Dear Writing Huntress,
This is my 3rd year afield. My 1st year, I started hunting deer in September and went all the way until the end of turkey season in May. I essentially took the summer off, reading books and lazing about, silently pleading for fall to arrive. Unfortunately, by late summer, I had to play catch up for the upcoming season; my arms were weak and I reduced the poundage on my bow, my hunting felt sluggish and it even felt like my senses were off. Now that I’m into my second pre-season summer, I want to spend it productively in order to make the best of my upcoming hunts. What should I be doing during this time? What have you done in the past that has helped your hunting game come September 1st?
Off-Season in Oregon
Your plight is a common one, especially for huntresses quasi-new to the sport, with no prior pre-season summer experiences.
During middle and high school, I played hockey from early September to late April. We would generally have a few weeks off, until summer training began, where we’d endure hours of workouts, off-ice drills and absolutely dreadful dry-land practices. I didn’t understand the importance of these practices, until the end of my first summer, when I realized I had learned new skills, sharpened my stick handling, kept my muscles in check and grew closer with my teammates. Hockey, like hunting, doesn’t bode well with time off.
As much as you yearn to take your book outside, get some sun and relax, it’s important, as you’ve already learned, to hone your skills during summer. Without further adieu, allow me to introduce the Writing Huntress’s summer activity list.
I’ve said it time and time again — bowfishing rocks. It’s awesome for huntresses who want to become better and stronger bow hunters. Bowfishing forces shooters to become more accurate and more comfortable with their bows. Also, it’s super fun. I’ll be writing more about how to bowfish in my next column so be sure to check it out!
Fishing is a great way to get out in the elements and enjoy nature, when air conditioning and your couch are beckoning. Fishing can be relaxing, as in flinging cast after cast in the direction of sunfish and perch, but it can also be high-energy and exhausting, especially in the case of deep-sea fishing. Either way, get out and cast a line, you’ll be out in nature and also able to get a nice tan.
Go at it alone
Use this summer to accrue new life skills via friends, experts in the area, or classes a la “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman.” Amass a new skill each week, from foraging to fire making and everything in between. Cap your summer of learning off with a solo camping trip, where you can put your newfound skills to good use, thus preparing for surprise nights afield or pack-in hunting situations.
It’s the age of cold-water, push-up, and cinnamon challenges. While I don’t suggest the latter (Believe me, I did it, and it wasn’t pretty. Lots of cinnamon sneezes.), I am advocating for a summer workout challenge geared toward whatever hunting you plan on doing during season. Personally, now that I’ve moved to Texas, and shall be facing hikes up canyons and across vast tracks of desert, I’ve begun a running regime, not only to acclimate myself to the heat (more on that on a future Ask Writing Huntress column) but also to keep in hunting shape.
I don’t think I can ever stress the importance of keeping your shotgun clean and well fired during the off-season. The best way to ensure your shooting skills thrive during the summer is to visit your local skeet range. My personal favorite shotgun workout is at the 5-Stand range. 5-Stand helps prepare for the erratic flight of oncoming ducks or doves and teaches shooters to keep their heads on a swivel.
Continuous firing of your bow is necessary, too. Either set up a target range in your backyard, or join one in your local community and get shooting! Increase your yardage as the summer wears on, and by September 1st, you’ll be shooting farther than you ever have.
Off-Season, I hope you spend this summer sharpening your game for the upcoming hunting season. Have fun, be safe and remember to relax a little, too!