Waterfowl Hunting | Using the Off Season to Sharpen Your Skills Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the period between the close of the waterfowl hunting season and opening day can be one of the hardest periods of a duck or goose hunter’s year. After dealing with the inevitable post-season waterfowl hunting withdrawals and reminiscing about the previous season, waterfowl hunters can be left with a large empty void in their life with very little to fill it. While fortunately the spring months do offer waterfowl hunters the opportunities to chase another wary bird, the wild turkey it is only a temporary distraction. Once the month of May rolls around and turkey season has come to a close, reality sets in again, and it becomes clear that mid-September is still a long way off. While some duck or goose hunters may look at the off-season as a period of downtime, where they can catch up on some yard work and go catch a baseball game, other waterfowl hunters try to make the most of a not so pleasant situation and use this time to prepare for next fall. The summer months do provide duck and goose hunters with a great opportunity to refine and hone their skills and ensure that they are as prepared as possible when opening day arrives. Here are four things that you can do this off-season that help you to be better prepared for waterfowl hunting this fall. Take Inventory It goes without saying that the sport of waterfowl hunting, whether you chasing ducks or chasing geese, the hunt requires a lot of equipment. From boats, motors, blinds, and blind bags, to calls, decoys, and waterfowl lanyards the list goes on. For many waterfowl hunters, the day after the season ends is met with a half-hearted attempt to “close shop” and store your waterfowl hunting gear away for the year. Many waterfowl hunters will not lay eyes on their equipment again until right before the season opening. This can be a costly mistake. The off season provides duck and goose and hunters the valuable time they need to take inventory of their equipment. Everything from servicing your boat and motor to inspecting your decoys can take place during this time. The off season is great time to complete any upgrades to your decoy systems or decoys themselves, as we have all been that person trying to rig up two dozen new decoys the night before opening day. Avoid putting yourself in that situation and take the time during the office to go through your gear and make any upgrades or repairs while time is on your side. If you do this, you will without a doubt be ready to go come opening day. Don’t Put Down the Calls For most waterfowl hunters, our left hands remain stuck in the shape of a small C for at least two weeks after the close of waterfowl hunting season, and they find themselves no long gripping their favorite duck or goose call but rather cups of coffee. Waterfowl hunters love duck and goose calls, it is a fact! So why would you stow them away after the end of the season, not to pull them out until 6 months later? The old adage of “use it or lose it” can hold true when it comes to effectively calling waterfowl. While for some, it’s like riding a bike, there is always room for improvement. The off season provides waterfowl hunters an excellent opportunity to continue to develop as a duck or goose caller. Typically, locations like Cabelas and other stores will host waterfowl calling seminars during the summer months for duck and goose hunters to take advantage of, which can be well worth the time. If you live in a location with resident waterfowl, the off season can be a great time to simply sit, observe and listen to live birds on the water and use these sounds a reference for practice. The bottom line is you can never expect to improve as a duck or goose caller without continuous practice and the summer months provide waterfowl hunter an excellent opportunity to do just that. Keep Shooting It doesn’t matter who you are, a duck hunter or a goose hunter, we all hate missing birds. The truth is misses happen; it’s a fact of life. Most hunters can handle the occasional miss, however, nobody wants to be that guy who is shooting so poorly that they are borrowing shells from their hunting partners hand over fist. Shooting skeet or clay pigeons once a week, even if it’s just one round can greatly improve your hand/eye coordination and your shooting posture. It can be amazing how many waterfowl hunters won’t even fire a shot through there Beretta during the summer month, but will be beyond frustrated come teal season when they can seem to get it done. Target shooting is a great activity for the summer months, is a great way to spend time with the family and friends. If you take advantage of the opportunity to spend some tip at the trap or skeet range you will hands down improve your accuracy and efficiency come waterfowl hunting season. Retrievers don’t Rest A waterfowl hunter who refuses to practice calling during the off season can struggle to trick a greenhead into giving up, the same can be said for a retriever who hasn’t afforded the opportunity to spend time in the water. The “use it lose it” philosophy can apply to man, and man’s best friend as well. If you are the owner of a retriever, the off season can be an excellent time to keep your favorite waterfowl hunting partner in shape and keep their skill set sharp. While many dog trainers will have a specific number of hours and routines that you as the dog owner should spend with your retriever during the off season, simply put, it is important to spend as much time as you can work with them during the summer months. Aside from loss of discipline due to inactivity during the summer months, the second biggest issue with retrievers that have not been worked during the summer months is fatigue. It is important that your favorite waterfowl hunting partner is in tip top shape come opening day, and if you take time to ensure proper diet and exercise during the off season they will be just that. While these tips may seem simple and somewhat obvious, time and time again the four topics mentioned above will be neglected by many duck and goose hunters this summer, which will only cause them heartache and frustration this fall. Ensure you are at the top of your game and spend a little a time on these four topics, and you will find yourself ready to go come opening day!