No Off Season for the Hunter

By Doug Humphreys

Remember when everything had a season? Baseball in summer. Football in the fall. Basketball in the winter. There were multi-sport athletes, like Bo Jackson.

Deer hunting in Jefferson was much the same. In October you sighted your bow and hunted deer. The week of Thanksgiving the whole world stopped for buck season, and December was for does. Then the guns and bows were oiled and stuck in the cabinet until the next October.

Then came the 90s and everything got all competitive and specialized. Baseball found fall-ball. Basket ball found summer-ball. And sports like gymnastics and soccer exploded onto the scene, introducing sports that actually had no discernible offseason.

Hunting followed suit, becoming yet another sport with no offseason.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining. Quite the contrary. My son is the next Christiano Ronoldo; just ask him. He plays soccer year round and is only unhappy in the few weeks a year there is no soccer planned. My daughter is the next Gabby Douglas; just ask her. She flips and spins twelve months a year and wouldn’t have it any other way. My biggest joy in life these days is watching them do what they do . . . again, and again, and again.

I’m also a fan of the year round endeavor of deer hunting. The seasons, though a bit longer and with higher bag limits, are largely the same as in my youth. But during the “offseason” these days, there is much more to fill a hunter’s time.

The season now begins in February, walking woodlots and looking for sheds. Despite being a good way to stretch your legs and escape cabin fever, the horns a deer shed will let you know what bucks made it through the season and where a hunter might look for next year’s Mr. Big.

In April the food plots are planted. The ambitious plotters mix peas and tubers and radish and chicory creating an irresistible smorgasbord for deer. Because it’s cheap and easy and requires minimal time, I keep a small clover patch behind my barn. Simple as it may be, I deeply enjoy a morning of over-seeding and fertilizing every spring.

In June the trail cameras are hung by food plots and trails that lead to farmers fields, and the summer months are spent literally watching bucks grow. Woodlots and field edges are marked as having potential and evening walks find trees for stands.

Summer is also a time to spend walking 3D trails with your bow and shooting rifles off the bench in hunting positions. Hunters have learned that shooting isn’t a skill you’re born with, rather an art and science that must be learned and trained.

Fitness is also a year round activity for those who wish to really hunt. Especially those who want to really hunt in mountains. Not muscle-head weight training, but exercise that strengthens the core and quads and calves. Fit bodies sit more comfortably, walk more easily, and sweat less under stress and pressure. Any hunter will be a better hunter with fitness.

Hunters have also learned that time must be spent outside year round, not just in the fall. How good would a soccer player be if he only played in games? How good would a gymnast be if she only stood on a beam during a meet? Hunters must spend time outside year round. It’s a craft thing, and it’s real and means something.

It’s March and the deer hunting season is officially over, but the quest for deer doesn’t have to end. It shouldn’t end.

It’s said that 10 percent of the hunters have 90 percent of the luck. I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not luck. The 10 percent don’t hunt from just October to December saying quiet prayers that a deer walks by their stand. The proud few who always have meat in the freezer and good horns on the wall, they have no offseason.