As waterfowlers, we dread it. You don’t have to just hunt ducks to understand it.

From big game hunters to uplanders and small game chasers, we know it’s coming, and worst of all; there’s nothing we can do about it.

You spend time and time again preparing for it all year and then, in what seems like a blink of an eye, the season comes to a close. Yes, it sucks, that’s a given. As those last few days come upon us, we can’t help but think about what we’re going to do with ourselves during the off-season; is it going to that fishing hole you’ve been contemplating about trying? Is it working on your stroke at the golf course?

Well, if you’re like most of us and not ready to hang your hat up just yet, here are five things you can do during the off-season.

Reflect– One of the most critical things I feel is highly overlooked is the fact to sit back, and reflect on your season. How did you feel about the type of spread you used? Was the blind you were in coordinating with the topography and vegetation of your spot? Maybe a few trips to the skeet range to help tighten up those groups wouldn’t be a bad idea.

One thought I reflect on the most doesn’t just happen during the off-season. In fact, it never really leaves the mind. I admit it’s easy to get rushed during setup before sunrise. At that point, it’s a race against time, especially if you get out there a little later than expected.

It’s completely understandable.

The truth is, the fact of limiting out, having the perfect spread or best spot doesn’t determine much of anything. Rather, taking in and enjoying each step you take out there, along with every gust of crisp winter wind that hits your face practically living and loving the moment is what defines the true maturity of a seasoned harvester.

Inventory– As waterfowlers, it is our duty to know every inch of the equipment we use, down to the last nut, bolt, and screw. Thoroughly inspecting your equipment is essential to ensure a safe and ethical hunt.

A quick scrub down on the deeks (decoys) never hurt anyone. Don’t be afraid to pull out some paint and a brush to do some touch ups on them!

Now is the time to set up that perfect storage system that works best for you. There are many DIY ways to ensure your equipment are stored properly to maximize life span.

It may seem obvious, but definitely overlooked, is checking on that firearm. Gravitating toward the “ol reliable has done it for years” can be costly. A quick take apart and clean can save you a headache later.

A few other things to consider is checking on decoy rigs and bags, tuning up duck calls, patching up waders, and portable blind care if applicable to you. It’s always a good idea to store your equipment according to manufacturer recommendations and can save you in the long run.

Plan– It’s never too early to start thinking about next year. If you’re considering an out of state hunt, now is the time to start.

With today’s technology and mapping it’s almost too easy to find a great area to start your search.

When searching for areas I highly recommend contacting the local fish and game to research legal areas that are fair game to hunt and also which licenses and tags are needed for that specific hunt and area. They can be a great tool to use and are more than happy to help. If you don’t know, ask. It could save you a hefty priced ticket, or worse.

Once you have some information gathered, utilizing modern-day mapping and 3D maps on your phone or desktop is a great resource to get an idea of the area and pinpoint entries, parking, and even a good way to get your game plan.

Of course, nothing beats really getting out there and scouting. Getting there a few days early and seeing what they are doing, where they are doing it, and when they are doing it, can give you the upper hand falling under the “ya can’t get ‘em if you’re not with ‘em” philosophy, which over time has definitely proved itself true. This is also the case for your local spot. Who knows, you may find a new spot or area you never knew was legal to hunt.

Involve– Nowadays there are so many opportunities to still be involved within the waterfowl community even during the off-season. I know I personally look forward to seeing our fowl community come together during convention/expo season. This is a great way to see the latest and greatest technology innovations coming out for the new year. It’s a great family-friendly way to meet new people, see new companies and get hands-on experience with most products.

I recommend keeping an eye out on social media for these events and going to check one out nearest you. You just might be surprised at who you run into.

If you’re looking to further your knowledge or meet the faces behind the reason why we are able to continue on the tradition of the harvest, checking out your local conservation chapter is a fantastic place to start. More than likely you will find many events and get-togethers that are hosted throughout the year. With the opportunity of assisting and learning from biologists in the field to having a drink with your fellow fowler. Supporting those who support us as outdoorsmen and women can lead to a new appreciation of the harvest.

Enjoy– Last and most importantly, enjoy your harvest. Get on that phone, call the friends and family over and let them know you’re preparing a meal that will blow their socks off! Don’t be afraid to try that new recipe you’ve been thinking about or even come up with your own. Get bold, get creative, and get innovative! There are many recipes out there that you can use to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

No matter if you walked away with meat or not, I think it’s safe to assume that we all agree there’s no better feeling than sitting back after a long season, like many generations before you, knowing you have achieved the tradition of the harvest.