But what if you are a hunter? How can you occupy your time? There are actually several activities to get involved in. The first and foremost is shooting activity. Off season practice makes you a better hunter. We can all use as much time at the range as possible. If you are a rifle hunter work on your shots at longer range (100 yards or more) from different shooting positions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could shoot all our game from a benchrest? But we can’t. We should practice as we hunt. In addition to range time, why not get in some time on live targets? Groundhogs are garden pests this time of year and anyone who has a garden will gladly welcome you. Ask anyone who has hunted them, groundhogs can be a challenging target requiring your best stealth, camo, and shooting skills. Next level up try some coyote hunting. Again, you will be welcome at any farm and your hunting skills will be challenged.
For the wingshooter like me, head to the sporting clays range. A typical sporting clays range will have enough variety in target presentations to prepare you for the upcoming upland or waterfowl season. Spend as much time as possible at stations simulating the game you hunt most. Don’t go out the week before the season starts, shoot one round of clays, and expect to be ready for the dove opener. Part of the skill sharpening with clays isn’t just about the target presentation, but also about your gun mount, target acquisition, and follow through. Those are about muscle memory and the more you shoot the better your basics will be.
How about live targets for the shotgunner? Farmers will more than welcome you to shoot crows. I just spent some time this morning hunting crows on the farm where I will hunt geese this fall. Again, crows are a challenging target. You have to have a good decoy setup, good calling techniques, and be well camouflaged just as you do for dove. They may look slow flapping through the air but crows can be evasive. This morning I killed two crows with five shots; about what I expect to do with dove in September.
In addition to shooting practice, it doesn’t hurt to start lining up places to hunt when the season rolls around. Get back in touch now with people who gave you permission last year. Thank them for the opportunity and if they give you permission again I recommend you use the WRC pre-printed permission slip to seal the deal. Ask them if they know anyone else who might let you hunt. Once you have permission it’s time to get out and scout the land to look for travel patterns and stand locations if deer hunting. So there is plenty to do during the off season. Two months goes by pretty fast.
For the sporting clays enthusiast, there is a new course opening up near Rutherfordton that is part of the Tryon Resorts associated with the Equestrian Center. I visited last week and get a tour of the facility with the manager. The course is up and running but some of the details are still being worked out (i.e. membership, pricing, public access). I must say I was impressed. The sporting clays course is 15 stations with four traps per for 60 different presentations. Rick Hemingway, one of the best known target setters in the southeast, designed and set the course and will be coming in every few months to change presentations. There is also a Five Stand with 7 different targets. More details to follow.
Just saw a hen turkey in our back yard. Disturbing that she didn’t have any poults with her. Anybody else seeing the same?
Don Mallicoat owns Wings & Clays Guns and Gear and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.633.1806.