With hunting seasons closed or closing across the country, many hunters are left with a gaping hole in their schedules and lives. This hole is most often filled with couch time, televised sports, and dreaming of next season. However, the best hunters aren’t sitting around. They are preparing for next year. Here are ten ways to become a better hunter this off season.
Whether you hunt grouse, pheasants, turkeys, or deer, the final step in a successful hunt is an accurate shot. There is no better way to improve your shooting skills than practice.
Upland and waterfowl hunters will make the most of their practice time by shooting sporting clays. Targets are thrown from unknown distances and locations, simulating real-life hunting situations.
Deer and turkey hunters should spend the off season testing and patterning new loads at the range.
Get In Shape
Hunters never know whether our next encounter with game will be ten feet or ten miles away. Having the stamina to keep going is often the difference between success and failure in the field.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to be a great hunter, but the higher your level of fitness, the better. Hit the gym, shovel snow, or take a bike ride. However you choose to exercise, make it a goal to be in better shape by next hunting season.
Get a Dog
Many hunters would rather head afield without their gun than without their dog. Hunt behind a good one once and you’ll understand why.
The off season is the perfect time to shop for and purchase a hunting dog. With proper training you’ll see a huge increase in hunting success and the feeling of partnership will make next season’s hunts more rewarding.
Train/Retrain Your Dog
Now that you’ve found the perfect dog to match your hunting style, you need to do your part.
If you are starting from scratch, basic obedience commands should be taught before you start worrying about hunting skills. If you’ve been hunting with your dog for a few years, the off season is the perfect time to review advanced skills like marking birds, holding steady at the shot, and in-boat manners.
Join a Wildlife Organization
Organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, and the Quality Deer Management Association work to create habitat and healthy populations of the game animals we love.
Joining one of these organizations not only helps your favorite species, but puts you in contact with other hunters who share your passion.
If you are a landowner, you can create habitat for your favorite game animals.
Habitat work can be as quick and cheap as hinge cutting a few trees to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor or a full scale overall of your property complete with duck ponds, food plots with shelter strips, and access roads.
Even small habitat improvements can drastically improve the hunting on your land next season.
Update Your Gear
The off season is the best time to update your gear. Many outdoor companies offer huge discounts at the end of hunting season and getting your gear early will give you time to test it and break it in.
Scout New Locations
The off season is the perfect time to scout new hunting locations. Finding ideal habitat and especially seeing game in the off season will give you a head start when the season opens next year.
Practice Your Calling
Turkey and waterfowl hunts often hinge on the realism of the hunter’s calls. Off season practice will have you sounding like a member of the flock by the time the next opening day rolls around.
Find a secluded place to practice. For some reason, non-hunting family members don’t love the sounds of wild animals as much as we hunters.
Relive the Season
Ever hear the old saying about history repeating itself? Get out your hunting journal and try to determine why you were or were not successful on last season’s hunts. Burning your mistakes into your subconscious may keep you from repeating them and reminiscing on successful hunts will keep you working hard this off season.