Since we’ve successfully made it to the “one month out” mark, at least here in Minnesota, we thought there was no better time to remind everyone of these five preseason essential rituals for the grouse and woodcock hunter. I would imagine that everyone has their own version of this list and I look forward to hearing some of the items in your preparation for bird season.
My list includes five things that I do this time of year for two reasons. The first is that they actually do help me prepare myself for the upcoming bird season. The second, and much more important reason I do them, is that each of them is another reason for me to stop what I’m doing, let my mind wander and lose myself in thoughts of golden leaves, crisp morning air and thundering wings! Are all of the things on my list absolute requirements? Certainly not, but I do believe that some are and the others would benefit most hunters. Also, I’m leaving out anything to do with the dogs because I know not everyone hunts with them, and if I were to include them the list would have to be MUCH longer. Oh and one item that I am not including but I hope goes without saying and is on the top of everyone’s list, BUY A HUNTING LICENSE.
And now, in no particular order, here goes:
1. OIL YOUR BOOTS. Any grouse and woodcock hunter can tell you what a licking your boots will take over the season. As good as the materials we use today are, if you’re hunting in leather boots, they’re going to need some oil to keep them in top condition. Personally, an evening spent out in the garage oiling my boots with a cold beverage, perhaps a cigar, is a fine way to kill a night in late August. To oil my boots I use Red Wing Naturseal which has worked well for me. A good mink oil will also do the trick.
2. OIL YOUR GUN. If you’re one of the good guys this may have already been done when you put the gun to rest at the end of last season. However, even if that is the case, or you’ve done any of the next item on my list over the summer, you’ve got another great excuse to pull out the firearm, handle it a bit and shoulder it a time or two. One of our most trusted tools in the field, the shotgun needs to be cared for. A complete break down, cleansing and oiling of the shotgun is a fine way to treat yourself and your gun… aroma therapy anyone?! To oil my gun, I use Rem Oil wipes mainly for convenience. Rem Oil is great for wiping down the exterior of the gun, removing dust, grime and fingerprints. Plus is dries nicely so the next time you take out the gun it won’t slip out of your hands. That being said, for the interior of the barrel and the finer workings and moving parts, I use Hoppe’s Lubricating Oil. I’ve found this to be longer lasting on and around the heat and moving parts of the gun.
3. SHOOT SPORTING CLAYS. I have to admit, this is a new addition to my list as I haven’t done it much in the past, however I can tell you that it’s here to stay. This summer I shot sporting clays a handful of times with a regular group of shooters every Thursday I could make it. In the beginning it wasn’t pretty. I broke only 21 0f 50 clays my first time out. Having only shot sporting clays once prior to this summer I was neither discouraged nor disappointed but I was determined to do better. With each time out, I improved my scores eventually peaking at rounds of 42 and 44 out of 50. I don’t think I’ll have time to shoot again before the season starts but I am confident that I will begin this season a better wingshooter than I was last year. I encourage everyone to give sporting clays a try if you have the time and opportunity, it was well worth it for me.
4. GET YOURSELF IN SHAPE. Everyone has their own opinions about fitness and exercise, but there’s no questioning the fact that taking on wave after wave of aspen saplings and alder tangles requires you to be mobile and physically capable. Generally, I stay pretty active year round whether it’s cross-country skiing in the winter or hiking/trail running in the spring and summer. I find these activities to be sufficient in maintaining endurance as well as the strength and mobility of my legs. This summer in particular, I refocused my efforts on weightlifting as well. My workouts are very basic and light on volume/repetitions. My ultimate goal is to build strength by lifting heavy weights with compound movements. The amount of weightlifting it takes to induce significant strength and flexibility improvements in your body is much less than you might imagine. One or two of the right workouts per week is sufficient. I’ll be entering this season in what I consider to be excellent physical condition which means I at least stand a chance at keeping up with my one year old setter as he begins his second hunting season.
5. GET OUT THE PLOT BOOKS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY. Last but certainly not least the plotting and planning of your hunts. What better way to anticipate the fall season than to envision yourself in the heart of one of your favorite coverts on an October day. With proper management, favorite coverts can stay productive for a long time, but every grouse and woodcock hunter should know that to get the most out of your hunts you need to balance the fine line between hunting your “go-to’s” and exploring new territory. Garrett and I often struggle with this line as time in the woods is limited and we’re always weighing the opportunity cost of swinging and missing on a new covert while we could have been hunting somewhere we’ve known to be productive. This predicament is exactly the reason I spend time prior to the season paging through plot books and experimenting with satellite imagery timelines on Google Earth. A predetermined plan for hunting a known covert as well as exploring some new grounds on any given day will help you make the most of your time this season and for seasons to come.
Well that does it for my list. What are your thoughts? How does your list compare? We’d love to hear about it. Also if you’d like any additional information on my list please let me know via comment or Facebook message. Don’t forget to Subscribe to Northwoods’R to get all of our updates this fall.
As Garrett ended his last post with a quote from Burton Spiller, I will do the same for this post with one from Gene Hill.
“At home a friend will ask, “Been bird hunting?” You will say that you have, and when he asks,” Have any luck?” You will think of what you have held in your heart instead of your hand, and then answer that you certainly did—without a doubt.”