The off-season is the best time to invest in improving your skills and hunting strategy. While you enjoy eating the wild game from this past season, take the time to analyze successes and mistakes while building skills and a new strategy for 2024.
For many hunters, the seasons never really end and the winter months are best spent preparing for future opportunities! Here are 5 things to think about during this off-season:
When learning to call elk, moose or any other species, hours of practice will go a long way toward success. Too many hunters wait until the week before the opener to sound off a few warm-up bugles in the basement. Instead, spend the winter studying and practicing.
Plenty of training videos are easily found online. Spend some time just listening to natural sounds as well. This will help you get a feel for tones and cadences before investing the time in actual calling. When September rolls around, you will be ready to jump right into the action with full confidence.
Plan Tag Applications
The period to submit draw applications will soon be open for many states. During some of these cold winter evenings, cozy up by the fire and spend time pouring through the application processes and draw odds for different states.
Now is the time to work through your application strategy. Every hunter has a different approach to this. Some might wish to target very specific, difficult to draw areas. Others may concentrate on hunts with high percentage draw odds. A diversified strategy is also worth considering. Invest in points or try your luck in difficult to draw states. But also look for a high percentage draw opportunity in at least one state. By doing this, you’ll increase your chances of actually having a hunt to pursue.
As you research states and units to hunt, take the time to study up on potential hunt areas using OnX maps and Google Earth. It’s amazing what you can find during these off-season scouting sessions.
Assess Your Strategy and Learn from Your Mistakes
Spend the off-season making strategic improvements for next year. Keeping a log book of basic notes after each hunt during the season really helps this process. Analyze mistakes and work through those failed scenarios to create a better outcome on the next round. Also, analyze success and look for keys to that success that are applicable to future hunts.
This is a great time to go through your OnX waypoints and look for ways to improve your strategies in the field. Mark areas with heavy hunting pressure or anything that didn’t work out. Mark any new glassing points that you discovered and note areas where you saw game. Take a deep dive into your hunting areas and really refine your approach for the next season.
Start Training and Preparing for Next Season
It’s never too early to start training physically for the next season. If possible, spend the winter hiking where you can stay physically prepared. Wear your bino harness, your backpack and any other accessories. If you live in an area where you can use your binos to watch deer or elk during the off-season, even better. Keep your eyes sharp and trained just as you keep your body fit.
Finally, take time during this off-season to go through all of your gear. First, make sure it’s cleaned up and ready for storage. Mud and dirt can be corrosive, so make an effort to clean, dry and store your gear in a safe place. This will help your investment in quality gear go much further.
Make note of anything that didn’t work out or anything that became worn out during the season. Make a plan to replace these items. This can be a great time of year to find hunting clothing on sale before the new 2021 styles arrive in the spring. Make an effort to have your gear dialed in by next summer so that you can test things out during summer camping or backpacking trips.
Two things to pay special attention to early in the year should be your boots and your weapon. Give yourself plenty of time to break in new boots and make sure they are comfortable. And if you’re making changes to your bow or rifle setup, you’ll want time to practice and become confident. For more on this subject, see our recent article on off-season rifle and archery practice.
Have Fun This Off-Season!
The off-season is the perfect time to prepare and get excited for the New Year! We hope you have fun preparing for those next adventures. If you have questions about our gear, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
By Zach Lazzari & Ryan McSparran