Archery season is already a distant memory and next September seems so far away. The sound of bugling bulls and the things you did or didn’t do wrong haunt your dreams as you watch YouTube videos of successful elk and mule deer hunters. Like many hunters, your gear is packed away in your garage, shed or spare bedroom, waiting for summer and better weather so you can get it out again and prepare for the fall. This year, do something different. Don’t put your bow away for the winter. I promise that you will not regret it come next fall. Use this January and February to get your gear ready, swap out any old gear, keep shooting to hone in your craft and get some scouting in for next season.
The winter may not be the prime time to hunt, but it should be the prime time to take care of any issues you have with your setup. This may mean replacing some old strings, replacing a d-loop, retying peeps, swapping out the fletchings on your arrows or even just waxing your current strings. Keeping up on your bow’s maintenance instead of letting it sit in the case until the summer time will help you get extra shooting days throughout the summer when bow shops are the busiest. If you have time, it might be a good idea to bring your bow to a reputable dealer and have them look it over for issues you might not even notice. This is your weapon and tool to take down big game so use this winter to repair anything you know needs to be handled before next fall.
The winter lull is a perfect time to try out different bows at your local shop, swap out an ancient rest or try a new type of bow release you were too nervous to try in the fall. You have plenty of time to not like something you are changing and still get things lined out before your hunt. Last summer, I was contemplating switching to a thumb release, but didn’t want to throw off my shot even though I had two months until my hunt. This winter, I will be trying out that release to see if it is something I want to have on my hunt this fall. The winter time — especially around the holidays — is an awesome time to find good deals and sales on items that do not go on sale during the summer or around hunting season so shop around and find good deals. Any changes to your setup can throw off your shot for a little while until you get everything lined out. The good news about doing this in the winter is that you have time to try it and then return it if it doesn't work. Overall, the more practice you have with your final setup, the better you will be and the more confidence you will have.
The coldest months of the year are the time when you should join an indoor league at your local bow shop. A league, weekly shoots or a competition will push you to keep your form up throughout the offseason and will increase your accuracy come hunting season. A lot of the people that shoot league or competitions are extremely knowledgeable and can also help you increase your accuracy through wisdom and by paying attention to their gear choices. Surrounding yourself with experts in anything will push yourself to be the best you can be. This winter, join a league and improve your shot.
The final thing that I always do throughout the winter that increases my chances in the fall is more e-scouting. E-scouting has become my winter tradition. I examine my current spot, search for new spots and use GOHUNT’s Filtering 2.0 to look through and plan future hunts. Having an idea of my future hunts with spots picked out allows me to utilize some couch time for something other than eating and watching TV. When I have enough points and am ready to draw that tag of my choice, I will already have an abundance of areas picked out and ready to check out with some boots on the ground.
Overall, the winter can be a depressing time for an archery hunter in the West. The mountains you used to chase bucks and bulls on are frigid and covered with feet of snow. The spring is around the corner, but still months away, which gives you a perfect excuse to be lazy. This winter, put the lazy away and repair your gear, try out some new setups, join a shooting league and over prepare for next fall. When things get busy throughout the summer you will already have everything ready for the fall while your buddies are scrambling to replace strings, buy new arrows or find new spots to go hunting.