Most every hunter knows that our sport is relatable to life in every facet. Most every hunter also had a grandparent that instilled in them the age-old adage “You only get out of something what you put in.” While this speaks true in everyday life, it shines brightly in the hunting world. Those sweat-filled days long before the season are what ultimately decorates your wall and fills the air around a future late-night campfire with your buddies and children. As an outdoorsman, we all have a duty to nature and the environment in which we spend so much time. Proper land management is key to the sustenance of our beloved pastime. Every hunter should constantly be aware and attentive to the needs of their field of play. Whether a cattail pond or hardwood stream, pine forest or rye field, the proper duties should never end. And if the work never ceases, the stories and memories never should either.
Here are some tips to get your hunting property and yourself ready for the next duck hunting season:
- Plan for the season — The offseason is the best time to start working for your success next hunting season. Look back on what worked for you during the previous year and what didn’t. Time is always a factor so focus your offseason attention on 1 or 2 projects that will most improve your chances of success. This might include: Moving/building blinds, improving, enhancing, or creating habitat, cleaning up and repainting old decoys, building and putting out wood-duck boxes, scouting, improving your shooting, etc. The list goes on and on.
- Practice makes perfect — Instead of putting your calls in storage with the rest of your gear for the off-season, keep them handy and practice when you can. I have found one of the best places to keep your calls is in your truck so you can practice while driving. Not sure how to call ducks or run a duck call? With today’s connected world it is easy to find tutorials on the web that can teach you how to use a duck call. Aside from that, the best thing you can do is to go your hunting land, hunting lease or public land/waterholes that is home to waterfowl and listen to how the ducks talk..don’t call at them, just listen. Take what you have learned and try to mimic that.
- Shotgun maintenance — As waterfowl hunters, we all put our firearms to the test: mud, water, grass, dirt, etc. It is important to keep your shotgun clean throughout the season but after the season it is crucial to give your shotgun deep clean and a check up to make sure everything is in working order.
- Improve your shot — Don’t let your shotgun sit in the safe until next season rolls around. Go out and practice. Shoot trap or sporting clays to keep your skills honed in until next season. If you hunt from layout blinds, practice shooting from a layout blind. If you hunting from a blind, practice by moving from a sitting position to standing and shooting. Practicing as if it was a real scenario will ensure you are prepared come duck season.
- Take care of the land — Whether you own your own hunting land or property, have a hunting lease, have permission to hunt someone’s land, or hunt public land, the land should always come first. It should go without saying to keep things clean: pick up spent shells, pick up trash and pick up after yourself (and others). Some other things you can do to improve the land: mow grasses, clean up fallen timber, remove invasive species, improve, enhance or create habitat for wildlife, promote new growth, work with government programs to restore or improve wetlands and several others.