by Peter Churchbourne - Thursday, April 9, 2020
As we come together to fight the coronavirus, we’re affected differently depending on our personal living situations—but we’re all affected. If you live in an urban area or even a city, you might be in a mandatory quarantine or a self-imposed quarantine. If you live in a rural area, you might not be impacted as much, but precautions still are in place. Regardless of your scenario, we hunters probably all have a little more time on our hands than we did just two weeks ago. I’ve put together a list of things each of us can do to keep busy.
1. Internet Hunting Research: There are several web-scouting applications that allow you to sit in the comfort of your living room and see high-quality mapping and satellite images of the area you hunt or want to hunt. There are options you can pay a fee to use but, depending on your needs, you might be able to find the information without spending a dime. The fancy fee-based applications work great if you want to scout big blocks of public land that contain map overlays of burned areas, public game management areas, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, restricted areas, CWD (chronic wasting disease) management areas, etc. These applications all have phone apps that can be accessed on the fly if you have a cell signal at your hunting location. I have found them helpful in keeping me in the right spot at times. However, if you don’t need all that information, you can see most things for free on Google Earth and the various GIS (Geographic Information System) networks available around the country. If landowners’ names and contact information are what you are after, much of that can be found by searching the GIS networks in that area. A little digging can help you find what you are looking for in most areas, and I have found that the data is more accurate than what you get through using various services for which you pay. Making good use of any extra time on your hands might lead you to a new hunting spot this fall.
2. Shed Hunting: It’s that time of year when the antlered game animals we like to chase drop their antlers. Depending on where you live, those “sheds” don’t last long until nature absorbs them back into the life cycle. Shed hunting also supports social distancing. Pack a lunch and some water before you go. Recently a few friends and I focused on this for a few hours a day on a farm in Virginia. With the kids at home, it was a good chance to send them out to get some exercise. Over the course of a few days, the group found a decent number of whitetail deer sheds. (inset photo) Some of the best locations to look for them include deer travel corridors, feeding areas and bedding areas. While shed hunting, you can accomplish a few other tasks as well, such as scouting for the upcoming spring turkey season. It’s also a good time to take down your treestands If you have a hang-on stand and use the strap on steps, it a good time to take them down so the straps don’t rot, preventing a potentially dangerous situation this fall. If anything, shed hunting gets you outside for some exercise and fresh air. And if you're in need of some extra grocery money, why not visit your local shed shop for a per-pound price on your sheds, or use Etsy, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or other selling site to make some money on your finds. Dog owners love cut up antlers for chew treats, collectors will pay in the hundreds for matched sheds of some trophy-caliber game species and crafters and hobbyists can turn sheds into every from home decor items like curtain holdbacks, centerpieces and light fixtures to keychains, door pulls and knife handles.
3. Take an Online Course: The NRA has many free online learning options from which hunters can choose. As covered by this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website and other outdoor media, the two that are most relevant to hunters are the free NRA Online Hunter Education Course and the free online NRA Experienced Hunter Education course. The Online Hunter Education course is designed for new hunters and allows students to receive state-based hunter education certification in the growing number of states that have approved the use of our course. For those who would like to take the course even if their state doesn't accept it yet, you are welcome to register and take any other state's course you like. You might also inquire of your state wildlife agency why it doesn't offer the free online option from the NRA. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed that the course is an in-kind donation and your state can secure matching Pittman-Robertson dollars for wildlife conservation efforts in your state. The Experienced Hunter Education course is specifically designed for individuals who have not hunted in the past year or more and are looking for a safety refresher before they head back into the field. Both online courses are user-friendly, modern, fun and engaging. These are not the old, boring two-dimensional animation online classes. Everyone will learn something, and the information you learn could save a life.
4. Clean Your Firearms: As an avid hunter and shooter, I love to pull the trigger—but I hate to clean guns. However, being in lockdown mode has given me more time at home than usual so my guns have benefited. I’d like to give you a proper “how to” on the right way to clean your firearms, but that is a whole separate article, and I am learning better methods as I go. A good internet search will help you find good instruction as well. However, maybe I at least can help you learn from my mistakes. There are certain oils, solvents, spray cleaners, etc., for different types of firearm finishes. For example, if your hunting gun is “dipped” in a camo finish, then you can’t use certain cleaners. Do your research or you will end up like me, with a partially-camo-finished receiver. As long as the UPS is still running, you will be able to get the right supplies shipped to your door. There are lots of products and specialized cleaning tools available today to help you get the job done right.
5. Practice Your Calling: You know how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. If you can keep from driving the other people you are in lockdown with from throwing you out of the house, take out your calls and practice. There are so many great Internet resources on how to call ducks, geese, turkeys, deer, elk, etc. Listen and watch the online videos. If you put in the time, you will become a better caller. And don’t forget to take the calls outside and practice. They sound different outside of your house or vehicle so it’s important to practice outside too. Just as important as learning how to call, is learning when to call. Whether waterfowl hunting or turkey hunting, building your timing skills is just as important. The Internet has great resources and a lot of opinions on what is correct, but there is enough material out there that you will pick up some useful tips.
6. Don’t Forget Man’s Best Friend: Our animals are being affected by “shelter in place” and quarantine orders as well. Lucky for them, there is little indication that COVID-19 is transmitted to our pets so don’t neglect them. In fact, this is a good time to get them outside where they will benefit from some light exercise. In the case of your hunting dog, this is an ideal time for some post-season training. Working on the fundamental commands with your dog will help you both come the fall hunting seasons. Keeping your hunting dog in good shape and injury-free will avoid the need to make a vet appointment when you might not be allowed to leave the house.
Hopefully, this period in our country will pass quickly and we can all get back to life even better than we knew it. In the meantime, maybe some of these ideas will help us hunters to fill idle time.
The NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website covers news relevant to hunters on the local, national and international fronts. We track how hunters' dollars are spent and we celebrate our long and rich hunting tradition, exposing those who seek to destroy it. Follow NRAHLF.org on Twitter @HuntersLead.
About the Author:
Peter Churchbourne is an avid outdoorsman, conservationist and steadfast advocate for all hunters. His passion is anything to do with the outdoors, but most important to him is hunting waterfowl with his labs, chasing turkeys, bowhunting and introducing new people to the life outside. Peter has hunted in 42 states, Canada and South America. Before becoming the director of Hunter Services at the NRA, where he was responsible for developing the award-winning online hunter education program, Peter worked at Ducks Unlimited for 17 years in various positions around the United States. Peter is currently a director with the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum where he is engaged in building new NRA hunting programs and fighting for hunters' rights.
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