At the end of the hunting season, guns and other equipment need careful storage and cleaning. Proper gun maintenance protects against corrosion and other damage, but it also prevents theft and misuse.
High-quality guns and hunting apparel are significant investments, so it’s essential to protect your belongings. The right storage strategy can make a huge difference when you pull your equipment out at the beginning of the next season.
Every item should be cleaned before storage, but how you clean them and protect them from future damage also matters. Scents, moisture and temperature-related damage can sneak into storage containers that aren’t designed for full protection.
Cleaning Guns for Storage
Guns are likely the most valuable items in your inventory, and they are also the most sensitive in terms of storage needs. Even though guns are treated to reduce the risk of rusting, they still need proper care to ensure parts don’t stick together.
Refer to your owner’s manual for detailed step-by-step instructions on how to clean your gun with standard supplies like bore brushes and rods. Use a high-quality ammonia-free solvent and clean every part of the gun to remove soiling and dirt. Don’t use your hands to touch gun parts that you’ve already cleaned because oil from your skin can also cause rusting.
Treat wood stocks with wax to help protect them from moisture and apply a very thin layer of lubricant to the bore and other metal parts of the gun. Keep the gun decocked to reduce tension in the springs and prolong longevity.
Safe Gun Storage
Lockable carrying cases are great for moving guns during hunting season but they are not designed for safe, long-term household use. These cases are easy for thieves to carry off in a hurry. Use heavy, fireproof gun safes during the off-season or any period when guns are not in use.
Even strong and heavy safes may be vulnerable to human error that prevents them from locking properly. Keep them in a location that can be closely monitored. The master bedroom is likely the safest place in the house for storage, as this location is hard for children to access at night.
A cool, dry basement may also be an acceptable storage location for large gun collections if there are no children in the house.
Inside the safe, gun storage socks and bags can add another layer of protection, especially if they are silicone-treated to keep out moisture. Sheep-skin cases can hold moisture, so they should be avoided.
Choosing The Right Safe
First-time gun owners may try to choose a cheaper, smaller safe for their first purchase. This usually results in an underestimation of the amount of space they need. Since ammunition, spare parts and optics should also be kept in the safe. It’s better to overestimate how much space is required.
Many gun safes use keypads with pre-set or customizable passcodes. Some of these keypads use touch or fingerprint scanning to eliminate the need for a visible keypad when accessing the safe in an emergency. However, if home defense isn’t a concern, a standard gun safe with a mechanical lock is suitable.
Pay attention to the thickness of the steel and the fire rating of the safe as well. Lower gauge numbers are thicker and generally offer higher fire resistance, so a safe with 10-gauge steel construction is better than 14-gauge. However, some safes use thinner steel for doors and hinges, so pay attention to those specifications when making your selection.
Knives and Axes Maintenance
Any cutting tools you carry while hunting should be cleaned and stored with the same attention to detail as with guns. Clean knives, bone saws and axes thoroughly with dish soap and warm water but take care not to leave water trapped in the handle or other parts. Once the tool is completely dry, lightly lubricate the metal parts and wax wooden parts the same way as you would for guns.
Although these tools may not be as dangerous as guns, they should still be locked up safely. Store them in a locking safe that cannot be easily moved. You can store them in the same safe as your guns if space allows.
Keeping Clothes Scent-Free
Hunting clothes require extra care before long storage periods. Failure to eliminate all odors before storage could cause long-term damage to your clothes and affect future hunting trips.
Use unscented detergent and avoid placing any cover scents in your storage area. If your family frequently uses scented dryer sheets, consider drying your clothes outside instead of using the dryer. The smell from dryer sheets can linger, even in stainless steel dryer tubs.
Store clothes in a scent-proof bag designed for long-term storage and make sure any duffel bags or backpacks you use are also cleaned and deodorized. This is a good habit to get into year-round, especially if your other clothing is washed with detergents that animals can smell while you’re hunting.
Avoid storing performance hunting gear in a garage, storage shed or basement, even if those spaces are relatively dry. Almost any kind of fabric is susceptible to mold and mildew, so a dry and temperature-controlled area is much better for clothes storage. Vacuum sealed storage bags can help to reduce the risk of mildew, bacterial growth and odors.Shop All Nomad Hunting Gear
Leaving mud or dirt on hunting boots for long periods can cause minor damage to the fabric. Clean all boots and shoes after each hunting trip and give them an extra-thorough cleaning and deodorizing at the end of the season.
Make sure to use unscented soap when scrubbing to remove dirt and mud. As with other apparel, use unscented deodorizers or baking soda to deodorize inside the boots. If using a specialized shoe cleaner, double-check the ingredients to make sure it’s free of fragrances.
Store footwear in plastic containers or scent-proof bags inside a clean closet or other storage space. Storing them with other shoes or in the garage will almost certainly expose them to more odor-causing bacteria.
Organizing Cameras and Other Electronics
Electronic callers, game cameras, satellite phones and other electronics may contain sensitive parts that can be damaged by heat or cold. These should not be stored in a garage or any other space that is not temperature controlled.
Also, make sure to power down and remove batteries from electronics. Batteries can leak and cause corrosion if they are stored for too long, especially if they are cheap disposable ones. Devices that use high-quality, rechargeable batteries are generally safe to store without removing the batteries. Before storing, double-check the manufacturer’s long-term storage instructions.
Tents and Deer Blinds Storage
If you go on overnight hunting trips, your tent will inevitably need to be cleaned. Even if your tent looks relatively clean, unzip all the zippers and flaps and give it a thorough cleaning. It’s generally good to use an enzyme-based odor elimination or a specific cleaning solution from the tent manufacturer.
Deer blinds should be cleaned similarly, with care taken to remove all dirt from every corner and seam. Mud and dirt attract bugs and mold, which can easily damage your investment.
After a thorough cleaning, both tents and deer blinds should be air-dried and stored in a plastic container or an odor-blocking bag. Despite their durable fabric, tents and deer blinds can still be susceptible to mold and mildew if they are exposed to water. Ideally, they should be kept indoors instead of in a garage or shed.
Putting Away First-Aid Kits and Other Accessories
First-aid kits contain liquids, medications and other goods that are sensitive to high and low temperatures. They also may have items that can expire or liquids that can leak if the container is damaged.
Before storing your first aid kit, take the opportunity to look for items that will expire before the start of the next season. While you don’t necessarily need to throw them out yet, you will want to move them to your primary medicine cabinet so you can use them. Once you replace anything that is damaged or about to expire, store the first-aid kit in a temperature-controlled environment.
First aid kits, water filters and emergency rations should be stored with or near other hunting supplies. This tactic makes all your gear easier to find at the start of the next season and it will reduce the likelihood you will need to replace a lost item.
What Bags and Boxes to Use
Cardboard boxes are not optimal for storage as they may not resist all smells and liquids. Apparel should be kept in specialized scent-proof bags if possible. Vacuum-sealed bag kits may also be an option, but these can sometimes introduce scents of their own if they use cheap plastic.
Electronics should be kept in their original packaging, especially if the packaging includes molded plastic that can help protect the equipment. Small plastic containers also work when paired with bubble wrap or another form of padding. Even if you don’t plan on moving the boxes while they’re in storage, it’s wise to keep the boxes padded in case something falls on them.
Plastic storage bins with lids that latch securely in place are also a good option for clothing. They usually keep bugs and smells out, as long as they do not have any cracks or large gaps.
Locking Up Apparel and Accessories
Guns need to be locked up, but apparel and other accessories need to be protected as well. A well-meaning relative could wash something by mistake or could move something into a location that is unsuitable for long-term storage.
Also consider locking up electronics, blinds and tents to keep kids or other household members from borrowing. Although game cameras and other equipment are quite tough, they will still break if misused. Speak with children about the importance of the equipment and why it should stay safely put away until the start of the next season.
Using Self-Storage Units
Most hunters are somewhat limited in temperature-controlled house space, especially if they hunt during multiple seasons and have a collection of guns. Temperature-controlled self-storage units can be a great way to store electronics and clothing.
When selecting a storage unit, inspect it ahead of time for any problems like mold or mildew. Examine the walls for significant cracks so mice and insects can’t get in. Also, double-check local reviews to make sure the storage provider is responsive to customer concerns.
Unloading After Storage
Check on your guns and accessories about once a month while they’re in storage to ensure they are safe from moisture, rodents or other potential damage. Once hunting season comes around again, remove and inspect each item, taking care to remove lubricant on parts where it’s not needed or could pose a safety hazard.
Clothing can stay in scent-proof bags until it’s time to go on your first outing, but guns and other items should be reassembled and inspected ahead of time. Take inventory of all items, making sure that small objects like compasses and tent stakes haven’t disappeared. Once your supplies are assembled, you’ll be ready to start prepping for the hunting season.
How to Prep for the Hunting Season
Keep Your Gear Safe in Storage
Hunting gear storage requires careful cleaning and planning, but it’s a worthwhile effort to protect your equipment from damage. Rust, mold and rodent damage can sneak up on experienced gun owners if they don’t store their items in the right places.
Guns need the most care for safe and clean storage, but other items should also be prepared and packed carefully. Avoiding garages and sheds goes a long way toward reducing damage and odors that can get in the way next season.
If you have a lot of equipment and a small house, you can take advantage of a high-quality and reputable local storage facility to store hunting clothes and accessories. Managing all of your equipment’s storage needs can be tricky if you hunt different game in multiple seasons, but storing things efficiently reduces stress and keeps you from misplacing items in the long run.
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