There Is No Off Season


Axis deer are beautiful and can be hunted during the off-season.
Mark took this dandy buck in Argentina with an H-S Precision 270 WSM.

At the conclusion of big game seasons, handgun hunters often refer to the months ahead as “off-season.” It’s a time when we all anxiously await the next hunting season. This period of downtime can be productive and meaningful if we have the desire and proper motivation. As a matter of fact, there are many projects we can pursue in preparation for the next hunting season.

“Off” Projects

Spending time on the loading bench is almost therapeutic on those cold, nasty days of winter. This is a great time to fill up the empty brass or experiment with load development. I don’t want to be reloading ammo when the weather permits shooting sessions outside.

This is also a good time to make sure your equipment is in top shape. Guns need to be cleaned — even though I hate doing so. It’s a great time to check scope rings and mounting screws for proper torque. General gun maintenance can lessen headaches down the road.

Quality time behind the trigger is beneficial. I’ve been having a lot of fun shooting a Freedom Arms .22 LR with Lapua’s new Super Long Range ammo at targets on the farm. The KYL target rack from Birchwood Casey is ideal for honing your marksmanship. This provides a lot of good practice and a great opportunity to work on the fundamentals. Shooting a handgun with consistent accuracy requires practice for most of us mere mortals.

If you’re a property owner and passionate about deer hunting, there are endless chores to be addressed before hunting season. Habitat enhancement is an ongoing endeavor with timber stand improvements, food plot management, bush-hogging, keeping shooting lanes open, repairing deer blinds, and the list goes on and on. I spend a lot of time on the tractor every year with projects to enhance and improve wildlife habitat. The chain saw and pole saw also see a lot of action. What does all this have to do with handgun hunting? Well, when deer season rolls around, all that work may increase my enjoyment and success rate when I’m out there with my favorite handgun.

In the right location, prairie dogs can provide a target-rich environment.
Handgunners get quality trigger time and help landowners control these
destructive pests.

Dream Hunts

With seasons being reversed in the southern hemisphere, Africa is another fantastic option. For many of us handgun hunters, this is a dream hunt. The Dark Continent is blessed with a wide variety of game, from the smallest duikers to giant pachyderms. Hunting plains game in South Africa can be accomplished for less money than a premium elk hunt. There is a plethora of desirable plains game species such as kudu, impala, bushbuck, wildebeest, gemsbok, warthog, and many, many others that provide ample opportunity for minimal costs compared to a brown bear hunt. Many South African outfitters offer specials for several species of plains game every year at hunting conventions.

Argentina is another option during May, June and July. Karen and I are headed back to this beautiful country in a few weeks for red stag, blackbuck and some of those big, ugly wild hogs. The country is safe, folks are friendly and the hunting is good — not to mention the food and wine!

There are many productive and beneficial activities we can tackle during the down time. Embrace the journey!

This Birchwood Casey KYL Target provides a challenge for rimfire
enthusiasts. Mark practices with his Freedom Arms 22 LR with
Lapua Super Long Range ammo.

Non-Traditional Game

Squirrel season opens Memorial Day weekend here in Missouri. Hunting small game with your favorite .22 rimfire pistol is an excellent opportunity to get in the woods and enjoy the great outdoors. This type of hunting demands shooting from all sorts of different positions and is good practice and experience for big game hunting. Headshots on a gray squirrel can be challenging — there is a lot more space outside the target area than in.

Many exotics, such as axis deer and blackbuck, can be hunted long before general deer seasons. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does provide some wonderful hunting experiences, and the meat is delicious. In the right setting, hunting exotics is fun and exciting. Those axis deer are beautiful and the blackbuck most graceful.

Varmint hunting is another productive opportunity that may hone your skill. Prairie dog towns often provide a target-rich environment exposing the shooter to a lot of trigger time. In western states, you will quickly learn how the wind affects bullets.

Bear hunting is another option during late spring. In many western states and Alaska, bear hunting in May and June provides handgunners the chance to pursue these magnificent creatures. Whether you hunt over bait, spot and stalk, or with hounds, bear hunting is a challenging and rewarding pursuit — a great way to eliminate cabin fever.

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