Stuff we should be doing right now and probably aren’t.
By Steve Smith
It’s almost March, which means in parts of the country it’s, we hope, turning toward spring. Other parts, those far north or buried in snow — usually the same thing, but not this year — there’s still a good portion of winter left. In any event or anyplace, the hunting season is a long way off. But there are things we should be doing and attending to that will make the final preparations for opening day easier.
Keeping/getting the dog in shape. In most of the country, spring is a cool time of year. Dogs don’t overheat like they can in the summer, so you can work them longer, and where there’s a will…. In Michigan, running a dog in the winter, especially a pointer, just isn’t in the cards: The snow’s too deep, and I personally don’t think it’s good on connective tissue to have a dog drag the back legs against the resistance of deep snow in a full-out run.
I found a place near home that works well enough — it’s a parking lot for snowmobilers near a groomed trail. The county or somebody plows it, and I go after work — my dogs meet me at the door and insist that we go work out. It isn’t like Sam can get much exercise just cruising the lot, so I toss bumpers for her (and my Lab) to retrieve. I toss them like 40 or 50 yards, and each dog gets a couple dozen fetches. Do the math: That’s over a half-mile of flat-out running. I know; that’s not far, but in the middle of the winter, it’s better than nothing, which is what I have done in past years. Sam looks good and feels good. If you haven’t worked out the dog since the end of the season, don’t wait until August to start. The days are getting longer. It won’t hurt you to get a little exercise, too.
Check out your gear and guns. If anything needs work, repair, replacement, or you wished you had one last season and didn’t, now’s the time. The gunsmith is going to only get busier and more backlogged the later it gets. If it’s something you need or want, you can sometimes get good deals on big items if you negotiate a little because it’s usually a long way between sales of fall stuff in the spring. I need a new framework for the blind on the duck boat; the one I want is on sale now, but I’ll bet it won’t be in September. I should buy it soon.
Need a new e-collar or maybe you’re going to a GPS or telemetry tracker of some sort and A Close Relative By Marriage would rather use the cash for hallway carpeting? Start saving now so you can pick it up mid-summer, in time to learn how to use it. Or buy it and get the grief out of the way so that when you pull it out next fall, it’ll be old news. That’s what I do. It isn’t the old, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” because you aren’t going to get either. It’s just the way it is.
You should also give some thought to shooting some clays on a more or less regular basis, even fewer than a half-dozen afternoons spread over from now to the opener will keep you relatively sharp. One thing to be aware of is, as we get older, we lose our eye faster if we don’t shoot, and we get it back slower when we start. I was in Georgia hunting quail in mid-February — I got to hunt with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who is a crack shot — and I hadn’t pulled a trigger since Thanksgiving, and for the first time in my shooting career, I could see where the layoff really hurt. I only hunted two days, and I didn’t start shooting like I know I can (which, admittedly, isn’t all that great) until the afternoon of the second day; until then, I got cheerfully outshot by a politician.
By Steve Smith (Editor)
The Pointing Dog Journal
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