For me, March has always been an in-between month. It’s still nearly a month away from turkey season and since God hasn’t yet made ice thick enough for me to venture onto, my fishing hasn’t quite kicked in. I’m not opposed to ice anglers and their ways per se, it’s just that I’m originally from an area of the world where ice on waterholes was something to definitely stay away from, not flock toward. So now I’m left with weekday afternoons and weekend mornings filled with a list of things my wife wants me to do. But I’m rebelling. And in the end, I think my foresight will make her much happier. Plus, it allows me to take care of a short list of needs that every hunter should pay attention to in order to preserve the sanctity of their outdoor equipment, as well as their marriage.
1) Inventory Ammunition
Knowing exactly what you have left after a hunting season allows you to better search for good buys the rest of the year in sporting goods stores. If you shot six boxes of shells during the opening weekend of dove season last year and hope to be in that same spot again this September, you might want to look throughout the year for the loads you like to shoot. Also, steel loads for waterfowl can often be found at marked down prices now. And don’t forget to clean out your vests and remove the hulls you buried in every pocket while walking fields for pheasants and other upland game. It’s no fun having to borrow shells from friends every year, unless you want to be the friend no one likes.
2) Check Other Sales
Duck calls, goose calls, gloves, orange vests, hats, ammunition – you name it, you can often find it on sale during this time of year. Check out your large outdoor outlets as well as your out-of-the-way nooks and crannies for deals. I usually don’t buy items that are marked less than 50 percent off. Neither should you.
3) Organize Hunting Pictures
While most of the world has switched to digital photography, that doesn’t mean hunters can’t keep albums of past hunts. Have your pictures made into prints and organize them in an album with the intent to look back at them in future years. Nothing’s more fun than looking through Dad’s old albums during the Christmas holidays. If nothing else, it allows me to make fun of his 1970s hair. Whatever you do, don’t be satisfied with capturing that big fish or nice buck on a cell phone camera.
4) Pattern Turkey Gun
The first time you fire your shotgun this spring shouldn’t be looking down the barrel at a big tom. Know exactly how your shotgun patterns, paying specific attention to the number of pellets that land in the vital region and at what yardage. That way, once you’re in the field, you’ll have the utmost confidence that you’ll be able to bag a bird if the opportunity arrives.
5) Shoot Other Guns As Well
The reason why most golfers aren’t good golfers is because they don’t practice enough. It’s hard to fathom how they think they’re going to improve by playing one day a month, much like hunters see themselves making good shots in a dove field or on a deer stand after shooting one week a year. Practice. Not only because it will help your skills improve, but because it will lead to fewer wounded animals becoming table fare for other animals.
6) Clean Guns
I’m not in the practice of buying new guns because my current guns fail to work. In the rare instances I buy guns, it’s because I have concocted a ridiculous reason to purchase another gun I don’t really need. With that said, following the instructions on how to clean each gun you own is the best way to make sure they continue to fire in the field for years to come.
7) Organize Rest of Supplies
Wash clothes, sharpen knives, patch holes, sew buttons, fix zippers and, for God’s sake, clean up the mess you’ve made in the garage before your next hunting excursion. This short list of to-do’s will help you become a more organized hunter next year. In actuality, it will also provide you a lot more sanity before your first day back in the field, eliminating the mad rush to organize equipment and run to the closest outdoor retailer with the hope of purchasing their last remaining case of dove loads. Because if you’re like me, you have enough to think about on that evening before the opener, like how you’re going to get any sleep, being as excited as you are to be back hunting.