These self-improvement tips for hunters will go a long way.
Hunting is more popular than it's ever been in America. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 14 million people participate in some sort of hunting activity every year. Deer and migratory birds are the two most common game animals sought by hunters, but their limited seasons mean limited time to improve your overall skills.
SEE ALSO: Deer in Strange Places [PICS]
The following three ideas will help improve your hunting aptitude, efficiency and effectiveness, regardless of the season.
Animal Behavior Education
Athletes, particularly professional football players, endure four weeks of training camp and then another three days of practice every week before suiting up to play on Sundays. Similarly, hunters most look forward to those moments when deer and other game are within kill range and perfectly positioned in their sight reticles. Much of the work that goes into arriving at those moments involves knowledge of your target game's behavior, tendencies and natural habitat.
The White-Tailed Deer Course offered by Dr. James C. Kroll (aka Dr. Deer) is one of the most comprehensive online programs available. The 17-module course covers everything from communicating with and patterning whitetails to their reproductive and behavioral habits. Kroll is a credible voice on the subject, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appointed him as the state's "deer czar" in 2011 to combat steadily declining deer harvest numbers in badger country.
There's also much to learn from those who have more experience than you. Dish Network broadcasts the Outdoor Channel, which features well-known hunting personalities like Terry and Mark Drury, along with FOXPRO Inc. marketing manager Abner Druckenmiller. Nature.com is another resource for continuing education on animal migration, mating and habitats.
Hunting involves a lot of physical activity, including the long walks into the woods and climbing treestands. You don't have to be a perfect physical specimen to be an effective hunter, but a few subtle lifestyle changes can greatly improve your success rates.
Most hunters (64 percent) are over the age of 35, with 19 percent being over age 55, according to a joint report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance. Flexibility and muscle mass are the first things to go as we age, and of course, metabolism slows down.
Thirty minutes of physical exercise three to four times per week is ideal for weight loss and cardiovascular health. But a few subtle changes to your diet can also have profound effects on your physical stature. A study by the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that eating three servings of plain yogurt per day burns calories by itself. A daily omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplement also helps your body metabolize fat faster and more efficiently.
Stationary target shooting is beneficial for first-time gun owners learning how to handle firearms. But there's no substitute for being out in the field hunting live game through all the natural obstacles.
Several states including California, Colorado, Georgia and Kansas allow year-round coyote hunting with no bag limits. Montana doesn't even require a hunting license for coyotes. Squirrel and rabbit hunting are also allowed year-round in several states, except during deer gun season.
Great hunters use every opportunity to improve their craft. The end of dear hunting season should be the beginning of your off-season training regimen.