Sportsman’s New Year’s Resolutions

By Gary Faith

Many peoples New Year’s resolutions have to do with self-improvement. They deal with wanting to be better at work, save more money, or maybe get in better shape. Myself, I tend to make everything into, how can i improve my odds of hunting more? This form of self-improvement subsequently leads to things like saving money or getting in better shape, but in a different manner. It is with this thought of getting more time in the woods that this list of Sportsman’s New Year’s Resolutions was created.

Find a new spot to hunt
While it is true that food plots can cost a lot go out and find a brand new area to go hunting this spring and fall. Discovering a new piece of public land or even trying to knock on some doors can open up some great hunting opportunities. Forcing yourself to hunt new areas is only going to improve your skill set as a hunter and outdoorsman. Exploring these areas in the off-season is a great way to get outside and open up more options to hunt this upcoming spring and fall.

Find new ways to cook wild game
Getting to enjoy wild game meat is one of the most fulfilling parts of the hunting process. When you can process your own meat from field to table it really can be satisfying. For years, I have been guilty of grinding the entire deer into hamburger or turning the roasts into deer jerky, which has worked great. In the last couple years, with help from resources like Hank Shaw and Steve Rinella of Meateater I have really been experimenting with learning how to cook all the different cuts of meat that are available. Learning how to properly butcher, prepare, and cook all the different cuts on a whitetail has really opened up a lot of options of ways to prepare venison. One tip that has made a huge difference is just using a meat thermometer to keep tabs on the internal temperature of the cut of meat while cooking. There really is no comparison of a perfectly cooked back strap to one that has been over cooked. We eat a lot of venison in our household so it has been nice to be able to change it up and learn new ways to enjoy it.

Try to hunt a new species
If you are predominately a whitetail hunter, maybe try to fit in a couple upland game bird hunts throughout the season. It can be refreshing to get out in the fields hunting birds with some good friends after having a long season alone in a treestand hunting whitetail. Small game hunting such as rabbits and squirrels can be a great way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Predator hunting is also another great option and coyotes can be hunted year round.

If you are already an all-around outdoorsman in Iowa, perhaps start setting your sites on some western species. Antelope is a great place to start with a western hunt. Tags are available, and there are a lot of them in the west starting with Nebraska and South Dakota. If you want to stick with deer, in some of these states you can hunt both mule deer and whitetail with the same tag. There are a lot of opportunities’ to hunt over the counter units in numerous western states. There is also the option of starting to purchase preference points in states throughout the west. This point game from state to state varies and requires looking into each state individually to understand how it works. One thing that is important to say is it is critical to learn how to hunt the species you are buying points for before you draw that once in a lifetime tag. It will do you little good to draw a top elk-hunting unit in Wyoming, only to arrive and have no idea how to hunt elk. Cutting your teeth on some of these over the counter units in the meantime will give you the experience needed to be able to go into these harder to draw units with much more confidence.

Plan an out of state hunt
Planning an out of state hunt can be intimidating if you have not done it before. Trying to figure everything out at once is overwhelming, but breaking it down and planning ahead will make it much more achievable. This planned hunt does not have to be for this year even. The key is to commit and start saving money for a trip now. Pick the time you want to go and what you would like to hunt and set it in stone. Out of state does not have to be a western state either, although it can be. Several bordering states to Iowa have over the counter tags for big game and small game. Starting with a closer out of state hunt first can allow for several shorter trips to the location so that it is not such a commitment right away. Being open to learning is very important when it comes to these types of trips. There is no shortage of information available for learning how to approach every aspect of an out of state hunt. It also helps to get a friend or family member to go with you so that you have someone else to keep you motivated and on track. Planning for this hunt is a ton of fun, and it also can give you a great reason to get outside and get in better physical condition so you can go farther and longer.

Join a conservation organization
Being able to hunt, fish and outdoor recreate is a very American idea. In terms of being able to continue the wise use and preservation of this natural resource we call the outdoors, the North American Model of Conservation is one of the greatest success stories this country has to offer. This model of conservation does not just happen on its own. This model of conservation is driven by our hard earned dollars and time. This is where conservation organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), just to name a few, are in our corner fighting for our rights as hunters, fisherman, and outdoor recreationalists. It is our membership dollars and volunteers time that will continue to help keep this all moving in the right direction. It is not a far cry to say that we are truly in a continuous fight to keep this privilege alive for the next generations, and it is these organizations that amplify our voice and give up more relevancies in today’s society.

Mentor a new hunter
The population of hunters in the country has been in a steady decline for some time. It is going to take us as outdoorsman to reach out and offer help getting others started into the outdoors to help maintain this way of life. For example, the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have teamed up and started to put on Learn To Hunt events. These events take place over the course of a couple months where mentees help teach new adult hunters how to use their weapon, all the way to taking them out in the field in the fall to hunt. This program focuses specifically on taking adults that are interested in pursuing hunting, helping them along the way. This is a great example of people working together to help bring more hunters and anglers into the field. Wanting more people in the outdoors may seem counter intuitive but truth is we need them. If all of us could try to teach one new person a year imagine what type of effect that will have on our hunter numbers.

The New Year is a great time to get a fresh start. Keeping these Sportsman’s New Year’s Resolutions in mind when approaching that fresh beginning will certainly steer you in the right direction of getting to spend more time in the great outdoors. Happy New Year and be safe everyone.