While getting lost in the sea of meaningless distractions and honey-do lists is easy, don't let the offseason sabotage next fall. Don't worry; there will still be plenty of time to argue online with strangers about 8x42 or 10x50 binos...or even debate if a 150-grain broadhead kills elk faster than a 100-grain head. But once you get that out of your system, focus on these three areas to set yourself up for the best season yet:
Planning & Communication
Think it's finally going to be the year you draw that coveted tag?
We're not talking about digital scouting and phone calls to biologists...this is about the people that make or break hunting season. So before you start scouring topo maps and making phone calls, give your significant other and employer a heads up that you'll be MIA the last two weeks of September. I've learned the hard way that spouses and employers have at least one thing in common:
Most of them don't like surprises when it comes to time away.
It's a lot easier to arrange time away from home well in advance. Not to mention, they'll be less likely to send a constant stream of texts, emails, and phone calls when it's planned and communicated beforehand. I'm guessing the majority of us have that one buddy who is glued to his phone the entire time, trying to put out fires in between glassing sessions... don't be that guy.
Along the same lines, now is the perfect time to look at your finances. Start saving and planning for any gear you need. If you're applying for pricey non-resident tags, be prepared to dish out the necessary coin when you draw that unit you didn't think you had a chance at.
And don't hide it from your significant other... they'll find out at some point, and you'll be in a world of hurt.
It's almost guaranteed that sometime during this past season you realized some of your gear needed extra attention...or maybe a complete overhaul.
But start with the basics - store your gear properly and keep it organized. Often, this means a thorough cleaning, too - ever put on pants that still had last year's mud and blood dried on them? It won't necessarily keep you from hunting, but it sure isn't pleasant, either. Even more important, let's not toss gear into random places in the house and garage. You don't want to be scrambling to find everything the day before opening day.
Or worse yet, find a mouse chewed through half your gear (trust me on this one).
Now for the fun part - this is the time to refine your systems and equipment. Maybe this means testing new broadheads, adding accessories to your bino harness, or breaking in new boots.
Waiting until the last minute is asking for frustration - get your gear now to familiarize yourself with it. I plan on testing different bino harness accessories to find the perfect setups for bow season, late-season rifle, and small game hunts.
Confidence and familiarity are a dangerous combination in the field. You want your "new" gear to be an old friend by the time next season rolls around.
But this also means knowing how to fix equipment or adapt when things go sideways in the field. If you can't disassemble your rifle or perform basic bow maintenance, learn those skills before you're caught in a bind during hunting season.
So now you've got time off work planned, the wife knows about it, and the gear is ready to rock; what's left?
Add the final ingredient, and you'll be primed for a spectacular season.
I love a plate of wings and cold drinks as much as anyone, but don't let the offseason leave you inactive and out of shape. And before you stop reading, this isn't another fitness guru telling you to spend all your free time running or how many burpees you need to do to kill a mule deer. It's more about beating the inevitable off-season physical decline.
For all the gym haters, myself included, there's hope. What better way to get accustomed to that new gear than taking it into the field?
I've found hiking, 3D shoots, and small game hunting to be the perfect scenarios to stay active, hone skills, and keep extra weight off. So grab the new boots, pack, and put some miles on.
This doesn't need to be extreme. Even a walk through the neighborhood is better than taking up space on the couch...and it's far easier to maintain instead of "getting back into shape" come August.
Be consistent with whatever you choose to do, and you'll come out ahead. We're all fighting a losing battle with father time - odds are your body will break down before the bank account and vacation balance...
Don't let it slip so much that you become an old man before you're actually old.
At the end of the day, keep this in mind - angry wives, low bank accounts, and weak legs have saved more animals than anything.