If you’re like me, wing shooting pretty much controls your life from the opening day of dove season in September to the last day of duck season in January. And maybe if you’re lucky, you can stretch the season into early spring with some conservation snow goose hunting trips.
But what do you do when the dust settles and the days of waking up before sunrise to get out in a field or on the water come to an end? Of course, there’s always the alternative of hitting the bottoms in search of gobbling tom or running the lakes and rivers trying to hook up with your favorite fish.
But what are some activities for those hunters that can’t quite get the sights and sounds of mallard ducks quacking and backpedaling though hardwoods out of their mind during the offseason?
For the real waterfowlers and “duck commanders,” Ducks Unlimited has put together a cool list of activities for the offseason. While their list offers some great suggestions, I wanted to put together one of my own.
Here are four things waterfowlers can do to stay in tune during the offseason:
1. Work on your own calling
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you won’t have trouble finding a duck or goose call in the door of my truck. It never hurts to get a little practice in while going down the road. That is unless your wife is in the truck – and then it may not last too long. Waterfowlers will want a passable call if they want to be successful.
2. Pattern your shotgun
Whether you just bought a new gun and chokes or you’re trying a new shell type, it is imperative that you pattern your setup before hunting. Knowing what you and your gun are capable of at different distances is vital knowledge that you cannot go on a hunt without. Just because you’ve bought a new gun, doesn’t guarantee that it will perform. Every shooter, gun, barrel, choke and shell perform differently. I believe this is one of the most important parts of setting yourself up for success in the game. You wouldn’t take a deer rifle into the woods without knowing if it shot accurately, so why would you hunt for waterfowl if you aren’t confident you can hit them?
3. Store your gear properly and prepare early
The last thing you want is to wait until the night before your first outing of the year to check your gear, only to find out that your wader boots have dry-rotted. Or even worse, running around like a chicken with your head cut off the night before because you can’t find your facemask. Do yourself a favor and keep your gear protected through the offseason and stored in one place, if possible, so when you start prepping for the season you have time to check it all out without rushing (too much).
4. Don’t wait until the hunt to get your practice in
Practice makes perfect. Building muscle memory and getting used to maneuvering your gun to make shots doesn’t come overnight. Like anything else, you have to do it – and do it often – to be good at it. Do yourself a favor and go throw some skeet throughout the spring and summer with your buddies, or go to a clays course to shoot a few times. You don’t have to break the bank, but continuing to shoot in the offseason from time to time will definitely help to keep you in tune and make you much more successful at bagging birds when it comes game time and someone yells “Take ‘em!”
Let us know if there are any items that you’d add to the list, and contact your local NLR Land Professional if you’ve got more questions. And as always, be safe, enjoy God’s creation, and best of luck to all the waterfowlers.