By Tom Huggler
As I write this, the governor has just ordered all Michigan residents to “shelter in place” due to the COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this the pandemic has subsided and things are returning to normal. Either way, this slow time during the off-season offers a perfect opportunity for wingshooters to prepare for upcoming hunts. Here are 10 ways to ensure success this fall by taking advantage of the summer lull.
1) Get in shape. Serious bird hunters need strong legs and lungs, and daily walking will improve both.
2) Build muscle memory by practicing your gun mount at home. From a ready position, smoothly lift the gun butt to your shoulder, lock your thumb under your jaw and swing through those vertical and horizontal lines that separate the ceiling from the walls. A Maglite dropped into the end of the barrel will help you stay “on target.”
3) If you are allowed to leave the house, get thee to a shooting range and work on those clays. If the ranges are closed, find a partner and take turns with a hand-thrower.
4) Work with your dog, as he or she needs to get in shape, too, and could use a tune-up before opening day.
5) If you didn’t do it after this past season, clean—make that deep clean—your guns. Don’t settle for swabbing the barrel(s) with solvent and wiping away fingerprints. Learn how your favorite piece is put together by taking it apart (assuming you’re confident about reassembling it) and cleaning the components you can’t see.
6) Repair and replace defective gear. This prep includes replacing frayed decoy strings and patching leaky waders, testing beeper-collar batteries, reconditioning boot leather and swapping old shoelaces with new.
7) Plan your fall outings. Use your imagination: Where do you really want to go, and what would you like to hunt? Surf the web to discover opportunities, costs, ideal times to go and more.
8) Call friends and coordinate calendars. It’s fun to schedule hunting activities with others when you do it early to avoid conflicts. I have hunted grouse and woodcock with a dozen bird-camp buddies for nearly four decades. Planning far in advance ensures that others will be able to make it.
9) Make contacts now. Early reservations can save money and avoid disappointment. If you’re hoping to gain access to private land, start researching today. Call district wildlife biologists and make an introduction while inquiring about hunting prospects.
10) Get caught up on reading. Those Shooting Sportsman articles you marked by turning down page corners or that grouse hunting book you got for Christmas will broaden your knowledge and keep the fires of anticipation burning.
Tom Huggler’s Grouse of North America and A Fall of Woodcock won national acclaim and are now collectible. His Quail Hunting in America (Stackpole) is still in print. A Fall of Woodcock was reprinted recently by Skyhorse Publishing.