September is a very important month for upland hunters; it’s preparation month. Let’s take a look at all the preparing we should be doing for an October 1st opener.
On the top of your list should be conditioning for both you and your dog. Four to seven days per week, you should be exercising your dog at least two to three miles per day. Remember the formula: if you walk four miles while hunting, your dog runs 12 miles. A couch dog is not prepared to run 12 miles per day.
Your dog’s diet is also very important. As many readers know, I feed my dogs Native Performance Dog Food (www.nativedogfood.com). Not only is a superior grade food, it comes in levels of protein/fat to fit the exercise level of your dog. You’re able to change levels without fear of stomach issues. Each level is the same formula but offering different levels of protein/fat. During the off-season, we feed Level 2 (26/16). Beginning about one month before the season opener, we switch to Level 3 (30/20). If you’re a one day a week hunter, Level 2 is adequate; however, if you’re a three to four day per week hunter, you should switch to Level 3.
During September, you should be scouting bird cover. Check out your old tried and true coverts. Has a new housing development been created since last season? Or, has the land owner clear-cut? If so, you need to look for new coverts. Even if your old coverts look good, plan on adding two or three new “honey holes” before the season opener. Here is how I search for new woodcock and ruffed grouse cover. I begin with either Google Earth or a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer. The first thing I look for are streams. After I locate a stream, I drive to the stream and look for alder runs. Alder runs hold both woodcock and ruffed grouse. Woodcock like the dampness of the ground and ruffed grouse like the catkins and thick canopy. If there is a logging road that runs parallel to the stream and alder run, look for clover and wild strawberries…both are excellent grouse food. Above the logging road, look for conifers and hardwoods. Conifers provide safety and hardwoods provide nuts and buds during the winter. Woodcock leave the North Country before the harsh weather arrives, but the ruffed grouse needs two things throughout the year to survive…food and safety. If you concentrate on locating coverts that provide both food and safety, you’ll find ruffed grouse.
One of the great pleasures of being an outdoor person is checking your gear. Whether a fly-fisherman, hunter or camper, gear-check and preparation is always fun. For the upland hunter, guns and shooting might come first. Your author enjoys just removing the guns from the safe and handling them. Of course, two or three trips to a shooting range will help sharpen your shooting eye. Maybe a trip to the upland shooting guru, Brand Varney, would be in order (www.varneysclaysports.com). Also, do you need more shotgun shells? If so, give RST a look. I think they’re the best shell on the market. (www.rstshells.com)
A very critical part of an upland hunter’s gear inventory is boots. You will not enjoy your hunt without a good-fitting pair of upland boots. And socks. On every upland hunting trip, I take both a rubber 16” boot and a leather 8” boot. There are numerous high quality rubber boots on the market, however, for leather boots, I love the Wood N’ Stream made by Weinbrenner. The model I use is the Flyway 8” leather boot. (www.weinbrennerusa.com). Additional gear would be hunting pants, hunting jacket and vest. Are all in good repair?
Here’s a tip that I learned this past season. When heading to the North Country, always carry a hydraulic jack. I carried one for twenty years and finally decided that I no longer needed it. My first hunting season, in twenty years, without a hydraulic jack and I have a flat tire deep in the woods and just at dusk. Trust me…carry one.
Those are a few tips for preparing for the hunting season during the month of September. Good luck!
Copyright 2017 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.