Use Your Off-Season Wisely By Tim Herald
MAR 13 2023
Utilize Your Off Season
By: Tim Herald
There seem to be more hunting opportunities than ever in North America with traditional fall big game seasons, waterfowl and predators in winter, turkey and bears in spring, and some whitetail seasons and Alaska seasons now opening in late summer along with sheep and caribou in northern Canada. That being said, most of us aren’t in a place where we can hunt all year, so we generally do have an off season, and for many, January through March or April has some down time.
For me, my off season is usually mid-December-February. Though this is my absolute busiest time in the office, hunting is always on my mind, so I do use this time as best I can to prepare for the coming season. This off season, I had three projects I wanted to get completed before I left for a Uganda safari in Mid-March and spring turkey season.
Firstly, I really wanted to get back into shape as I have an ibex hunt planned for August in Mongolia, and I am also an aggressive turkey hunter and really enjoy running and gunning the hills and hollows of Kentucky.
During the pandemic, like many people I gained some Covid weight, but I also got a bad case of malaria that wiped me out for a couple of months and got me out of the routine of regular exercise. I gained weight and was as heavy as I have ever been in my life, and I just decided to make a change. I have been eating really well and started at 4 days a week in the gym and am now up to 6 days a week and an hour and a half workouts. I am doing a mix of light weights high reps, core exercises and lots of cardio. I dropped 55 pounds which is actually a bit more than my goal, feel like a million bucks, and can’t wait to chase turkeys this spring without huffing and puffing. I just turned 54, and I haven’t been in this good of shape since I was in college. I know the hard work will pay off in the field.
My other two projects were to set up two gun and optics combos. The first is my favorite turkey shotgun. I decided to go with the Trijicon SRO (Specialized Reflex Optic) red dot sight. This site is incredible with a large field of view that is parallax free, a 2.5 MOA fine-tuned, illuminated reticle, coupled with exceptionally clear front lens that offers a clear sight picture with a crisp dot, and the fact that you can change the battery from the top and you do not have to unmount your optic to change it. To me this is the perfect sight for turkey hunting.
It was very easy to mount, and then I found a new product that has made sighting in a breeze and saved me lots of money. There are laser “boresighters” now that actually look like a cartridge, go into the chamber of your shotgun or rifle, and shoot a laser out to a target. The TSS type turkey shells I shoot out of my shotgun are now $15/shell and kick like a mule. With this new laser shell, I pop it in the chamber, line it up on my target at 30 yards, and simply move the dot of my SRO to the laser point on the target, and I am ready to go. I did verify by shooting and tweaked the point of impact just a tiny bit, but I only had to shoot two shells to get dialed in opposed to when I have shot up to ten shells in the past to get a gun perfectly on target.
My last project is setting up a rifle for a Zambia leopard hunt I have in July. When hunting cats, and especially leopards, I like a fast cartridge with a good expanding bullet over a heavy caliber. Cats’ nervous systems are highly developed, and I feel like fast bullets will many times transfer a lot of hydrostatic shock and literally shut their nervous system down killing them instantaneously even before a double lung or even heart shot has time to do its job. Those videos you have seen of a leopard being shot standing on a limb and his body just goes completely stiff and he falls straight out are when this happens.
Taking this into account, I think a .300 Win mag with a 180-grain bullet is the perfect medicine for Mr. Spots. I have a .300 that I haven’t shot in years, but I know it’s very accurate, it has a short barrel that is handy in a blind, so I decided to take it on the hunt. I have mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 4-16x50 scope on it and am currently waiting on a mild winter day to go to the range and get it sighted in at 100 yards.
This model AccuPoint is perfect for a leopard hunt. Since most leopards are taken in the first or last minutes of the day in low light, I definitely want the light gathering ability of a 30mm tube and a 50mm objective. I think this is crucial on a cat hunt. Secondly and along the same lines, having an illuminated aiming point in the center of my crosshairs is a must. The AccuPoint is battery-free, the reticle is “always on” using tritium/fiber optic technology to automatically adjust to lighting conditions so I don’t have to worry about trying to turn it off or on, or that a battery dies at the moment of truth.
I don’t need the 16x for leopard as most shots are 65 yards or less, but I will also hunt some plainsgame species on the trip where 200-250-yard shots are possible, so this very versatile scope is the perfect choice.
Doing these things in my off season keeps me engaged and motivated about hunting, and we all know that success comes when preparation meets opportunity, and I want to make sure that I have the preparation part covered. The off season is the perfect time to accomplish that.