Turkey season is winding down. The wind has begun to carry a whiff of intensifying heat. And soon it’ll be the only time of year when inside seems preferable to outside (unless there’s a few feet of water nearby). People talk about the “cabin fever” and depression that results from a cold, prolonged winter, but Frosty has nothing on the summer sun. That pain you feel in the pit of your stomach? That’s the knowledge that three months—more than 90 days!—of oppressive heat and, worst of all, no hunting lie ahead. Or do they? There’s some great hunting to be had during the summer months that many sportsmen overlook. A few require a little travel and creativity, but with a little effort you can find great hunting from June to August. And before you know it, September’s glorious return will bring with it bacon-wrapped doves and backstraps on the grill.
Why Eating Crow is Underrated
Why don’t more people hunt crows? I think certain myths surround them, namely that they can’t be eaten—the old expression “eating crow” certainly hasn’t helped. But there are in fact many fine recipes out there and once the feathers are off, meat is meat. Even those crow hunters who don’t have a taste for the birds are doing a fine service, as a large gathering of crows can be quite destructive to farmland and eat a lot of game-bird eggs, especially those of waterfowl.
As far as strategy, much debate surrounds the “scout,” the crow that goes in first to investigate the safety of the area. Some advise passing on the scout, which in turn will signal its fellow birds that all’s well. Then the shooting begins. Other say passing on the scout poses too great a risk that he’ll blow your cover. They prefer to shoot the scout quickly, before he can signal danger, which thereby sets the stage for the rest of the birds to come. I say shoot the scout and go home with at least one bird.
The Challenge of Nilgai Antelope
You will find their delicious meat worth the effort though. It’s among the most tender and flavorful I’ve ever tried, and nilgai are so large that I shot mine in late June and had killed a whitetail before I was through with the last steak.
Those Prolific Hogs
Of course, one of the great things about hog hunting is the numerous tactics and strategies by which they may be hunted. Would you like to try spot-and-stalk, still hunting or sitting in a blind? How about pursuing them with dogs? Or with a rifle, bow, spear or even a knife? There’s a hog hunt for literally any type of hunter, at any time of year.
Ground Hogs and Prairie Dogs
Shots can be long-range and numerous, which go far in improving your marksmanship leading up to fall’s more traditional hunting seasons. Much of the knowledge I have of judging wind drift, mirage, bullet drop and other longer range considerations was acquired while hunting prairie dogs. There’s no doubt that the first time you’ll hunt prairie dogs, you leave a better shot.
And while prairie dogs often carry bubonic plague (another reason to shoot a few), ground hogs can make for good table fare.
Get Your Bird Dog Off the Couch
Now, perhaps you’re one of those who believe preserves “aren’t real hunting.” I can respect that. But before you express your attitude in the comments section (and feel free to do so), let me offer an alternative to hunting stocked or “put and take” birds. Ask the proprietor of the preserve if you can merely hunt the residual birds on his property (without any being stocked specifically for your hunt) for a reduced fee. Many will say no, but a couple may say yes. After all, you’re offering them money for little to no effort or financial overhead. These residual birds offer a great challenge and, while most were not born in the wild, for all intents and purposes they are wild birds.
Preserve hunting is also of great benefit to your dog. It’s great exercise, it keeps him sharp and he’ll be ready to roll in the October uplands while other dogs are still shedding pounds and sucking wind.