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Stay Busy in the Off-Season

Deer and duck seasons are over. Turkey season is still weeks away for most of us. Add to that, a majority of the country is still experiencing snow and winter weather. However, that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. There are plenty of fun, off-season activities in this transition time to keep us busy indoors and out to get us ready for the seasons to come.

Try New Recipes

Hopefully, your freezer is fully stocked from a successful fall hunting season. If so, now is the time to check out some new recipes. We have tons of easy and delicious recipes on the Huntress View website that you can use for just about any game meat.

There are also plenty of wild-game cookbooks with various recipes, from easy, everyday dishes to dinners that will test your tastebuds! Some of our favorites are:

  • Complete Wild Game Cookbook:190+ Recipes for Hunters and Anglers, by Bri Van Scotter

  • Hank Shaw's full line has something for everyone:

    • Buck, Buck, Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope, and Other Antlered Things

    • Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild

    • Hook, Line, and Supper: New Techniques and Master Recipes for Everything Caught in Lakes, Rivers, Streams, and Sea

    • Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast

  • The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler, by Steven Rinella

Start a New Hobby

When the weather outdoors is frightful, there's so much you can be doing inside. Try your hand at a new hobby that involves hunting, fishing, and the outdoors.

  • Jewelry making - Use deer antlers or bird feathers to make necklaces, earrings, bracelets, keychains, and more. There are so many beads, charms, and other accessories at stores like Hobby Lobby, and you can get so creative. Just use your imagination to come up with great designs.

  • 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. When making your own flies, you can also use feathers, fur, and hair from your hunting harvests.

  • Skull beading - Have a Euro mount that's just sitting on a shelf? Dress it up with beads. Skull beading can be as basic or intricate as you want. Use adhesive to attach beads on the skull for a beautiful one-of-a-kind mount. You can find plenty of examples and inspiration on Pinterest.

  • Painting turkey feathers - If you have some extra turkey feathers lying around, unleash your inner artist and try painting designs on them. Huntress View follower Wendy Miller (IG @wendys_adventures_outdoors) has some fantastic examples of feathers she's painted on her page.

painted turkey feathers
Painted wild turkey feathers by Wendy Miller

3D Archery

No matter how much you practice, there's always room for improvement. Shooting 3D archery in the off-season is an excellent option because you can do it indoors, so you can still shoot no matter the season or the weather.

Some benefits of 3D archery:

  • Retain muscle memory

  • Shoot at different distances

  • Shoot under pressure, especially if you join a league or sign up for tournaments

  • Shoot at different angles and positions

3D archery
Team Member Courtney Wilhelm at the Missouri Basin Bowman Super Bowl Shoot

Application Planning and E-Scouting

Many big game applications are due in the spring and summer, so you have time now to figure everything out. This process can be pretty involved depending on the individual state and its requirements; every state is different! Do your research early, so you have all the information and don't miss deadlines.

Start by narrowing it down to what game you want to hunt, what states are options, what weapon you'd prefer to hunt with, whether or not preference points are needed, and budget. There are a lot of factors! If you know you can hunt in the upcoming season, look for over-the-counter options or states/zones that don't require preference points.

Once you decide where and what to hunt, start e-scouting. Using an app such as BaseMap lets you see satellite imagery, topo maps, management areas, game units, private and public land ownership and boundaries, and more. You can use this information to see the terrain, determine where you would have access in various units, if public land is available, etc. Once you know where you'll be hunting, you can virtually scout and look for water sources, trails, and more. (Remember that the satellite imagery is not real-time for any online map, so things may have changed since the photos were taken!)

Gear Review and Prep

Review your gear while things are still fresh in your mind instead of waiting until a week before the fall opener. Did you lose a glove? Rip your pants or jacket? Break a strap or lose a clasp on your pack? Did your Camelbak bag leak?

Go through all of your camo and hunting gear. Get rid of anything that didn't fit or that you didn't wear last season; consider passing it on to a new hunter or sell it online. Toss broken or unusable items. Make a list of everything you need for next season. This way, you can take advantage of off- and pre-season sales and clearance events to buy new gear.

Go Outside

Even if there weather is less than ideal, there are still some fun outdoor activities to keep us busy and active.

  • Trail cameras - Don't pull your cameras in the winter, keep them out for extra intel. The winter can be a great time to learn more about the property, travel routes, and what other animals are around. Check out our Winter Trail Cam Tips to see how you can benefit from getting those winter pics.

  • Shed hunting - Antlers should be dropping and that means sheds are out there. If you're quick, you can find them before the squirrels.Just remember, that it's still winter and you need to be respectful of wintering wildlife. Big game animals still rely on fat reserves to survive and even if the temperatures have a slight increase or the snow melts, they still need this time. Make sure you abide by any local regulations for shed hunting and always ask for permission to access private land.

  • Fishing or ice-fishing - If you can't go hunting, you might as well go fishing. Of course, how you'll be able to fish depends on where you are located.

No matter where you are or what the weather situation is, there's always something you can be doing that is hunting-related without actually hunting!

Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app and BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah.

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