In the first part of this series, I talked about the importance of getting and staying in shape during your offseason. With weather being as unpredictable as it is, uneven terrain, and altitude adjustments to contend with, being in the best physical shape possible is one of the greatest advantages you can have in your favor for a safe and memorable experience.
But the offseason isn’t just a great time to get in shape– it is also a great time to sharpen your hunting skills in general. In this article, I will suggest some ways to help you get not only hold on to the skills that you have but also improve upon them. This will be a definite advantage when the hunting season kicks off.
Knowledge of the territory where you will be hunting gives a distinct advantage in helping you to stay on top of your game (no pun intended), and the offseason is an excellent time to discover, or rediscover, the area you have chosen. Whether you are going to a new hunting location or one you have been to before, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with everything within that territory. Even if you have hunted a particular area for many seasons, weather and other elements can actually change that location quickly, making it virtually unrecognizable to what it was before. You may find out that your favorite hunting spot is actually gone, a regular water source has dried up or changed course, or any other manner of changes. If you don’t scout in the offseason, by the time hunting season rolls around and you discover these changes, it most likely will be too late to find another location to hunt.
It is also important to know the areas around your hunting location. You can study maps to give yourself a general idea of what is around your designated hunting spot. One important step is to search out creeks, rivers and ponds. These are not only great water sources for you, which may come in handy if your personal water supply runs low, but they are also the water source for game, and will give you an idea of where certain animals can be located. This is another good reason to visit your intended hunting grounds during the offseason. Knowing beforehand which areas are inaccessible because of fallen trees and other debris and which ones have dried up will aid you when you actually go hunting.
It will be necessary to plan a couple of trips to your chosen area so that you can monitor the landscape and any changes in it. You should spend time walking the terrain that you will be hunting, looking for signs of animal activity such as where animals have bedded down. I know, I know – it is just awful having to actually go and spend time in the woods, but if you are like me, you will endure it if you must. (I am being sarcastic here, in case you didn’t pick up on that.)
As you are scouting the area, keep a sharp eye out for potential spots for cover. Look for well-sheltered protective cover that still allows you a view of the area and approaching game. By scouting your hunting grounds during the offseason, you will be able to get some great ideas of several places to track your prey.
What type of game are you hunting? Offseason is a good time to look for signs that the game you will be hunting is in the area. For example, if you are hunting horned animals, look for indicators such as large quantities of scat, tracks, and rubs. Searching for and locating tracks will help you choose the perfect posting spot. However, you also will want to choose a posting spot that is not too close to the paths the animals travel. By scouting out the area during the offseason, you will be able to determine both the places to seek out and the ones to avoid.
Finally, but no less important, make sure that you have the proper equipment for the area where you will be hunting. Always be sure to bring plenty of water, just in case you are quite a distance from a water source or near a source that has dried up. A first-aid kit is a necessity and should include bandages, antiseptic ointment, scissors, fever/pain relievers, tape and gauze and other medicines you might need. A spare change of boots and clothes are always a good idea, especially depending upon the terrain of your territory. Other items to bring along can include ropes, strings, duct tape, flares, matches and/or lighters, waterproof tarps and gear, emergency survival food packs, and a satellite phone (as you may not be able to get reception on a cell phone).
As the Boy Scout motto states, Be Prepared. When you know in advance what terrain you will be traversing, where the best posting spots will be located, which animal paths to avoid, and are equipped with the essentials, your hunting experience will be better, safer and more productive.