By Andy Fondrick
When asked about their favorite outdoor experiences, many avid sportsmen and women immediately jump to the final third of the calendar, reminiscing on hours spent gun in hand blindly following a bird dog or in pursuit of that big buck. These instances provide a deeper appreciation for how the outdoors can enrich our lives, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the months should be overlooked so quickly.
In times like these where entertainment and social outings are more limited than at any point in our lifetimes, we get a great reminder that our favorite uplands, forests and waters are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
We fight for these breathtaking landscapes year-round, giving our time, energy, and hard-earned money to protect them, so why limit the enjoyment to just a few short months?
There is no right or wrong time of year to reconnect with the outdoors, just another opportunity to take in the view through a different lens.
Many of our favorite upland adventures take place in the vibrant reds, oranges and golds brought on by the brisk fall air, but hitting the field for a spring excursion can be the perfect way to do a little dual-purpose scouting. Warming temps after a long, cold winter are a great excuse to pull the camo clothing out of the closet and head out in search of turkeys. Early mornings chasing thunder birds and late evenings putting them to bed in the roost offer a fantastic opportunity to take some notes for upland season.
Cackling roosters and drumming grouse can often be heard, and in some cases seen, while hunting gobblers. While we can’t hunt these upland game birds while they are looking for a mate like we can the big toms, we can mark the perfect spot to return to with a blaze orange vest and a wider choke pattern. The onX Hunt App
makes it so you never lose that perfect patch of prairie or hidden honey hole ever again. Plus, you can use promo code PHEASANT to save 20% on your onX membership.
Spring is also a great time to tackle habitat projects providing a reboot to your food and cover plots for the ever-changing conditions ahead. Upland birds, deer, turkeys, waterfowl, butterflies, bees and other wildlife alike go through their lifecycles a year at a time, requiring different resources depending on the season. By putting in hours during the months you can’t follow your bird dog after flushing coveys, you assist your local wildlife populations in being better prepared for each stage of their life.
The Pheasants Forever Habitat Store has you covered for all your seed mix needs, making it a one-stop-shop for creating critical upland habitat to benefit all your favorite wildlife. Head to PFHabitatStore.com
for more information or to pick up your seed and get started today.
If you find yourself feeling like the “off season” is a real thing, maybe it’s time to step outside the box and pick up a new outdoor passion. These slower months are a great time to learn to fly fish for tasty trout or finicky panfish. You can also set out to pursue your favorite wild game with a different end goal in mind. Showy springtime roosters and waterfowl make for incredible photographs, and it’s easier to practice these skills when you aren’t wrestling with the decision to snap a picture or pull the trigger.
Dual Dog Training
Even the best hunting dogs tend to take a bit to get back into the swing of things each fall, so using non-hunting seasons to work with your four-legged pal on some new skills can help keep them in top-shape for when the flushes or retrieves really count.
Backyard barbeques or yard games with friends can make for excellent discipline training opportunities. Maybe that means practicing sitting patiently during a game of bags and not chasing down every flying beanbag and returning it to your feet. It could also be taking turns with another dog in the yard or dog park as they fetch balls. All these manners can translate to better behavior year-round, making for a more controllable dog in the field.
Of course, this is also the perfect time to pull out a couple of dummies and the check cord or e-collar to clean up marks or retrieves. Shorter grass and cooler temps make for easier conditions as your furry friend starts to shake off the winter rust. Then their skillset grows with the length of the surrounding cover making for more difficult blind retrieves or points later on.
Nature walks with your pooch create some great training opportunities that allow you to work on skills that may be easier to correct when you aren’t carrying an over/under and watching the horizon for flushing birds.
Always remember to follow local regulations and respect the needs of nesting birds before you take off on an off-leash practice session.
These “off-season” adventures create incredible opportunities to refresh and enjoy the outdoors without the pressures of filling a tag or planning an extensive hunting trip.
As we continue to realize this spring more than ever, our precious uplands, forests, rivers and lakes provide us with joy even when uncertainty lingers over the rest of the world. When there are no sports to watch or hometown bars to frequent, the outdoors provide us the perfect social distancing opportunity to partake in some responsible recreation.
Now more than ever it’s important to realize that there is no off-season in the outdoors. Try something new, create more habitat, reconnect with nature and most importantly allow an upland sunset to recharge your internal batteries in a time where the everyday grind may feel just a little more draining.
Mother Nature is always calling with an opportunity to break free from the current circumstances and create your own “new normal.” The only question is, how often will you answer the call?
Andy Fondrick is the digital marketing specialist for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. When he's not at the office, Andy is likely chasing waterfowl and upland birds behind his two labs Kirby and Kona or enjoying whatever sport is currently in season.