If the joy of summer has swept you away and the thought of doing anything on a chilly October morning makes you cringe, it's understandable.

You have to enjoy beautiful weather when you can.

But you can't get so overwhelmed by savory temperatures that you forget the calendar is about ready to turn. Hunting season is upon us, and the time to put in the prep work is now, not later.

The Illinois squirrel season opens next Thursday, and for those planning to load their guns for the first time in 2019, here are a few things to remember:

º Check your licenses and permits.

Many outdoorsmen buy the sportsman's special in Illinois, which is the hunting and fishing licenses combined. Assuming you purchased it before the prime fishing months, it ensures you are licensed to hunt without having to run to a retailer in the next few days.

All licenses expired March 31, so if you haven't purchased anything since then, you better hustle.

Remember to check the expiration date on your firearm owner's identification card as well. Conservation police officers don't look kindly on being oblivious to details.

º Clean your gun.

Do you know when the last time you fired your rifle or shotgun was? Has it been in storage since last hunting season? Have you even pulled it out of the case?

Although your gun likely will shoot just fine no matter where or how it has been stored, a thorough cleaning eliminates any unexpected surprises. It should provide some peace of mind as well.

Besides, doesn't it feel good to take it apart, put it back together and feel all the pieces working in unison. It tells you it's time to hunt.

º Check your clothing.

Each year, you rip or tear something trudging through the woods or climbing in and out of a tree. Did you mend it? Do you care to mend it?

Scent-blocking technology has become a major part of hunting, but part of limiting the scents and odors is taking care of the product throughout the offseason. Did you leave any clothes in a bag or box where they didn't get clean?

Now is the time to clean or replace clothing and gear that has become ineffective.

º Go through all your gear.

Sharpen your knives. Organize your shells. Test your calls. Try your flashlight. Stock up on things you want in your backpack or satchel, such as Ziploc bags, extra gloves and batteries.

You don't want to be caught unprepared in the field at any point, but certainly not on opening day.

Happy hunting.

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