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Chris Ellis suggests practicing now to be ready for archery season.

With archery season starting in West Virginia on Sept. 25, my backyard has been the local hangout for young bowhunters and my son practicing shooting their bows.

I am always amazed when their energy switches from fishing to hunting. The transition is very visible — shorts, flip-flops, and river attire quickly get replaced with camo and hiking boots.

Their talk switches from top-water baits and smallmouth bass to trail cameras, planting food plots and tree-stand placement.

I love the energy and anticipation toward the archery opener seen through the eyes of youth. Every new season brings a heightened level of anticipation that this year may be the year to fool a mature buck into bow range.

Whether you’re an avid archer or a first-timer to the sport, I offer the following as a resource in grand anticipation of the archery opener.

Preseason checklist

1. Rekindle relationships with landowners — It’s never too early to obtain written permission for this year’s season. Remember, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the keys to the gate. Often the difference between the buck of a lifetime and a scrub is hunting where they live. A couple of hours of homework now can pay off later.

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2. Get out and scout — Look at topo maps for natural funnels, bedding/feeding areas and travel routes. Locate mast trees and areas deer are traveling between food and bedding areas. With apps on your phone like onXmaps, getting a bird’s-eye view of your hunting grounds is easier than ever. Also, hanging a few trail cameras early to identify which trails the deer are using during the early season can pay big dividends on the season opener.

3. Inspect your bow and have it tuned — replace frayed strings and silencers and realign peep sight. Strings stretch and wear out, so visit your local archery counter and get a tune-up. It’s money well spent, and finding a good bow shop technician is priceless.

4. Perfect a pre-shot ritual through practice. Field points are fine for tuning and the initial sighting-in process. Shoot practice broadheads and number the arrows; putting the best fliers in your hunting quiver will greatly increase your odds when the shot matters. Buy your broadheads now to avoid not being able to find the ones you want to use this fall. We all know it is hot, but practice the same way you are going to play. If you prefer hunting from elevated platforms, hang a stand in your yard the same height as your tree stand.

6. Inspect both permanent and portable tree stands. Examine the overall condition of the structure, nails and bolts. Make sure everything is secure and quiet.

7. Purchase necessary licenses and tags. Don’t wait until the last minute and get caught scrambling the night before.

8. Make a plan to take a kid or someone new to the sport hunting this season. Open a door behind you for the next generation of hunters and shooters. It is time well spent and can perhaps be the most rewarding days afield this season.

West Virginia archery season for deer, boar and bear opens Sept. 25. Check the WVDNR regulations for more details.

Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. His book “Hunting, Fishing and Family from The Hills of West Virginia” is available at Contact him at

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