Consistently killing big bucks and lots of deer isn’t based on luck. Whether using bow or rifle, successful hunters leave little to chance and put in the “sweat equity” work before the season to enhance their success.

Mike Cox of Awendaw, a former hunting guide, said early planning and preparation for deer season is as important and enjoyable to him as finishing the job when he or someone else pulls the trigger.

“Hot weather, preseason preparation and seeing lots of deer during the season are directly connected,” Cox said. “The sweat equity you build now earns high interest and is redeemed during deer season. The key is to invest your effort preparing for the season now. Wait until just before the season, and deer will be on high alert because of human intrusion. Sweat now, and by the time the season opens, deer will be acting naturally. Success is earned by taking care of details now.”

Cox cited five specific things you can do in advance of the season to vastly improve odds of hunting success.

* Move or repair stands. As land-use changes take advantage of agriculture crops planted that are attractive to deer, timber thinning or clear cuts. Turn any changes into opportunities, not problems.

* Limb and remove obstacles hindering a clear shot now so it simply becomes part of the landscape to a deer. Clearing shooting lanes includes balancing between keeping natural cover for the stand and enabling good vision of the target area. You have to see it to shoot it whether using gun or bow.

* Determine how to get in and out of stands and avoid going through bedding areas. Clear walking paths and remove as much potential problem vegetation as needed now so you won’t touch limbs and leave human scent during the season. By hunting season it will all blend with the landscape.

* Plan and begin working fall food plots now. Do a soil sample, because most areas benefit significantly from the addition of lime, something many hunters overlook. Lime needs to be added early and tilled in so it can work into the soil. It will enhance food plots, plus, the summertime tilling kills weeds and prepares the area for easier fertilization and planting in the fall. Lime is usually applied in very large amounts, often measured in tons per acre, and can be labor-intensive but well worth the effort.

* Map distances to specific identification targets for a bow or rifle stand and check distances with a rangefinder. Keep a notebook or put a small hand-drawn map in the stand with distances to specific targets to enable you to determine the distance to the deer, a key for bowhunting or gun-hunting.  

Cox said to take the above steps now, and then scout with minimal human intrusion before the season.