A dedicated hunter is always searching for ways to improve, prepare and, in turn, succeed. Experts will tell you that fundamental knowledge gained in the field is an important piece of the hunting puzzle. But what about lessons learned elsewhere? Here are five things you probably didn't know would improve your hunting game. Make sure you pay attention to these points, and you'll soon find that success isn't just accomplished in the woods; it's achieved by a daily commitment to the outdoor lifestyle.
1. Eating Right and Staying Physically Fit
Not only will skipping that fast-food lunch or cutting back on your video game session contribute to your overall heath, it will make you a better hunter. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying active will keep your mind and body strong enough to face any challenge that hunting might throw your way.
Physical and mental fitness allows for better tolerance when climbing to higher elevations or hiking long distances, helps you stay warm when Mother Nature does her worst and increases your mental sharpness on stand. Not to mention that hunting is just much more fun when you're not tired or out of breath.
There are also strength training and weightlifting exercises that can specifically target certain hunting activities. For example, bowhunters should focus on strengthening their “bowhunting muscles”-the major muscles of the upper back and shoulders, which are responsible for drawing your bow and holding it at anchor point. Keeping these muscles strong will not only improve your shooting ability, but it will boost your confidence to make the shot when it counts.
The diverse physical demands of the many hunting pursuits require a variety of different levels of conditioning. If you make health and fitness a personal responsibility in your daily life, you'll succeed more often than not.
2. Going Fishing
In the summertime most hunting pursuits are limited around the country. What a perfect opportunity to go fishing! Not only do you get to spend more time in the outdoors, but you will develop an understanding of hunting's most important virtue-patience.
There's no better way to learn patience and persistence (the two P's of hunting) than to spend a whole day with your fishing rod in hand without catching a fish or getting a bite.
As my dad used to say, you can't shoot anything sitting in on the couch. Same thing goes for fishing. You might wait all day, all week or all season for those 30 seconds of thrilling, heart-pounding excitement. Paradoxically, the quicker you become a patient hunter, the quicker you'll be hanging trophies on your wall.
3. Learning about Weather Patterns
While you're watching The Weather Channel to check which storm front will conveniently cancel school or work, be sure to key in on how the weather will affect hunting in your area. If you know what to look for on the local weather report, it will be much easier to predict your success in the field that day, week or month.
All veteran hunters know when the weather changes, so do deer patterns. Besides wind direction and speed, temperature drop, atmospheric conditions and moon phase can alter deer movement. Through the years, numerous studies have shown that whitetails move and feed the most when the barometer is between 29.8 and 30.29 inches. Researchers have also found that deer are more active when the barometer is moving rather than steady. Rising pressure is often a result of colder, denser air moving in behind a cold front.
Barometric pressure and many other elements are listed on both Weather.com and The Weather Channel's semi-hourly “Local Reports.” Spend a little extra time studying these simple patterns and you'll have done more by checking the weather than just deciding which outfit to wear.
4. Surfing the Web
By now, sitting down in front of a computer or surfing the Web on a handheld smart phone is likely as routine as brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. Since you spend time online every day anyway, why not use the depth of knowledge on the ‘Net to improve your hunting skills?
There are thousands of reputable social networks and online communities built around all things hunting. Most offer helpful hunting resources such as guides and outfitters, taxidermists, hunting real estate and, best of all, a group of people with similar interests. No longer are campfires and hunting clubs the only way to share hunting stories and pictures of your trophies.
Your NRA is ready to help. Surf over to www.americanhunter.org for hunting stories, advice and blogs!
5. Plinking for Fun
Most of the time, the advice you'll get will be to practice ahead of the season with the gun that you plan to use while hunting. There's certainly nothing wrong with that advice, of course, but there's an easier (and less expensive) way to "keep your hand in" during the summer months: plinking for fun with your friends. Getting an informal, friendly contest going will allow you to practice your marksmanship while using smaller-caliber firearms that won't beat your shoulder (or wallet) up.