By: Nick Charney
Like all professionals, success has been found in the disciplined routines of the off-season, which ultimately lay the foundation for the next. As hunters, we’re looking forward to that next successful hunt and luck is nothing more than where preparation meets opportunity. As one season closes or another is not too distant on the horizon, focusing on the fundamentals during the dwell time can prepare us to become well equipped before opening day arrives. From physical and mental fitness, to scouting, land management, and gear procurement, all of these factors prepare us for that opportunity. While it is impossible to control the hatches, migration, or let alone the weather, we’ve all seen somebody will be on the, “X” come day one. In this article, we’ll put some great topics for consideration and within your control on how to maximize the off-season time in order to be prepared for the next.
A great way to prepare for season is to make sure you are mentally and physically able. Professional athletes use the off-season as an opportunity to decrease sport specific work, and focus on functional movement and strength development. This, in turn, lays the foundation for greater gains in their skill work for the following season. The military, by nature, makes physical fitness a cornerstone of their duties. Not only does it enable Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines ready to fight, but there is a direct correlation to positive mental health and the stamina to perform in any environment. By no means do you have to be a physical specimen or even a Crossfit games competitor. If that’s your prerogative then great, if not then a simple dedicated workout routine with a focus on strength and endurance improvement should be your goal. You can work with a trained health professional, fitness instructor or simply develop your own plan. Make yourself a priority and dedicate a select amount of time during the week you can reasonably and sustainably commit to, and increase your strength and endurance. Again, the intent is to utilize the opportunity to make a better you, fit to scout those additional pieces of ground, wake in the early hours, stay up the late ones, or haul in that gear the extra distance to be on the, “X” when needed.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “proper preparation prevents poor performance.” So today’s efforts in scouting and land management can translate to tomorrow’s success. For turkeys, using off-season scouting such as game cameras can allow you to take inventory on your flocks. As the gobblers and hens are grouped together separately, you can use this opportunity to gauge the size of your flocks, and also the amount of poults. That in turn can guide you into how many turkeys you should take to have a sustainable population year in and year out, or simply find new pockets of birds. In addition, it can assist in your land management principles such as utilizing controlled burns at the appropriate times to create optimal habitat, trapping to reduce predation, and any supplemental feeding programs like food plots. It can also enable you to understand your flock’s behaviors on a more year-round basis to understand where they congregate and live throughout all parts of the year. This may enable you to put more tools in your belt to help you find more turkeys and also lead to better land management practices.
Furthermore with waterfowl, most scouting occurring during season is used to find the, “X.” Whether you are looking for an un-hunted opening in the canopy of the Arkansas timber, or a deep secluded pocket on a large track of public, finding where the birds want to be is key. To add to that, additional scouting by seeking to learn the habits of the birds based on the weather of where they feed, roost, and also loaf during the day increase your opportunities for success. In parallel, based on the weather, hunting pressure and habitat conditions, this scouting and observance can tailor your management plans. According to Ducks Unlimited, research has shown that if waterfowl expend more energy in response to pressure, looking for food or cover, this directly impacts their ability to acquire body fat for migration and breeding. Therefore, it may benefit you to provide a safe haven area for feeding and resting habitat for continued attraction and holding birds. Balancing the habitat improvement and additional scouting of either turkey or waterfowl in the off-season can directly result in you being fully equipped during season.
No one knew exactly how the effects of COVID-19 were going to effect the outdoor industry and product availability. In 2020 and the start of 2021, the market saw an absolute record year on all things purchased for hunting, especially ammunition. So much in fact that prominent retailers were, and still in some cases are, struggling to keep any ammunition available. While manufacturers, including ourselves are working tirelessly to re-stock, the continued demand is at an all-time high. While that inventory begins to replenish, it will undoubtedly see a concentrated surge in demand right before the next season. By that time, you’re competing with 10s of thousands of other consumers vying for the same resource. In the off-season, consider taking the opportunity to purchase well in advance for the next. Whether its ammunition, a new sight, gun, choke, clothing, or even patterning your setup, you’ll be able to score some great deals and have rock solid confidence well be season arrices. Ultimately, you’ll be ready for opening day or your next trip long before the thought has crossed many other people’s minds and you can rest easy without the fear of needing to scramble.
As mentioned earlier, there are many factors we as hunters cannot control and on most days we sure wish we could. Whether it be a prolonged drought, poor hatches, shifting migrations, or even a loss of access to land, these variables are just unable to be controlled or accurately forecasted. To the contrast, several factors exist that are within everyone’s reach that can directly correlate to a more prominent season. No continuously successful professional takes off after the season. Rather, they simply modify their routines and behaviors in a manner that allows them to prepare for the next as they know their success is dependent upon themselves. Sharpening your fitness, learning the land, and readying your equipment well in advance are just some of the off-season preparation items that will benefit you, our resources, and stack the odds in your favor.