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 Off season ideas to keep yourself in "hunting mode"

If you can contribute information click here Submit information (tips, area suggestions, etc)

There are numerous ways to continue to “hunt” in the off season.   To keep in top form for the fall season here are some suggestions on what to do when waiting for the next season to open up.  As with any physical activity, check with a physician to ensure that there are no underlying medical issues which would limit your ability to get out and exercise.

 Shed Hunting                                                                     

  • Shed hunting is becoming more and more popular.  Shed antlers make for great decoration around the home or shop.

  • February through June is a great time to hit the woods to look for shed antlers.  Especially when the snow starts melting away.  Later in the year will still produce sheds, but, generally the squirrels, porcupines, and the like have already started chewing on them for the calcium.

  • Think like a deer and look in areas where deer would have been when the antlers started shedding.  Mice, porcupines, and other rodent like creatures which gnaw on shed antlers usually won't go out on exposed terrain to gnaw on a shed antler.  It would be in a person's best interest to look in these areas for older sheds.

  • South facing slopes are warmer during the winter months and tend to be where deer are located when the sheds start dropping from the bucks and the bulls.

  • Deer and elk tend to congregate in valley floors/river bottoms when snow is deep up higher on ridge tops.  Look in the valleys and in areas where deer would knock off their antlers such as brushy areas, fence lines, low hanging tree branches.

  • Bring a kid to help… They are lower to the ground and can sometimes see terrain that you may overlook.  What a great way to introduce a kid to walking around the woods.   

  • Make sure that where you intend to Shed Hunt allows you to remove the sheds.  National Parks (Rainier, Olympic, etc) National Monuments (Mt St Helens) and other public areas (WDFW areas) have strict regulations on when and if shed hunting is allowed.  Even if you go shed hunting in areas prohibiting the collection of them, you can take pictures of the sheds. These pictures make for great memories.

  • Train your dog to fetch up sheds.  Let the dog do the work.  Some of the most successful shed hunters use their dogs to do the looking for them.

  • Cover as much land as you possibly can in a day, bring a pack full of food and water and go for that invigorating 15 mile hike you've been meaning to do .

  • Shed hunting is becoming very popular.  The key is to get in the areas where the deer or elk when they shed first!.  As the snow melts off.. that's the time to get out looking for them.

  • Sheds will be in different areas from year to year as the locations the animals winter will vary on snowpack and available forage.

  • Deer antlers will typically drop in late Jan through February (they can drop off later or earlier)

  • Elk antlers will typically drop in February (they can drop off later or earlier)

  • In open areas in Eastern Washington, we have great success simply using our spotting scope to locate sheds on other ridges.  With practice, you can make out a shed from a stick pretty easily. (Ray R, Walla Walla)





Make sure that you do not overly stress wintering animals.  Never chase deer or elk when they are in deep snow or have little available browse.  The extra energy they expend trying to get away from you could spell a death sentence for them.


     Go hiking.  Getting out in the woods during the off season keeps you acclimated and your senses in tune to the environment.

     Hiking will keep you in shape and is a great way to spend time with your family.

     Hiking in your hunting area during the off season provides you with a wonderful opportunity to get to know your area that much better and perhaps see more animals which are not as spooked as they would be during the hunting season.

    Mountain Climbing will get you in phenomenal shape.  If you are able to successfully summit any one of the local peaks (Rainier, Baker, St. Helens) any other hunting area will be a cinch to hunt.  Remoteness will all become relative.

     Mountain Climbing will force you to understand the extreme environments better.  You will be forced to become more efficient in how you pack your backpack and how you use your gear.

     Some local mountain climbing will get you into areas loaded with Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, and monster bucks.  Some of these areas are open for the early “high hunt.”  If you are in adequate enough shape, these remote areas are places you will learn to treasure.

     Take up running.  Local fun runs (Bloomsday in Spokane, Sound to Narrows in Tacoma) provide the hunter with some “goal oriented” training.   If you can successfully finish a 10k or longer running race, the return on how much you will benefit during hunting season will be priceless.

     Cross country skiing will give you access to great terrain well past the snowshoers and hikers.  Methow Valley, Lake Wenatchee area, Yakima valley all provide excellent access to public lands where you can see tons of wintering animals.

     Downhill skiing will provide you with a workout to keep your legs in shape throughout the winter.  Not to mention that the cold weather environment will keep you acclimated.

     Mountain biking throughout the year is an excellent way to stay in shape.  It will also prepare you to get better access to hunting areas.  Most private lands and a growing number of public lands are being closed off to motorized vehicles.  By simply riding your mountain bike 8 or 9 miles into a closed road system, you will be afforded an unequaled hunting experience where few other hunters will ever go.

     Biking will provide you with an aerobic and anaerobic workout that will make you stronger and fitter, which, in turn will make you be a better hunter.

  • Great excuse for golfing!  Golfing helps your ranging abilities.  Take every chance you can to estimate range while out on the links.  Bring your range finder and range tree edges, ponds, and even the green. 



       Volunteer your time and talent for the many different groups and/or agencies out there who could greatly use your help.

o       NW Trails Association

o       Crime Observation and Report Training (CORT)

o       Ducks Unlimited

o       Hunter Education (WDFW)

o       Washington Waterfowl Association


Wildlife Watching                                                              

    There are significant resources available to watch wildlife in the State of Washington.  We have devoted a whole page to this topic.  Click Here


 Shooting/Target Practice                                                  

    Go to a range and practice, practice, practice….  Here is our web page devoted to ranges available. (click here)

       If you are an archer… go stump shooting.  It is great way to practice your ranging abilities. 

       If you are an archer, set up a hay bale target in your yard or in a friend’s yard.  Shoot at least once a week at varying distances.

       In some rural parts of Washington, local cattle farmers have issues with ground squirrels.  Find a field that is loaded with these critters, contact the land owner and offer up your services.  The return for you is two-fold.  1) You get to practice your long range shooting.  2) You may have just secured a friendship with a landowner who may allow you to hunt the property during hunting season.



       Take up bowfishing… Many Washington Lakes hold populations of carp.  Make sure to comply with current regulations regarding fishing for these introduced species.  Different rules apply for common carp and grass carp.  And some waters allow bowfishing with no limits, while others do not allow any.  Regardless, there is nothing like connecting on a 30 lb carp on lightweight bow tackle.  It will improve your shooting and is an experience unlike any other.



       The number one way to keep in tip top hunting form is to scout year round.  You will quickly understand that seeing your hunting areas during the 4 different seasons will provide you with an edge over the animals and of other hunters.  The dead of winter will allow a person scouting to easily see the terrain and potential overlooked areas when all of the ground cover has lost their leaves.  You would be amazed at the number of tree rubs you will see after all the leaves are down.  Mark these areas with your GPS so that you will easily find them during hunting season.

       Outside of hunting season is the time to knock on doors of land owners.  See this page for additional advice on landowner tips and advice.

       Scouting in the off season allows you to explore those ridge tops or basins that you didn’t get the time to explore during the regular season.

       You can scout for waterfowl spots in the spring when the migratory birds make their way back North to their breeding grounds.  There will be typically a bit more water in the spring versus what you will find in the hunting season, but, scouting areas during the spring will potentially reveal new spots and potential honey holes.

       Visit some of the many different waterfowl areas in the off season to check them out.  Obviously, few people want to explore new areas during the season.  You can do quite a bit of looking at new areas during the spring.

       Scouting can also include tree stand and blind maintenance.  Take some time out in the spring or summer to relocate or repair your treestand or blind.  Trim shooting lanes.  Clear or stack brush in strategic areas. 



       Wanna “shoot” hundreds of deer or elk? Wanna “bag” thousands of ducks or geese?  Take up photography. 

       You can take photographs to extend any hunting season.

       Photography of animals will keep your stalking skills honed and sharp.

       Photography is something that the entire family can do and is a great way to introduce people to “hunting” animals.

       Photography forces you to utilize the same skills you would have during a regular hunting season.

       Didn’t pull that Goat Tag or that coveted Peaches Ridge Bull tag?  Nothing says you can’t still get out and take pictures of those trophy animals.

       Many people become quite good at photography and can sometimes even make a living at it.

       Remember to send some of your photos!





       From “Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache.”  There are Geocaches all over the State of Washington.  Try it, you may find that it’ll put you in areas you never knew existed.


Television and YouTube                                              

Subscribe to Netflix or your local Library.  Check out the hundreds of videos available to borrow.  Watch them over and over again.  Pay attention to how those guys on the videos are setting up, shooting, and the like.  YouTube continues to build a huge library of local hunting videos that a person could kill many hours going through them all.


Scoter take off


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