When the winter months set in, many outdoors people hang up their camouflage, their bows, rods and basically the majority of their hunting and outdoors related gear. It is a great time to rest and relax as the winter months can certainly be a difficult time to be active outdoors, unless you're an avid ice fisherman or predator hunter. The opportunities in the cold months are not as bountiful as other seasons, yet that does not mean we should semi-hibernate like the creatures of the woods. I believe we owe it to our goals we have as hunters to challenge ourselves to stay active and get ready for the next season.
Knowing where to focus our off-season energy is probably the toughest decision and yet the one we need to give considerable thought to as we set our goals for the new year. Some questions I find myself asking: How did I survive the hunt in the mountains last fall and was I in the best shape I could be? Was my accuracy where I wanted it to be with my bow and firearms? Did my calling tactics outwit the game I was after? Consider these an off-season primer:
It's pretty safe to say we all benefit from regular exercise, healthy eating and taking care of ourselves. When it comes to enjoying the outdoors and especially being on hunts that require us to perform at a higher physical level, being in good shape can make or break the outcome. Use the off-season to create an exercise plan that you can stick to. It's not advised that you change overnight and become a seven-day-a-week gym rat, as that would be very difficult to maintain. Find a program that works for you and one that pushes you to become Fit4Fall, as we like to say. In all my years of hunting and enjoying the outdoors, my greatest memories are of when my physical condition did not stand in the way of my hunt.
As we look back on the successes and the missed opportunities in years past, there is often a common denominator with the moments leading up to the shot. In those moments, we are put in a position where all our training and practice kicks in and takes over or we become rattled and are unable to find success. I personally believe that if you practice enough and if you have countless repetition of the shot you know you can make, when the moment in time comes, you will perform. The off-season is a great time to go to the range with your kids, family and friends to become more accurate and consistent. Use this time to set yourself up for a higher probability of success come fall.
Master the Call
It's safe to say we spend our entire lives trying to become a "master" of what we do, especially as hunters. Different types of hunts often require the use of calls, which help us gain a competitive advantage. Much like the accuracy of our arrow or bullet, our ability to speak to the game we are after and gain that advantage is dependent on the time we invest practicing. There are hundreds of resources available online to compare your calling tactics to the "pros" and much like all things in life, practice can make close to perfect.
The off-season is a perfect time to reflect on how fortunate we are to have opportunities and rights to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. It's equally a valuable time to understand what more we want to receive from those opportunities and what we can do as hunters to be better prepared. A few simple goals, created from experiences in years past, will put you on a path to success come fall.
Jeremy Elbert is a host for the Wildlife Pursuit television show.