in a bass only to catch a snook on the next cast. Just be aware that not all canal levees have public access, but they’re generally well-marked with signage explaining just that. Also note that, however sad it might be, the crime rate in many areas of South Florida is extremely high. When fishing in some of these urban canals, be conscious of your surroundings and be sure to lock your vehicle and hide/remove any valuables from your car while you’re out fishing.

So if you make your way down to hot and sunny Florida this summer and want to fish, don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a boat. There are opportunities everywhere around the state to fish without a vessel. Be it fishing in waist deep water for trout or casting for cobia from a pier, anyone can get down to the Sunshine State and still have a great time on foot.