By Al Quackenbush
Resolutions are tossed around at the start of each year and most last but a few weeks. The off season can seem like it lasts forever, but does it really have to? Does it even exist? For the die hard deer hunter who hunts only deer the off season can feel like an eternity. For guys like me who hunt year round to stay sharp there is no off season. I don’t hunt all the time though. Taking part in other activities not only helps me prepare for whatever hunting I will do in the Fall, but it also helps me out a great deal. Some of my shared tips not only help sharpen your skills, but you might be lucky enough to have one or two lead you to some new hunting land.
As soon as the season is over I review the data I have compiled throughout the season and set a mental note for what areas I want to research through online mapping, zoning and to see if they are private or public land. During the deer season I found areas that were posted and others that I want to explore further. The off season is a perfect time to do that. I begin by scouring the internet, finding out who owns the property and then ask permission to either hunt it or, if I am lucky, seeing if it borders public land in any way.
Take part in events that get you out in nature. What do I mean? Do some shed hunting! Find an area of land and just search for sheds. Volunteer your time in a conservation effort. Take for example the Southern California Bighorn Sheep Survey. I participated in this last year to see what the local sheep habitat looked like and to help count whatever sheep I saw. Not only did I get to meet some new people now turned hunting buddies, but I also was able to hike into an area I normally would not have access to. Come to find out the area has a public access point and there is ample huntable public land. We glassed steep, rocky hillsides for hours and didn’t turn up one single sheep, but we had a great time and knew we’d be back. You can also take in a few hunting seminars. It’s a great way to learn more about the animal you are hunting and a great way to make new friends.
Scout, hike and get in shape! Some of you are probably curious as to why this isn’t my number one recommendation. If there is one thing that I avoid is making resolutions regarding losing weight because it is usually the first resolutions I hear made each year. I am not one of the masses who vows to lose weight each year. While I can always stand to lose a few pounds, my goal isn’t to lose a set amount of body fat. I aim more to get out more and hit the trail and better yet, hit the areas that don’t have trails. Get out there and glass new areas and hike them. Get a feel for the land and be sure to take your camera and GPS. Losing fat and gaining lean muscle is an added bonus!
You can make an effort toward conservation of the land by picking up trash. Make the hunting areas that much cleaner and safer by picking up what others have left behind. These past two years I have located some seriously trashed areas due to human negligence and we aim to clean them up. Plan a day or two with a group of friends where you hike in with trash bags and pack out every piece of movable trash you encounter. Be aware that there may be creatures making homes in certain items and you should verify each is empty before picking it up. If you can drive a vehicle into some of the areas, try to load them up with as much garbage that you can to reasonably haul it out. Sure, I know this is hard work and that it shouldn’t have to be your job, but it does give hunters a good name, and more importantly it beautifies the land, make it safer for the animals and gives you greener pastures to hunt in.
This is also great time of year to utilize some gear you haven’t used often or a good time to pick up somethings you want to try out. Why wait until the hunting season? If you test them out now and list the pros and cons, you will be better off when hunting season comes around. I like to test out gear in the off season to see what works well or not so well in order to consolidate what is in my pack come September. You can find out what is effective for different hunting situations and remove the gear that is not.
Last, but not least is to research some new animals to hunt. Last year it was to hunt elk for the first time and that turned into one of the most memorable hunts of my entire life. This year, with the help of my friend Bill Howard, I am researching an alligator hunt in Georgia. It’s a hunt I have thought about often, but know nothing about. With his help I am going to be finding a way to bow hunt an alligator sometime in the next couple years, but it is not a hunt that I will take lightly. It’s a hunt that will take careful planning and practice while utilizing some bowfishing skills.
These are but a few of the things I do while preparing to hunt deer in the Fall. For me, there is no off season. In the Spring there are turkey’s to hunt and in Southern California you can hunt wild pigs year round. What a great opportunity to find new areas to hunt, meet some new friends and to hone my skills as a bow hunter. 2013 has much to offer and I plan to enjoy the off season as much as I possibly can.
Albert Quackenbush has been bowhunting for more than 28 years. He shares his adventures on his blog, www.SoCalBowhunter.com, and also writes for Bow Adventures e-magazine. He is a Pro Staff member for DIYbowhunter.com, Piranha Custom Bowstrings and Field Logic. He is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Deer Association, and is a Life Member of the North American Hunting Club.
Albert was born and raised in New York State where he learned to hunt everything from squirrels to whitetail deer. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and daughter and hunts year round.