If you're a hunter, and if you're the kind of person who makes New Year's resolutions, now is a good time to think about that. So here are a few to consider:
1. Hunt less. Yes, I said less. Why hunt less? Maybe because you have other fish to fry (or is the right metaphor -venison to grill?). Lots of things can, and maybe should, take time away from your hunting.
2. Hunt more. I actually hunted less in the last two years than in earlier years, so this is the direction I'm likely to go.
3. Hunt smarter, not harder. I've done my share of hunting hard in places where I wasn't smart to be hunting. Are you hunting turkeys where it's convenient, but turkeys are scarce? Are you hunting deer in the same places and with the same methods you used when both deer and hunters were more plentiful? More scouting will raise the odds of filling your tag earlier in the season.
4. Break out of your usual pattern. Resolve to hunt with a different method. If you're a treestand hunter, maybe you should try still hunting. If you're a rifle hunter, try bowhunting. Or, get a flintlock for the late season and see the woods and wildlife from a different perspective.
5. Hunt new places. Maybe it's time to get deeper into the woods or see some new scenery. Maybe it's time to try hunting some state game lands. Maybe you should knock on more landowners' doors or join a club.
When the Everyday Hunter isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.everydayhunter.com.
6. Hunt new game. Another rut to break out of is hunting the same game. Why not take up turkey hunting? Renew your interest in small game. Try waterfowl. Maybe you should put a black bear on your bucket list. The opportunities are many and if you try hunting something new you might find out what you've been missing.
7. Be a safer hunter. If you hunt from a treestand, maybe you should think more about safety. Treestands don't last forever - is yours showing signs of wear? Are you taking unnecessary risks? Are you using all the safety equipment you should be using and are you using it properly? Safety is worth recommitting to, for yourself and for your loved ones.
8. Take a kid. You probably know a kid who ought to be hunting. Why not take him? Don't feel like you're sacrificing too much - lots of kids are scheduled up and you might get them out for only a couple of half days. That's not too much to sacrifice - especially when fall deer, spring turkeys and summer woodchucks are all great ways to introduce a kid to hunting (and it doesn't have to be a boy).
9. Drop some weight. Has your energy and commitment to hunting been diminished by the fact that you carry around an extra 10 or 20 pounds? If you lose it, you can go farther, last longer and come home less tired. Work on convincing yourself that it will be worth it.
10. Snap better pictures. Something most hunters should resolve to do is to get better field photos of the game they harvest. Most hunters settle for quick snapshots that don't preserve the memory well. While I love those old-timey pictures from days gone by, most of them weren't very good. The number one secret to good photographs is lots of photographs and with today's digital cameras, you can take lots of pictures from various angles and poses at no cost. When I write big buck stories for national magazines, the hunter almost always regrets not having better photographs.
Ten is not a magic number.
Maybe only one or two of these ideas appeal to you. Maybe none do. There are many more you can think about. Start using trail cameras. Practice shooting more. Keep a written journal of your hunts. Try hunting another state.
And if you're a hunter who is thinking about joining the ranks of former hunters, it might take just one of these ideas to renew your enthusiasm. Make a resolution, aim to keep it and see what happens.