Beginning At The End
For me, every new season begins the day after the last season ends. Waiting until next season just isn't an option. I want to get started now. Where am I going to hunt or fish, what equipment will I use, who am I going to share that time with, all starts now. More importantly, my gear has to be ready. So, I start now.
Before you put your gear away, it should be ready to use again. Take a look at your gear. Does that treestand need new parts? Was it comfortable to use, easy to climb, quiet and steady? Has it seen its last season? If it needs parts, some tweaking or replacing, you don't want to wait until the next season is staring you in the face to do something about it.
Parts can take time to get. Some of the best sales on hunting gear come between seasons. For me, half the fun of hunting and fishing is getting ready for the season. Order those parts, research the new gear you are considering, watch for the sales, build your rigs and use the slow time of the year to get ready.
Use the time to contemplate what went right and what went wrong this last season. It wasn't until one very cold and snowy day many years ago, late in the the final days of the Muzzleloader season, that I figured out why a huge old buck always knew where I was, thus avoiding my stands when I was in the woods. He always seemed to avoid gettng close enough for a good shot. It was a mystery that needed to be solved.
This buck was bedding on the side of a hill that gave him a safe and very clear view of my approaches. I found his bedding area, and one huge shed from the year before while scouting an area where a smaller buck had run to when I wounded him during the bow season. It was off my property, but not by much. It was just far enough that I couldn't see him in his beds, but close enough that he could see me when I moved into the area from any direction but one. The longest, most difficult route into the area was the only way to get under his radar. If I hadn't taken the time to look beyond that which I already knew, I would never have known why I couldn't out smart him.
Finding new property is always a time consuming process. If you wait until spring, someone may have already beat you to it. Folks get asked for permisson a lot, especially as the season approaches. Knowing friends of the owner, offering to help out mending fences, clearing dead trees, moving snow, shoring up erosion spots in streams and other chores can go a long way toward earning the respect of a land owner. Don't wait for fair weather to offer a helping hand.
So, rather than just dumping all your gear in the closet and turning on the TV to watch your favorite hunting and fishing shows, get started on next season now. Dig through you blind bag and sort out those loose shells. Mark those shells so you will know what is what when you head for the blind next season. Clean your calls and check the reeds for cracks. Paint the old decoys and replace the lines. You will be happy you did.
I'm going to pull out my fishing gear and inventory my braided wire and steel sleeves. In May, I will be surf fishing for sharks on Emerald Isle, North Carolina and I will need to build new rigs before I get there. No one makes a castable rig that stands up to big sharks. It took me 10 years of fishing for these bad boys to figure out what I needed. It is a modification of a rig that is commercially made, but I step up the size by more than double and the wire I use is five times heavier. I build them by hand, one at a time and they take about 30 minutes each to build.
On a good night, I can hook up with 6 to 10 sharks and my rigs usually last 3 or 4 sharks before I swap them out for a fresh rig. If I want to fish 4 or 5 times during my trip, that means I need at least a dozen rigs. So, now is the time to get started.
The only problem is I am plagued with the disease commonly known as "Empty Pockets". That is compounded with a healthy dose of another disorder known as "Too Many Hobbies". I fish for Bass. I surf fish for Rockfish, Blues and Sharks. I love to shoot Trap and Skeet. My Cowboy Action Shooting alone has been known to break the bank, and I hunt with the bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms for deer. Add goose hunting to the mix and suddenly it becomes very clear why I'll probably be working for a living until the day I take that last ride into the sunset.
I just ordered some new chokes for my newest shotgun. I have some cleaning to do before those guns get put up for the season. I am already contemplating August when goose decoys will be on sale. I'll inventory my wire and steel sleeves and pick up more supplies soon. I am well on my way to getting ready for next season. How about you?