There are a little more than three weeks before September rolls in marking the beginning of several Wyoming hunting seasons — including archery seasons for deer, elk and antelope, as well as mountain grouse and mourning doves.
It seems that most of us are more engrossed in fishing, hiking, boating or yard work to even think about upcoming hunting seasons, but it might be a good idea to plan ahead. If you have a chance, now is the time to start getting into shape for those days in the field.
I have always been a proponent of walking, so I try to stay in shape by walking a mile or more each day. Incidentally, I also walk my black Labs with me so that they stay in halfway decent shape and are used to the heat. While they won’t be in top shape come that first September hunt, they will be able to give me a couple hours of hard work — especially if we get out early while it is still cool.
If you are going to hunt in hilly or mountainous country, try to find a walking route that includes some steep climbs. You might even put on your backpack and weigh it down with a few gallons of water so that you are working those leg muscles.
Each year I promise to do some trap shooting or sporting clays — especially after missing the first couple grouse I have a chance at. As my mother says, “The way to hell is paved with good intentions.” At this point, my August is booked fairly solid with guide trips (and September is full, too) so my free time will be spent catching up with chores around the house and garden, not shooting.
I did have my .30-06 worked on this spring. My gunsmith put a decent recoil pad on it and adjusted the trigger pull so the old rifle shoots a lot easier and kicks a heck of a lot less. Now I have to burn up a couple boxes of shells to see if I can hit the broad side of a barn.
One item that many of us need to address is securing permission to hunt on private lands. With second cutting of hay going on, you might be able to offer a helping hand to the landowner in exchange for being able to hunt on his/her property come this fall. Other chores that seem to constantly crop up are fence repair, weed spraying, repair of sheds, painting or mowing. It doesn’t hurt to offer your services, especially if you’re short of cash.
Getting back to getting your dogs in shape: If you have a retriever, it sure makes sense to throw some dummies and get the dogs used to hand signals. The baseball diamond-type setup works. It’s where the dog is at the pitcher’s mound, you are at home plate and the dummies are at first, second and third base. With hand signals and voice commands, you can get your retriever to fetch right, left and back by giving exaggerated arm motions to the right, left and straight forward. (I find the back command the toughest for my dogs to pick up, but the right and left commands are fairly easy for them to pick up). As the dog masters the shorter distances, expand the diamond so that the dog learns to run longer distances.
If you plan on going out for early archery season, you probably already realize that you need to practice as often as possible. Most archers I know wouldn’t venture out without 20 or so sessions sighting at 10 to 40 yards.
If you are going to hunt the early big game seasons a little preseason scouting will pay off, besides you’ll be able to log a few hiking miles checking things out.
Of course, inspecting your hunting gear is a good idea. It is far better to discover now that your backpack has a faulty strap or the bag has a hole in it or your hunting boots need to be replaced. How’s your sheath knife? Does it need to be honed? Are your binoculars OK or do they have a little too much fuzz to make it through another season? Is your camo in top shape or is it a bit holey? Do you have enough light shot loads for doves? How about some low base sixes for mountain grouse?
I’m sure you can think of a dozen more things you should check on, but the gist of this column is to alert you that hunting season is coming and it’s time to prepare. I hope you have a fun time getting ready for this year’s hunting seasons. Sometimes preparing for the season enables a person to dream about a great hunt to come. Start preparing and dreaming.