Hunting season is still two months away. Come September a lot of seasons are opening up. Here in West Texas, it’s September Teal season. Whether it’s waterfowl or big game, rifle or bow season, a lot of us are experiencing withdrawal. I know, personally, I am getting stressed with the everyday grind of just working. Combating hunting withdrawal is actually relatively easy, and will get rid of that stress. After all, there never really is an off-season right?
Practice, Practice, Practice in the Off-Season.
I know I actually need to do this. Waterfowl is my primary hunting season since my county has no big game season. The off-season is a great time to prepare. Practicing with a shotgun in hand can save you loads of stress on an opening day. Take your shotgun and go to your local skeet range and shoot some clay. It’s a good way to practice your lead on a speeding duck and a great way to keep the dust off in the summer months. Besides who doesn’t love shooting stuff?
I’m not a bow hunter, but I am definitely working on getting into it. If you pay attention to any big names in hunting on social media, like anyone in the Drury family, most will have video or pictures of them shooting targets during the off-season. Break out the good ol’ bow and quiver, go out and buy a target and start working on those tough shots. When that booner buck comes around your stand this year, you’ll be happy you took the time out of your off-season weekend to practice your best Robin Hood impersonations.
Practicing for rifle hunting is easier than receiving Christmas presents. Seriously who doesn’t love to shoot? Especially at a distance, with an optic, probably pretending to be a Navy SEAL sniper. The even better part of this is you don’t need a range to do this. A lot of places allow you to shoot as long as you have a backstop that meets regulations. Sure rounds might be more expensive for your .308 short win, but get the boys out and shoot empty beer cans from the night before.
Scouting is one of the most important things a hunter can do in his/ her off-season. Thankfully technology helps with this quite a bit. Set up game cameras in front of feeders, food plots, or on highly used trails and see what you have on your property. Locating possible bedding sites near food plots will help you decide on blind locations. Creating that hit list once you spot some good deer to take down will not only excite you for the upcoming season but will keep you busy and in the hunting mindset.
For us duck hunters it’s a bit different. Although it is July, I still look at migration reports on my Ducks Unlimited app and keep my eyes towards the sky. You will have some resident waterfowl that stay in your area year round, especially in the southern part of the US. As the season draws closer, look for these resident ducks and start looking for patterns. Here in El Paso, I have seen ducks still flying around the Rio Grande. Establishing patterns in loafing and feeding spots will make deciding where to set your decoys this fall/winter easier. The only thing we need is a full tank of gas, a good set of binoculars, and a lot of time on our hands.
No Shame in Living Vicariously
Even I can become a couch potato in the off-season. Right now it’s Shark Week, so yeah I’m a couch potato. Other times I am living vicariously through my shows on Outdoor Channel. Ask my wife and she’d probably tell you it’s an unhealthy addiction. I am not envious by nature, but I am constantly looking to learn about the animals I hunt or hope to hunt in the future. My favorites to watch are Heartland Waterfowl, THIRTEEN, and Crush.
So far everything I know about deer hunting has come from the Drury Outdoors family, and their show THIRTEEN. They break down the deer hunting season into 13 (surprise) different phases, and establish tactics for each step while dropping trophy deer. This season Mark and daughter Taylor dropped 400 inches of antler in a single episode. 400 INCHES! Do you know what that does to a viewer? Yeah, it makes me want to be them, so what do I do? I start educating myself online on where to find a 200-inch buck in Texas, and I start scaring my wife with talks of buying tree stands and pop-up blinds.
Heartland Waterfowl makes me plan trips in my head to go knock down massive amounts of Canada’s snow and green heads. It pumps me up like no other to watch those dudes dropping birds from the sky. Just the excitement alone in watching the guys on Heartland Waterfowl succeed in a sport I love makes me find ways to stay active.The show creates ideas of dream hunts in the Midwest and showcases the passion of waterfowlers. The point is that it keeps that fire going year round. It’s tough to do when those of us who have a normal 9-5 would honestly just like to sit around all day on Saturday. Even the most dedicated have that flame turn into a single burning ember occasionally.
Obviously, this is a pretty short list of things to do, and probably nothing of what you expected. Sorry, I’m not writing for Buzzfeed and including a cute slide show to go with this. Besides the obvious of training to improve, scouting and pulling SD cards from trail cams, there are a few other tasks you can complete.
Get Something New
Why the hell not? Just don’t do what I do and tell your wife you are spending $20 at Gander and spend $100 because decoy prices dropped down 40% (so worth it). What excites an adult more than new appliances? Nothing….. on a serious note, getting a new shotgun, bow, pop-up blind, or hunting waders can be enough to make September seem closer.
Train Woman’s Best Friend
Say whatever you want, but a dog is literally woman’s best friend. It’s a proven fact, seeing as if I smack my wife’s awesome butt while she cooks the dog wants to eat me, but if my wife smacks my awesome butt while I cook the dog makes sure my wife is okay. Regardless of whom their loyalties are with if you have a bird dog keep the training going. Dogs can very easily become lazy and insubordinate. Even the best-trained labs will have hiccups at the beginning of the season. Run retrieves from blinds or stands with your dog in the off-season to keep their fire burning too.
Try Shed Hunting
I have never done this. Not because I don’t want to but because I live in a place without deer. I see pictures all the time of friends back up in the Northeast and from social media pages I follow of people picking up shed antlers. I think this would be awesome, and why wouldn’t it be? Picking up 8 point antlers from the year prior has to get hunters excited and ready to see the potential for the next season. (Yes I am willingly accepting invites to an all-inclusive shed hunt next year.)
Again, the point is to keep your fire burning for the start of the season. The dog days of summer are hot and long, and fall seems so far away. In 2 more months, many of you will be sending arrows through bucks, or be joining me collecting a bag limit of teal. Until then, stay motivated and keep to the grind. Or just pick up fishing in your off-season. After all, good things come to those that wait right?
(Special thanks to Heartland Waterfowl for providing pictures used in this article. You can watch Heartland Waterfowl on Outdoor Channel, and check them out on Facebook, IG, and Twitter.)
To follow my hunting and fishing adventures this year, and to share your hunting and fishing adventures with myself and fellow MING writer Michael Heimall, go like and follow our new outdoor page, Cold Water Outdoors, on Facebook, Instagram (@coldwateroutdoors), and Twitter (@cold_waterUSA).