This practical and thoughtful article comes from our friend and Grouse Club's Kolin Quick. Work your way through these 10 steps and keep making progress toward being a more well-rounded outdoor participant this year. Big thanks to Kolin for sharing these tips follow along with he and the Seattle Wild Fish & Wild Game Club: @grouse_club
February and March are the doldrums of the hunting and fishing calendar year. For most of us, this is the off-season. Stir craziness is setting in as we eagerly await spring turkey and sun-filled days of fishing. But September is closer than we think, and there’s no better time than the present to get dialed in. The following is 10 tips and tricks to make the most out of your down days.
1. Join A Conservation Group
About a year and a half ago, I decided to join the Ducks Unlimited Ballard Chapter as a volunteer and committee member. I was nervous, to say the least. Would these guys be a bunch of rednecks? Or kick me out because I can’t call worth a damn? It turns out, they are some of the warmest and kindest guys I know. Since then, I’ve spent countless days at the range with them, chasing turkeys and talking ducks. The only thing better than the awesome friendships I’ve gained from volunteering with DU is the depth of knowledge about hunting in general. Joining a club is the easiest tried and true method for becoming better at anything you want to do in the outdoors.
Come to a Quail Club Costa Mesa, Grouse Club Seattle, or Pheasant Boise club meeting, and your knowledge base and community connections will skyrocket.
2. Cultivate a Media Diet
You are what you eat. A media diet is what you’re reading, listening to, or watching. A simple trick to get better at anything is to cultivate an intentional media diet. Interested in Fly Fishing? Subscribe to Fly Fishermen magazine and find some podcasts to listen to on your commute. Ask folks about good Instagram accounts to follow. You can watch countless web shows and tv shows on almost any subject on the outdoors. Search youtube for your home state + Fishing. You would be astounded at the plethora of information that comes up. These are passive learning opportunities, and you would be surprised at how much you can learn from a single podcast.
- Remi Warren’s Closing The Distance Podcast
- Randy Newberg’s Show (YouTube & Prime)
- Outdoor Chef Life on Youtube
- MeatEater on Netflix
- Modern Huntsman (Print Publication)
- Hush’s Youtube Channel
- Peterson’s Hunting Magazine
- And right here on the Windward-Westward blog
3. Scout + Use OnX
I have a theory that the first time you explore new territory is physically and mentally the hardest. Your situational awareness and mental intake are in overdrive. You’re always processing how far the trail may go, where water is, if there’s a bear hanging out behind that tree, and other challenges. Challenges you don’t want to have during game time or at the season opener. Take a few days and go on a backpacking trip to wherever you’re thinking of hunting a month or two before. Go twice or more if you can. Bring your significant other, a hunting partner, or some friends who don’t get out much.
What you’re about to read will sound like an advertisement. It’s not in the slightest, it’s a product that everyone I know loves. If you don’t know where to go, you need to get on OnX. OnX Maps is a game-changing mapping software that shows public lands, private land hunting opportunities, topo maps, satellite imagery, and more. You can get this powerful GPS tool all for the cost of lunch and a beer at a small-town burger shack. Spend 30 minutes on the app and the world opens up to you, you will find lakes you’ve never heard of and boundless opportunities for hunting and hiking access. If you’re not using OnX... Go download it right now. Now that you have it, e-scout a few spots for whatever you want to do while actively marking spots that interest you. And check out this article to learn more about the apps powerful capabilities
4. Go Old School
For the longest time, I was averse to the idea of fly fishing. I thought throwing flies is at best a self-indulgent way of not catching fish. I was an avid fly fishing shit talker with a tackle box full of quips on reading poetry, catch and release, and pay-grade. Personally, I preferred to get my fishing kicks with flashy spoons and smelly fluorescent bait. However, what I learned as I got into the sport as a joke, was that fly fishing will force you to become a better angler. I didn’t truly know how to read water until I started fly fishing. Things like matching baits to weather conditions and seasonality become of the utmost importance. There’s always ways to simplify and amplify your skills. Already great at fly fishing? Then maybe it’s time to get into the dark arts of Tenkara. Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, notoriously fished around the world with a single type of fly and a Tenkara rod.
This same methodology can be applied to hunting. Picking up a bow will change the way you stalk, then picking up a traditional bow will force that process even more. Remember, folks a 100 years ago did a lot more with a lot less.
5. Get In Shape In Different Ways
I spent the better part of a decade doing 12oz curls and avoiding the gym like the plague one pack of Camels at a time. I’m by no means a fitness guru but I’ve taken steps towards better health and well-being. Your health and physical capabilities are the difference between you and everyone else with a tag in their pocket. The majority of the best fishing and hunting spots are a long way away from the road.
Sure there are countless fitness plans targeted towards hunters out there, but personally, I haven’t gained much joy from doing 3 sets of 30 mountain climbers in a packed gym. One thing I adopted to help to get in shape for hunting season is high alpine lake fishing. Backpacking into remote lakes and catching fish beats a stair climber any day in my opinion. Look for opportunities to cross-train to get better at what you love. Whether that’s yoga for archery, surfing for spearfishing, or maybe just walking around the block with your dog for grouse season.
6. Call in The Car
Making the sounds of a bugling elk in your living room will drive your loved ones and any neighborhood dogs crazy. Well, there’s always one place a lonesome outdoors person can find solace… their rig. Start calling in the car when sitting at a red light or when you’re driving down a straight stretch of highway. There are even multiple practice tapes you can find that promise to make you a better caller of all sorts. So pop in a disk and let ‘er rip.
7. Plan Early and Follow Through
No one said a recipe for success was racing down a freeway at 3 am in the morning for 4 hours straight trying to figure out if you can get to the trailhead. Or worse if you should even be going to that location in the first place. Planning ensures a smooth ride. Knowing where you're staying and what you’re doing is a key ingredient for success. Getting things squared away a week or two in advance helps limit the chances of closed logging gates and fully booked hotels. Getting your plans sorted a month or two in advance allows even more freedom. If you can take the time off, put it on the books at work as soon as possible. Better yet, if you’re open about fishing or hunting with your employer, you can tell them its importance to your life.
8. Make Practice A Habit
I used to weekly (if not multiple times a week) meet up with a couple of buddies to sling arrows at an indoor 24-hour archery range outside of Seattle. If I couldn’t sleep, a quick fix of the buzz of the fluorescent lights and some solo range time would put me to sleep with a sense of accomplishment. I formed a “practice” of shooting regularly, if I didn’t shoot at least twice a week, a sense of anxiety would develop inside my chest... A pseudo dope sickness. My archery practice had become a habit, something that propelled me into becoming a more serious archer. Get some friends together, and make a pact to hit up a range or a local fishery on recurring dates. You’ll further your relationships with your friends and your skillset at the same time.
9. Mentor Someone
You don’t truly know something until you teach it. Mentoring someone drudges up even the most basic processes and moments in the outdoors, then firms them up as solid reminders. From how to simply take a walk in the woods to gun safety. The deep institutional knowledge that is instilled over decades of experience is breathed new with life.
Even if you’ve only been doing something for a year or a few months you have measurably more know-how than someone who has never held a gun or rod in their hand. You don’t have to be an expert to help teach someone.
For me, I would trade a limit of ducks any day to see a friend’s first mallard. The look of joy and accomplishment is contagious. When mentoring someone you’re not only creating memories but also conservationists. The more legal and law-abiding anglers and hunters we have in the world with the cleaner our waters and healthier our forests are. So maybe taking that one buddy out will not only change their world but our world for the better.
10. Do Something New
The true beauty of pursuing an out of doors lifestyle is that you are constantly learning something new. There are 29 hunt-able big game species, 41 species of waterfowl, 29 different upland game birds, 6 varieties of turkeys, and countless fish all calling North America home. To “master” just one species is a lifetime pursuit.
As of this writing, 553 people have been to space and 5,294 have climbed Everest. There have only been 173 people to complete a “North American Super Slam”. Which is the harvesting of the 29 hunt-able big game species of North America. 34 have completed it with only a bow, 2 with a muzzleloader, and the rest with a rifle or combination. Chances are you are not one of those above-mentioned 173 individuals. Although I’m not the biggest proponent of the “collectors” mindset, I use it as an illustration of just how big and wild this continent is.
Picking up a new quarry or style of pursuit is a daunting but enriching experience. Make this year the year you try something new. Make a list, be open with your goals, and share with friends. You’ll appreciate nature in new ways and change the way you see the world.