By Eddie Claypool
Everything you've held dear to your heart — antelope, deer and elk seasons — are now a distant thing of the past, and you're having a hard time figuring out what to do now.
You were going full-speed ahead for months, juggling life's responsibilities while spending more time in the woods and hills than anyone would deem normal. It was an ongoing adrenaline rush to scurry through this hectic time, and now your perfect world has imploded around you as the last whitetail season ended far too soon.
So, what's a hardcore bowhunter to do at this most depressing time of the year?
For years, the lifestyle and emotions described above were my identity. I put everything I had into the months of September through December. I left it all on the field. The rest of the year was rather mundane, and as far as I was concerned, all the other months amounted to little more than filler. They just got me to "my" time of year once again.
As I've grown older, however, I've come to expect a little more of myself — after all, life should consist of more than just a four-month bow season, right? And who wants to go through eight months of extreme mental trauma each year?
OK, so what would any selfish, spoiled, addicted, passionate, hardcore bowhunter do to get himself out of such a mess? He'd find a way to make bow season last all year. That's what I'm talking about!
Follow along with me and I'll show you how I've learned to keep the twisted mind of a bowhunting junkie satisfied during the times of the year when our main squeeze is busy pitching his antlers and growing a bigger set. Forget the fishing poles and golf clubs and stay focused on bowhunting all year long. Live large — hunt hard and long.
We've all heard about the virtues of post-season scouting, and certainly I'm a subscriber to this line of action — especially when it comes to whitetail hunting. But after a long day spent traipsing through the bleak wintertime woods, looking for rubs, trails and scrapes, what's a guy to do for evening entertainment?
Can you say research, planning and dreaming? Sound boring? Well, it's not. As a matter of fact, the older you get, the more you'll find fantasizing about distant destinations and exotic animals will become one of the best parts of the entire hunting process. You'll learn that oftentimes when it comes to finding good hunting spots, brainwork often trumps footwork.
There's an old saying, "Well begun is half done." That couldn't be truer as applied to bowhunting endeavors. Generally speaking, you won't finish at the top of the pack if you don't start there. Thus, making sure you are going to be spending your time in quality hunting locations easily trumps all other parts of the equation.
So, get started tapping into the endless supply of information out there today. You'll learn of all kinds of great hunting opportunities that are buried deep inside the Internet. By spending winter evening hours behind a computer screen digging deep for these morsels of good hunting information, you can create mind pictures of the hunts you research, fantasize about days spent pursuing your dreams in pristine wilderness country and start planning the logistics of your trip.
By creating an exciting playground of fantasy bowhunting in your mind during the cold winter evenings at home, you're doing a great deal to keep a fire burning that will inevitably flame into bowhunting prosperity.
Another great way to keep that twisted little predatory mind of yours occupied is to download Google Earth and spend a disproportionate amount of time carefully exploring new hunting areas that you've dreamed of visiting. It's truly a virtual hunt! Zoom in on future hunting destinations, roll the habitat up on a 3-D view and fly over your fantasy destination.
It's possible to learn more from this great scouting tool in a few hours — from the comfort of your home — than you could learn from many days of on-the-ground scouting. That can be an invaluable saver of time, money and effort for the serious DIY guy. For me, no modern technology has increased my effectiveness afield as much as Google Earth, and I absolutely wear this great helpmate out.
You can find me scrolling through strange new places, planning strategies, picturing big bucks and bulls in remote basins, dreaming of big cutthroats in wilderness lakes, learning faint access points and locating old burns every day now. Having "been there and done that" on Western bowhunts for nearly 30 years now, I can easily use Google Earth to assess the "reality" of a certain endeavor I'm contemplating.
Can you even imagine how much frustration I've saved myself by having such a tool as this at my fingertips? And even though Google Earth has really shined as a research tool for my Western hunts, I can say with all certainty that it has also shed a new light on my whitetail hunting endeavors.
Many times I've pointed my old Ford toward a new whitetail destination, already knowing where some of my treestands would be hanging before I arrived. This has proved especially true in my pursuit of whitetails on large acreages of public land.
By combining the knowledge I will have gleaned from researching game and fish regulations and social media interaction with scouting accomplished from full-color, 3-D satellite imagery, I've traveled to public hunting areas, hung a few treestands and taken quality bucks with only a few days of hunting invested.
Such being the case — with the technology available today — any bowhunter of average ability should be able to successfully plan and accomplish a DIY bowhunt. What's the hold up? Just do it!
The "Other" Part Of The Equation
Now that we've addressed a few ways to keep ourselves mentally engaged during the off-season, we certainly know that all this head knowledge will be of little use if we can't put it to proper use. And as serious DIY bowhunters, we all know what that means — physical conditioning! Yeah, that dreaded part of the puzzle that we have no desire to address during the off-season.
Through my late-40s, I worked like a real man — hard, manual labor 8-10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, under extremely adverse temperatures and conditions. Over the last half dozen years, however, I've found myself distanced from such an existence, and with such a change of lifestyle comes the dreaded affliction of laziness. To be honest, I never really considered all that hard physical labor as a blessing, but in all reality, it was keeping me both mentally and physically tough for the hardcore bowhunting endeavors I tackled each year.
Such being the case, I never really had to consider working out to stay in shape for taxing Western hunts. I could simply head for the high country, throw on a heavy backpack and head for the timberline. I had no sympathy for soft dudes in those days, and few guys that tried to follow me around lasted more than a few days.
Nowadays everything is different — things have changed and I'm eating a lot of crow now. Truthfully, I find myself in the very same situation that I used to look down upon — being mentally and physically soft at the beginning of an outing. Though I now work out to stay in shape, there is no way such meager efforts can come close to matching my earlier times of life.
And furthermore, it's especially hard to discipline myself well enough to work out in the dead of winter. After all, I've just finished a grueling schedule of hardcore hunting trips and I'm ready for some downtime — know what I mean? It's at this point that I have to be careful that I don't start slipping into a sedentary lifestyle physically, which soon leads to a deteriorated attitude.
This can become a vicious cycle, and a serious DIY'er can't afford to find himself in such a boat all winter.
Furthermore, this should be the number one time of the year when your excitement level should once again be peaking as you contemplate new hunts yet to be conceived and alluring places to explore. Don't find yourself rolling around in the mullygrubs.
So, make an outline, make some rules and discipline yourself. Spend at least three or four days each week working on cardiovascular health, with a secondary focus on strength training. I can assure you that maintaining a high level of cardio health will give you of a good mental and physical standing through an otherwise depressing time of the year.
Additionally, do some flexing exercises every day to keep a fine polish on your machine. And then, just to ice your cake, revert back to the earlier part of this article — research, plan and dream about endless bowhunting adventures yet to come!
Summing It All Up
For most of my life, I've been verbally harangued for being the bowhunting addict I am. I tried to comply with the wishes of many, but I just didn't get'er done. I'm hopelessly lost in this pursuit.
Such being the case, it goes without saying that as I've gotten older, I've embraced the fact that I need bowhunting things to keep my mind and body occupied throughout most of the year. Maybe you're just like me. May the good Lord help us all!
Well, if such is your lot, then don't let the off-season doldrums get the best of you. Stay hooked, keep dreaming, get busy and keep the sweat rolling. And, being the serious bowhunter that you are, I know you'll do just that — after all, you've gotta keep that monster within fed. Nobody said it would be easy, but hey — it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll!