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5 Ways to Make Sure This Season is Your Best Season Ever

The off-season is prime time for optimizing the outcome of the upcoming bird season.

5 Ways to Make Sure This Season is Your Best Season Ever

Take the time now to prep yourself for the upcoming season and you’ll be sure to greet opening day with eager enthusiasm. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

There’s no idle time of year for the ardent bird hunter and avid sporting dog enthusiast. Even during the off-season, we’re tuning up dogs and testing out new gear, and otherwise building up the excitement for the crescendo that is opening day. As you ready your return to the uplands, what are you most looking forward to in this next season? Perhaps you already have some specific objectives in mind; maybe you have a new gun to carry, a long-awaited road trip hunt, or you’re getting a new dog out for their first taste of wild birds. Everyone has something to look forward to, but if you find yourself a bit stuck on what to focus on this fall, here are five humble suggestions to put things in perspective and make the most of your next bird season.


Level Up Your Training

One mistake some folks make in their training is thinking that once your dog understands a command or completes a task, they’re set for the rest of their life. Dog training is never a straight-forward, or upward linear growth. There can be setbacks and sidesteps when you identify a weak point in their discipline or handling. Now is the time to reflect upon the past season’s weakness and strengths to outline what you need to go back to or expand upon. The summer is the perfect time to correct last season’s mistakes in a more controlled manner with a better predictable outcome. If your dog showed promise in an area you wish to enhance, make the time to help them advance to the next level.

Be mindful of timing during the off-season. If you have several months and begin early in the spring, you should have ample time to impart new lessons, but be careful later on as you may not have enough time to teach your dog something new in the last few weeks before the season. If that’s the case, you can reinforce your dog’s strong points, but take special note this season and make it a priority to revisit any shortcomings earlier during the training season next spring.

dog trainer with german shorthaired pointer on a check cord
Take the time to tune up any pain points or perhaps enhance a strength your dog is showing in their training. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Upkeep, Upgrades, & Updates

It only took me one time with a big rookie mistake going into my second season before straightening things out. Frustration was redlined that second opening day. Boots caked in last fall’s mud, a few fistfuls of random yellow shells, a GPS with dead batteries, and a feathered and bloodied vest were all stark reminders that I wasn’t completely ready for jumping back into the woods. I vowed to never again start a season so unprepared.

There are so many things we cannot control on the hunt, but one thing we can control, is our preparedness. Take the time now to go through your gear. Oil those guns, stock up on shells, brush your boots, and outfit your vest. I keep my gear loaded in a tote that lives in my truck each fall. It has everything I need, and I make a point to replace spent items or make swaps during the different times of the season. But this way, I never need to worry when an opportunity presents itself to sneak in a quick hunt.

Update your favorite mobile apps and firmware on any electronics. Perhaps you’re ready to increase your fun factor by upgrading to a newer and better model of shotgun, boots, vest, garments, or other equipment—it’s okay to want to geek out and go wild on gear!

In regard to dog products, be sure to check everything over for damages, excessive wear, or to find anything that warrants a repair or replacement. Maybe you can make this season memorable by adding something that will increase your dog’s safety and comfort, or otherwise something that will save some cuss words when handling them, giving you more time to focus on the fun.

Something New

One of the surefire ways to bring more excitement to your bird season is to try something new. Create your own upland adventure by exploring a new cover, going to a new state, chasing a new bird species, bringing out a new hunter, or working in some new gear. The point is to give yourself a novel experience and something to look forward to. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated or stuck in a rut, this remedy is sure to cure your bird hunting blues. It can quickly bring back some of the original allure and enticement that called you to the uplands in the first place.

dead woodcock with shotgun
Want to level up your fun factor next fall? Go after a new upland species or take out a new shotgun—or do them both! (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Give Back

If there’s one single suggestion that could have the biggest and longest lasting impact on this season—and well beyond—it would be to give back to the sport somehow. This can be as simple as taking out a new hunter this season or even inviting friends and family to your next pre-season training session. By sharing your passion, you’re giving a low-pressure, no-expectation exposure for someone that might just set them on a lifelong pursuit chasing birds and gun dogs.

This mentorship and hunter recruitment comes in many forms, from close friends and family or volunteering with a local youth or community group. There’s no excuse for not connecting mentors and mentees anymore, between Facebook forums and exclusive bird hunting social media platforms like Try Upland, finding new friends and eager up-and-coming uplanders is easier than ever before.

Joining a non-profit organization like the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants/Quail Forever, or Delta Waterfowl, or even a localized group like the Chukar Chasers Foundation or Wisconsin Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society, is a great way to stay connected with other passionate bird hunters all year round. The funds raised by these organizations help to protect vital bird habitats and conserve bird populations for future generations. Many chapters are active throughout the year with banquets, dinners, clay shoots, youth hunts, and boots-on-the-ground habitat projects for a real hands-on way to give back to the sport you cherish.


Set a Simple Goal

One of the notions I’ve come to appreciate is “progress over perfection” and it’s allowed me to enjoy the simple things about upland hunting and bird dogs, rather than seeking major breakthroughs and milestone achievements. It also saves me from having to feel like I’m competing against the crowds to measure my own merits against their versions of successes on social media.

A simple goal could be going the extra mile, getting out an extra day, taking more photos—or perhaps less—or taking out just one new hunter this season. No matter what you’re motivated by, make the most of your bird hunting season in the best ways you know how. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and don’t get hung up on the social media hype. Remember, the wild uplands are there for you to curate your own narrative in whatever ways work for you.

upland bird hunter at dusk holding shotgun
Give yourself a little something to look forward to in this next bird hunting season. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)
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