The New Year brings a lot of promise and optimism. Here's what outdoorsmen and women should focus on.
Hopefully, you are as excited about the New Year as I am. I have a ton of plans for growth and bettering myself not only as a person but as an outdoorsman. I believe that the outdoors is filled with a ton of resources that can not only make our freezers full, but also make us happy, and happiness should be everyone's ultimate goal.
If you are also looking for a few ways to improve as an outdoorsman, here are some things that you can do as the New Year rolls in that can hopefully add to your happiness and get the year started on the right foot.
1. Punch a Tag
Of course, an outdoorsman always wants to punch a tag. Although just because deer season is nearly over, does not mean it is over. I know I can get busy when the New Year rolls in and deer hunting usually takes a back seat. However, I think you should still try your best to find some time for a few late season sits.
Even if you are not after whitetail, duck season goes into January too. I am a die hard whitetail hunter, but I can confidently say if I had to pick one thing to hunt for the rest of my life it would be ducks. They are so incredibly fun to hunt and the sheer amount of action on the pond is enough to make any outdoorsman smile.
2. Do a Gear Check
If you are wrapping up your season with the year, it is a good time to do a gear check. I know that when I start hunting on a regular basis, gear gets thrown around and shoved in miscellaneous pockets. Now is a good time to go through everything and take inventory.
Hopefully you did not lose anything in the woods this year, but if you did you would want to know now before you go looking for it a few days before the next season.
This is also a good time to clean your gear. I am not really talking about the clothes; if they are not muddy or rained on, I will just wash them next season in scent free detergent. Instead, I am looking at all of my non-machine washable gear. Things with nuts and bolts or hard plastics that are exposed to the elements need to be cleaned before you put them away for months.
This is also a good time to evaluate your gear. Did one piece of gear not perform the way you wanted it to? Is a certain piece of gear getting a little old? There are about to be plenty of hunting gear sales as the season wraps up and this could be a good time to replace that gear or buy a new piece of gear that you may have noticed you needed throughout the season.
3. Start a New Project
I know that most people would probably say that you should focus on wrapping up your projects as you go into the New Year, and you probably should... but what fun would that be?!
New outdoor-oriented projects are exciting, and if it makes you happy you should do them. So if there has been a project you have been thinking about, this is the time to start working on it. Just go for it and enjoy the process.
4. Take a Kid Hunting
If you have not already had a chance to take a kid outdoors this season, the late season is a great time to do it. Hopefully it is not too cold, but if the conditions seem right, try to get the kids outdoors. I shot my first deer at the age of five with a .243 (if you can believe that), but I was in the woods with my dad as he hunted even earlier than that.
It is all about the experience, too. You don't even have to kill anything. Just try your best to make it a good time and bond with the child. I also believe you should do this with boys and girls alike. I know the outdoors is dominated by men, which is only natural but your daughters and nieces deserve a chance to experience the outdoors as well.
Taking kids outdoors is super rewarding and very fun. As long as you can keep them involved and entertained, they will start to like the outdoors and hopefully will become a better hunter than you are in the future, which is the ultimate goal in my opinion.
5. Try Something New
Variety is the spice of life. I love to try new things, and those first-time experiences oftentimes wind up being the most memorable. If you want to have a really good time in the outdoors, grab someone you enjoy being around and try something neither of you have ever done before.
Maybe it's elk hunting, maybe it's trying to catch a particular type of fish, or maybe it's hunting a deer with a different weapon that you have never used. Whatever it may be, just try something new. This is especially good to do if you are getting a little bored outdoors.
I know some guys that hunt the exact same property, in the exact same stand, with the exact same rifle, on the exact same week, every single year. That is all they do, and they just do not get super excited about deer hunting anymore. However, they also hate trying new things, so there is no winning with them.
Here are a few things that you could try out this year that you may not have done before:
- Hunt a totally new animal (elk, stag, fallow deer, mule deer, moose, bear)
- Catch a fish you have never caught before
- Hunt with a more difficult weapon, like a longbow
- Hunt a new property or public land
- Read a new hunting book
- Hunt with someone new
- Get into whitetail habitat management
- Try a new wild game recipe
6. Engage With Outdoors-Related Charities
Another awesome thing we can all do this New Year is to give back. There are hundreds of awesome charities out there, but there are also a good amount within the outdoors industry. One I've ben a fan of in Hunters for the Hungry.
Hopefully, you and your family are doing well, but that is not the case for everyone. Sadly, there are plenty of families out there that struggle to make enough to feed themselves and their children. This is where Hunters for the Hungry comes in.
Hunters for the Hungry gives thousands of meals to families in need every year. Since its creation, it has given hundreds of thousands of pounds of venison to homeless shelters, food banks, and families. It is hard to find a charity that hunters can use their skills to donate to as directly as they can with hunters for the hungry.
Many deer processors work with Hunters for the Hungry, and oftentimes they will process the deer for free and deliver it for you, or at least they can point you in the right direction. For more information contact your local deer processor or go to the NRA's webpage about it.
Another great organization to donate to is The National Park Foundation. Thankfully, most of the fees we pay as hunters go directly back into the state's DNR, which funds the care for our forests and wildlife. Even still, that money often gets spread thin. If you have something extra to give, consider giving to the NPF.
Ultimately, it's up to you to determine what the best course of action in the New Year is. But no matter what, you should look to develop your knowledge and skills, and become a better outdoorsman overall. That's the best sort of resolution you can make.
Enjoy the outdoors?
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