Tips for maintaining hunting equipment after the season


Well neighbors, the regular hunting season is drawing to a close for some of the most popular game. There are still late seasons for deer for a few more weeks and until the end of January for ducks and geese. Squirrel season in the eastern part of the state runs until the end of February, so depending on your favorite game for some, the season is drawing to a close.

It can be a time to relax, reflect on the past season, and start dreaming about what you need for next fall. It’s also time to get down to equipment maintenance.

I can tell you that it was easy to fix the maintenance problem 20 or 30 years ago because there was not much to maintain. Due to the equipment I choose to use, it’s pretty much the way it always has been for me. I cleaned my rifles and shotgun, put a sharp edge on my hunting knife, and cleaned my boots or tennis shoes. It takes care of it pretty well.

Today, if you’ll allow it, even our hunting gear has gotten so ‘high tech’ and complicated that it requires a lot more attention than yesterday, so let’s take a look at some basics.

Of course, there is the attention that must be devoted to your weapons. I would recommend that they be completely broken down, cleaned and checked for signs of wear and lightly oiled. This includes the removal of all powder residue, dirt and grime. If you’ve hunted ducks, geese or wild pigs along the coastal areas of our State and found yourself in the vicinity of salt water, your metal gear will need a lot more attention. Synthetic stocks don’t count, but they do need all of the salt removed from them so they don’t corrupt the metal parts of your guns.

No matter how much plastic is on your gun, it should be completely disassembled, and every part, screw, and spring should be thoroughly cleaned of all salt. Even if you haven’t thrown your gun into salt water, the sea salt in the air will permeate every nook and cranny of your gun, so you really have no choice. If you’re not comfortable or able, take it to a gunsmith and have it done.

Let me point out an important area that you don’t need to take apart and that is the trigger mechanism of pumps and semi-automatic shotguns. They can be very difficult to reassemble and in many models the mechanism is spring loaded and removing a pin or screw can cause parts to fly to unfamiliar places.

The way I always cleaned the trigger mechanism was to gently pull them out of the gun and rinse them completely with water. Then I would place them in a pot of gun cleaning solvent designed to soak the parts in. A nine inch loaf pan is awesome, and since prehistoric times I have been a huge fan of kerosene as a solvent for dipping gun parts. It has always worked for me, but all of my long guns are steel, not mystery metal, so check with your gun manufacturer to make sure you are getting the right solvent for the job.

Your hunting knife should be removed from the scabbard, cleaned, sharpened and lightly oiled. Those with a plastic sleeve should be washed inside and out with clean water to remove all dirt, grime, and salt, then let it hang down with the opening down for a few days to make sure it is dry.

People who have a leather sheath for their fixed blade knife should not store the knife in it, as it will attract moisture and cause rust. If you have a leather sheath, it should also be cleaned with saddle soap and oiled with a good leather oil like sheep’s foot oil or Lexol leather cleaner which you can find in most department stores. ‘feed or in any other place intended for horses.

While I’m on a leather kick, don’t forget your slingshots. A good leather sling will last as long as a good rifle if properly maintained. Go through them like you do with a leather knife sheath and you will keep it supple and it will continue to serve you well. Of course, if you have a plastic or synthetic fiber sling, I have no idea. If it was mine, I would take a good leather scarf and throw away the synthetic.

Good, lightweight leather hunting boots can hit the two to three hundred dollar mark with purchase these days, so it is up to a person to clean them, soap them, and then apply the proper treatment for the leather. A shoe tree inserted inside will prevent them from flattening and will hold their shape properly, so when you put them on next time around, they will fit as they should.

One of the points on your hunting boot that you really want to inspect at the end of the year is the boot lace. If they show any signs of wear, go to the store and get a new pair now. By next season you’ll have forgotten it and as sure as the taxes, they’ll be waived when you put them on to hit the track.

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