I’m typically not much of a New Year’s resolution guy. Most resolutions are ill-fated and rarely last beyond the end of January. However, resolutions related to hunting that get me outdoors more and thinking of whitetails…now those are the type of resolutions I can commit to. It’s easy to fall victim to hunting the same places and the same way year after year, making for a stale hunting season.This year I’m committing myself to explore more. Whether it’s exploring new states and land to hunt or learning and utilizing new tactics, the goal is to push beyond my comfort zone. With that, here are a few resolutions to consider for your 2016 season to help you avoid the whitetail rut (pun intended).
1. Become A Better Shot
As archery hunters, our shot placement is critical and is often the difference between retrieving a kill and not. It’s our responsibility as archers to insure we’ve done everything possible to make a clean and ethical kill. My typical practice regiment in the offseason is a combination of range time and shooting from elevation–either from a stand or elevated deck at a range of 30 to 40 yards. This year I’m challenging myself to move my distance out to become comfortable at 40 to 50 yards consistently. Not that I’m looking to take a 50 yard shot in the timber, but the idea is to build consistency at 50 yards, making anything closer seem like a chip shot. Time on the range or practicing in your backyard will turn into success in the stand.
2. Get Into Shape
I know, this feels like a non hunting related resolution, but not so. As hunters we know the kind of toll those early mornings and long hikes up and down ridges can take on our bodies. The type of animals being hunted and terrain type will dictate what level of shape needed to hunt successfully. Increasing your level of fitness will also increase your overall shooting accuracy, which is a nice incentive and ties into becoming a better shot. No need to train like an Olympic athlete, just commit to being in a little better shape next season than you were this season and you’ll be on the right path.
3. Find New Land To Hunt
If you’re hunting the same land year after year and not seeing the types of bucks you’d like to hunt, consider looking for new hunting locations. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is widely touted as the definition of insanity. You may only need to change your stand location on the current property you hunt. Or you may want to look for land that supports the kind of opportunity you’re looking for. Take it one step further and look at hunting in different states to gain those experiences you’d like to have. 2016 for me represents the year I begin to look for access in additional states. Don’t let the land you hunt dictate your experiences–get out there and knock on doors. You can never have too much land hunt to chase those mature bucks.
4. Scout More
This resolution perfectly compliments the resolution of finding new land, as scouting your current hunting location for additional spots may allow you to find that hotbed of deer activity that has been overlooked. Archery hunting is one of those pursuits where one’s level of success is a direct result of effort put in. For many, the offseason is just that–time to put the bow away until next fall. If you’re like me, hunting whitetails is a 365 day a year obsession. Scouting for next year actually begins during the present season, but be sure to take the time once late season ends to look for sign that can be used as intel for next season. Are there new trail systems popping up? Are there new bedding areas developing as the timber changes year after year. Be sure to utilize game cameras year round to keep tabs on the ebb and flow of your herd and to see what bucks made it through the season. Shed hunting is a great way to get out to do some scouting in the late/early spring. This is also a great way to spend time in the outdoors and stay connected to your passion year round.
5. Try A New Tactic
Maybe you want a new experience, but you don’t have time to find new land or travel to a new state. Try changing up how you hunt to add some excitement to next season. If you typically sit on field edges, maybe try setting up on a travel corridor or near a known bedding area in the timber. If you only do morning and evening sits, try sitting all day. Or break out a new call or try rattling antlers for the first time. There are no shortage of tactics to use adding some excitement to next season.
Here’s to an exciting 2016 season! And who knows, maybe one of your resolutions will be the reason for your moment of truth from the stand.