As hunters, we always look forward to the next season. For the waterfowl hunters, you can’t wait for that drop in temperature. Those crisp mornings on the water, setting decoys, watching your breath as you exhale, counting the seconds until the shooting hours start.
But what can you do leading up to those days?
Here are a few ideas to help you prepare for that first hunt of the season without driving your spouse crazy by blowing a duck call in the bathtub with all your gear on.
1: Continuous Training
Some people prefer to wing it on opening day and expect it to be a stellar hunt. Depending on your definition, it could be, but it probably won’t be by most unless you put in the work ahead of time.
What are you doing to ensure you will be shooting as consistently as you did at the end of last season? I recommend shooting trap and skeet. This will keep that muscle memory fresh and maybe even help you become a better shot than last year.
Trying to be in the best shape will go a long way when you have that long pack into the blind with all your gear and decoys strapped to your back.
Most duck hunters have that faithful dog that will do anything you ask of them when retrieving that downed bird. If you are hunting a river, that can be a demanding task for your retriever.
Please make sure they are in the best shape they can be before the season starts. The excuse “round is a shape” might work for you, but it won’t go over as well for your dog.
Some basic obedience training can also go a long way. Nothing can ruin a hunt quicker than a dog that busts out of the blind as soon as you grab that duck call or your shotgun. Please work with your dog on hold until you want them to go. It’s not only safer for them but also gratifying to watch a trained retriever do what they were bred to do. Find a local retriever club, and talk with the members. Most of them are more than happy to help you with excellent information.
2: Gear Management
People always say, “I only clean my shotgun at the end of the season.” That’s like saying you only change the oil in your car once a year. Unless you have the money for a new shotgun every couple of seasons, you should probably do a better job taking care of your hunting equipment.
I always do what I can to clean everything at the end of the season, but some things can be challenging to do due to the weather.
Summertime is a great time to pull everything out and ensure it is clean and ready for the upcoming season.
Making sure your decoys are clean and your weights and leads are in good condition can save you a lot of headaches when the season arrives. Personally, I like to replace my decoy line every couple of years to avoid watching one float by during a hunt, wondering who the poor shmuck is that lost his flocked mallard decoy. I realized it was me, and now I’m chasing it down the river, huffing and puffing because my “round is a shape” mentality got the better of me.
Most of my goose decoys are all Divebomb Industries silhouettes and socks. I will set them up in the yard and give them a good wash to get the little bit of last season’s mud off them.
My layout blinds are a little bit of a different story. Those I want to look “dirty.” This is an excellent time to “mud in the blind,” as some say. I will mix up a bucket of mud and coat the blind and let it dry. This helps with the natural look for concealment in a hunt.
3: Scout Scout Scout
You don’t want to be that guy looking for a place to hunt opening morning. That should already be established ahead of time. Now I know what you’re thinking, “the birds aren’t here in the summer; why am I scouting this early?”. You are right, but you aren’t looking for birds right now. Get out, hike around, and look for places where birds could potentially be when the season gets here. This will help you stay in shape and give you potential new spots to look at again when the season is a little closer.
You already know what type of place a duck wants to be in. Find those new places early, narrow them down when the season gets a little closer, and save some other ones for a rainy day.
There are many other things to do during the Summer time wait. Let us know in the comment section what you do to prepare for the season while we all melt in the summertime heat.