The end of hunting season. Every hunter dreads it. As soon as it ends, we’re counting months, weeks and days until the next season starts. But there’s so much to be done in the downtime that can keep you involved in hunting, and even get you outdoors.
Below are some ideas on how to stay busy in the dreaded off-seasons:
Hunt something else
Just because turkey, deer, elk and waterfowl seasons are over, doesn’t mean there aren’t other species on the hunting list.
Hunting small game, such as rabbits and squirrels, not only helps keep your skills sharp during the off-season, but also gives you the opportunity to get outside and get some exercise. Additionally, it’s a good way to get kids involved in hunting.
Trapping is another option that offers a variety of benefits such as curbing predation, minimizing human-wildlife interactions and reducing damage or destruction of habitat.
Crow hunting is usually overlooked, but offers plenty of challenges. Read Huntress View founder Andrea Haas’ article in the Winter 2017 issue of ADVENTURESS Magazine to get tips on this unexpected type of hunting.
And don’t forget fishing—it’s always in season! In northern areas and cold climates, try ice fishing; and when it warms up, try bow fishing to keep working on your archery skills.
Be sure to check your state’s hunting and fishing regulations to get information about season dates, limits and other requirements before heading out to the woods or water.
Turn your harvests into something else
Besides hunting, crafting and cooking are two of my favorite hobbies.
To keep you in the outdoor mindset, find crafts that tie into hunting and outdoors.
Turkey and duck feathers and deer antlers are great materials for crafting. Check out my previous blog on how to make a wreath from turkey feathers.
Antlers make nice home décor, can be cut to make dog chew toys and can be turned into jewelry.
Do a quick Google search for antler or feather crafts, and you’ll immediately be sucked into all of the pictures and tutorials. You’ll be wishing hunting season would be hurry up just so you can get more materials!
Another fun and challenging skill is fly tying. Beginner kits are available from stores like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s, and will get you started with the basics. Once you have the technique down, try making some unique flies. You can also use feathers, fur and hair from your hunting harvests when making your own flies.
Once season is over, you hopefully have a freezer full of wild game meat. Use the off season to find and experiment with new recipes.
Google and Pinterest are good options for finding new recipes, but also follow pages on Facebook and Instagram—such as and —that prepare wild game dishes.
Check the Huntress View website for wild game recipes from team members—new recipes are always being added!
And when you see someone you follow post a picture of his or her homemade dinner…always ask for the recipe! Set up a Pinterest board to save the recipes you find so you have an easy resource at dinnertime!
Keep practicing with your weapons
No matter how much you practice, there’s always room for improvement.
Keep shooting your bow, even if it’s not archery season. Archery is fun because it can be done indoors or out, so no matter the season or the weather…you can still shoot.
You will continue to build strength so you can increase your draw weight when season rolls back around.
Join a local archery league for some [hopefully] friendly competition.
Target practice with your gun(s) too. Shooting provides many benefits—not only is it fun, but it increases mental discipline, builds physical strength, can be done with family and friends and it’s safe.
Indoor shooting ranges provide a comfortable environment for shooting when the weather outside isn’t great. And if you’re looking for a new gun, many ranges offer rentals so you can try a few different options before making a purchase.
Shooting clay pigeons is great practice for waterfowl season. Invite friends over for a Saturday afternoon--everyone brings a shotgun, bullets and a box of skeet; fire up the grill or smoker and cook some wild game, and ask guests to each bring a side item.
Get outside and exercise
While whitetail deer hunting usually means a lot of long sits, hunting other big game might require a lot of hiking in different terrains. Use the off-season to stay in hunting shape.
Shed hunting is a great way to get a killer leg workout in the winter months. Depending on your location, deer and elk can start dropping antlers as early as January. Read Huntress View team member Cajun Bradley’s shed hunting article to get tips and tricks to make the most of your walks.
Sign up for the Couch-to-5K program and set your goal by registering for your first 5K. If you’re an experienced runner, register for a longer distance race, try an obstacle course race or sign up for the Train-to-Hunt Challenge and train with other hunters.
If running isn’t your thing, take a hike! Hiking has many health benefits, such as improved muscular fitness and cardio-respiratory fitness, and can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol. For added benefit, wear your hunting pack to build strength and get a better workout.
Plan for future hunts
Use the off-season to start planning for the upcoming year’s hunts. Every state has different procedures and regulations for applying for hunts, so it’s important to do your research early in the year.
Decide what species you want to hunt, and then determine what state(s) offer tags for that species.
Determine the dates when the hunt would take place, and make sure you’re available during those times before you apply.
Identify what you need to do to obtain the tag—is it an over-the-counter tag, do you need to apply, is it a lottery drawing, etc. Make sure you know the deadlines for applying; if you’re purchasing over-the-counter tags, be sure to do it early in case there a limited tags that could sell out.
What do you do in the off-season? Share your tips in the comments.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer and turkey. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app.Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.