Lockdown. It’s one of those words that, prior to 2020, you probably only associated with criminals in jail, but which has, unfortunately, now become a far too familiar part of our vernacular. Just this month, Victorians clocked up their 200th day in lockdowns since the pandemic started, and residents in NSW have just entered their 10th consecutive week of lockdowns. Even New Zealand, with their personal bubbles, have been plunged back into Level 4 lockdowns and restrictions. For many people, that means the closest they’ll get to hunting is taking their guns out of the safe and imagining they were on a hunt somewhere around the world, and the closest they’ll get to fishing is hooking a rubber ducky in the bathtub. If you’re climbing the walls, longing to spend time in the great outdoors, here are 18 hunting related activities you can still do in lockdown. Even better, they’re all designed to hone your skills and keep your gear in tip top shape ready for when you’re finally allowed back outside!
NOTE: While the spirit of this article is tongue-in-cheek and designed to be fun, we do acknowledge that lockdowns and restrictions have a very serious side as well, with many people struggling financially and mentally. If you are struggling, we strongly advise you to reach out for help.
Maintaining your hunting equipment is one of those things we all know we should do regularly but, like most chores, it’s also one of the things we tend to put off doing until we have more time on our hands. Well, if there’s a bright side to forced lockdowns it’s that you certainly have plenty of free time on your hands. So no more excuses. Here’s a few basic maintenance tasks you can do on your hunting equipment in lockdown:
1. Clean your firearms
Some hunters religiously clean their barrel every time they go out while others are lucky to pull a bore snake through the barrel once every few years. At the end of the day, how often you clean your firearm really is a personal choice, much like how often you choose to wash your car or clean your carpet. That being said, hunting rifles are not cheap, and many of us have invested a lot of money in our equipment. The more care you take with your firearms, the more likely they are to last longer. So rather than just giving it a quick barrel clean, why not take the opportunity to give your firearms a thorough, deep clean.
If you’ve never cleaned a rifle before, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube on how to clean a rifle. I Am Hunter members can also check out our handy tutorial, with step by step guide (it is member-only content so you will need to be logged in), as well as a list of materials you’re likely to need.
2. Sharpen your knives
When it comes to field dressing and butchering your wild game, a good sharp knife is one of the most important tools in your hunting kit. On the flip side, a blunt knife blade won’t just make the job harder, it could land you in the emergency ward needing stitches! That’s because a blunt knife requires more downward pressure to make the same cuts, meaning you are much more likely to cut yourself with a blunt knife than you are with a sharp blade.
Unfortunately, unless you have worked as a butcher or chef, knife sharpening skills are one of those handy life skills that are rarely taught but sorely needed.
In the good old pre-lockdown days, you could have just dropped your knives off to a professional knife sharpener but with so many small businesses on lockdown orders, there’s never been a better time to learn how to sharpen your own knives.
There are a vast number of commercial style knife sharpeners on the market. Most promise a professionally sharpened blade in seconds. My Slice of Life in Victoria stocks a wide range of knife sharpeners (NOTE: I Am Hunter members get 20% off their first order, and 10% off all subsequent orders at My Slice of Life).
3. Pack your bags
For some of you in lockdown, planning an actual hunting trip might seem more fantasy than reality, but (hopefully) one day life will return to normal and you’ll be back out in the hills hunting for your favourite prey. With so much free time on your hands, there’s probably never been a better time to go through and do an audit of your hunting pack. Check that you have all the basics covered: knife, first aid kit, safety equipment. Do you hunt with binoculars? Are any of your supplies running low? Now might be a good time to place an order and restock your kit. Are there some items you may not normally carry but which you might like to add to your hunting pack? And while you’re at it, have you checked that your bag itself is in good working order? Does the zip open easily or get stuck? Are there any holes that need repairing? Does the bag itself need a wash? Plus, there’s an upside in having your bag all ready to go and that’s that you’ll be able to grab that ready-packed-bag and be out the door the minute they loosen lockdown restrictions!
4. Get your kit on
Use your time in lockdown to do an audit of your hunting clothing. If you only hunt a couple of times a year, chances are your camo hasn’t seen the light of day since the last time you went hunting. Now we’re not suggesting you test your camo’s cloaking capabilities by trying to see how far you can get down the road before the authorities catch you or your neighbours dob you in, but it could definitely be worthwhile trying on your gear to see if it still fits, whether it needs any repairs or whether you need to add anything to your hunting kit. If you’re into spot and stalk hunting, do a bit of an audit on the noises your hunting clothes make. Do your pants swish when you walk? Do you have lots of velcro or zips that make noises when you open them? How good is the waterproofing on your gear? Maybe get someone to tip a bucket of water on you, as Tash did in this video. Get out your hunting boots and give them a good clean. If they’re leather, you can water proof them using something as simple as deer tallow, or one of the commercial water proofers on the market.
5. Go camping
It seems for many Australians and Kiwis, camping in the great outdoors is off-limits for the foreseeable future but that doesn’t technically mean you can’t camp. It might seem a little weird; it might draw some strange looks from your neighbours; your family might even think you’ve finally lost the plot, but there’s much to be gained from setting up your tent or swag in the backyard. For starters, you’ll be outside rather than stuck indoors – and that’s always a good thing. You will also get a really good feel for how your gear performs in a wide range of weather conditions. There’s nothing worse than being miles from home the first time you pitch your new tent, only to discover that its claims of being waterproof don’t quite live up to the manufacturer’s promises. Or waiting until you’re out bush on a cold frosty night to find that your sleeping bag isn’t quite as warm as you imagined it would be. So don’t just be a fair weather camper. Or that the mozzie netting on your annexe is next to useless. Or that your camp stove and cooking utensils make the job infinitely harder. Test out your gear in all kinds of weather conditions.
Learn a new skill
Unless you’re a hermit with a serious case of agoraphobia, nobody really likes lockdown. But let’s face it, there have been some positive things to come out of it. Did you know that one of the most searched for terms on the Internet in both 2020 and 2021 was ‘how to’?
They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and a global pandemic that has cut us off from our normal throw away, take away, service-driven society has sparked a massive upswing in people learning new skills (or just relearning some forgotten skills). Suddenly, people have a desire to learn how to do things for themselves again. Maybe that’s getting back to basics and learning how to make a loaf of bread from scratch or how to cook the basics, or maybe you want to try your hand at something a little more advanced.
Here are a few new hunting and outdoor related skills you can learn during lockdown:
6. Reload your own ammunition
Reloading (or hand loading) your own ammunition is not only significantly cheaper than buying store bought ammunition, it can also drastically increase your accuracy as it allows you a greater amount of control over the finished round. The one downside to reloading is it is definitely more time consuming than ducking down to your local gun store and picking up a box of factory ammo. Use your time in lock down to either learn how to reload your own ammunition or, if you already know how, to actually spend some time perfecting your rounds. If you’re starting out, check out one of the many tutorials and videos on YouTube. If you’re an I Am Hunter member, we have even put together a handy list of all the gear you need to get started including links on where you can buy it all.
7. Tan your own skins
Nope. We’re not suggesting you ‘puts the lotion on’ and get tanning in your backyard (though if that floats your boat, go for it). We’re talking about animal skins. If you’re anything like us, you’ve got a bunch of hides in your freezer just waiting to be tanned. Maybe you’re an old hat at it, in which case, get them in a pickle and get tanning. Or maybe you’re just starting out and need a step-by-step guide for how to tan a hide. We have also put together a handy guide on how to deflesh the skins first using a Karcher or other pressure washer. You can either use the finished products as throws around your house, or take your DIY skills to a whole new level by learning to sew the tanned hides into homewares and clothes. One of our upcoming projects is to turn some tanned deer hides into coffee coasters to go into our gift packs for I Am Hunter members.
8. Learn how to Euro mount a skull
Nearly every hunter’s shed has a collection of animal skulls gathering dust. Maybe it is some deadheads you found while out hunting, or an animal you actually shot yourself. Maybe you’ve been meaning to take it to a taxidermist or maybe you’ve just been trying to figure out what to do with it now.
Mounting your own Euro mount is not difficult and takes very little equipment. All you really need is a large pot, some salt, some bicarbonate of soda and some dishwashing liquid to clean up the skull. If you’re an I Am Hunter member, Rod has put together a handy video with step-by-step instructions on how to clean up a skull for a Euro mount. Or if you’re not yet a member, check out the quick video on our YouTube channel.
The mount itself is really up to your imagination. You could use a ready-made device like a Skull Hooker (I Am Hunter members can get 40% off these with our discount codes). Or you could just use a decorative piece of wood or mount it directly to the wall. If you’re looking for inspiration, Google Euro Mounts to get some ideas.
9. Clean up with some homemade soap
They say that cleanliness and hand sanitising is the key to not catching the Rona, which might be why there has been periodic shortages of both soap and hand sanitiser at the supermarkets. But making your own soap is a lot more simple than you might think, especially if you have some tallow or animal fat in your freezer.
You can use almost any type of fat to make home made soap – either animal or plant based. We have made soaps using pork lard, and we have some wild deer tallow which will soon be available for sale in the I Am Hunter Shop.
If you’re keen to give it a go, we have put together a handy guide with step by step instructions for making your own soap.
10. Learn how to mount your own scope
In the good old days before lockdown, if you needed to mount a new scope, you could just whip it down to your local gun shop and they’d do the job for you. But with many gun shops on lockdown orders themselves, it’s not that hard to learn to do it yourself.
While Rod is the resident firearms expert in the house, Jess and Tash aren’t afraid to give things a go for themselves, and have put together a series of videos where they try new skills for themselves without dad’s watchful instructions.
In this quick video, the girls have a go at mounting the Burris Eliminator scope.
11. Learn to become a hunter
Maybe you are reading this article and haven’t yet started hunting. Maybe the lockdowns and restrictions have piqued your interest in learning how to hunt and gather your own food. If so, you certainly wouldn’t be alone, as there has been a massive upswing in the number of people wanting to learn how to hunt over the last 24 months.
If that’s you, we have started putting together a series of articles on how to apply for your firearm’s licence in various states around Australia. So far, we have Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales completed. We’ll be adding other states real soon.
Or maybe you’d prefer to learn how to bow hunt. We have put together some handy articles on how to get started bowhunting, which provides instructions on everything from how to measure your draw length, to what equipment you need to get started, to how to choose which arrows to hunt with.
Improve your existing skills
Okay, so you can’t actually get out and hunt right now, but that doesn’t mean you should just sit around binge watching Netflix either. There are still plenty of things you can do to improve your existing skills and increase your chances of success when you finally can get back out there. Here are some things you can do to improve your skills from the comfort of your own home or backyard:
12. Get hunt fit
It’s an ironic twist that lockdowns were designed to keep us healthy from a deadly virus, but have instead had a negative impact on our overall health and fitness. Gyms are shut, home cooking and baking is on the rise, which in turn has seen the kilos pile on and the fitness levels steeply drop.
While you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to successfully hunt, all hunting requires a certain level of fitness and strength. Whether that’s the cardiovascular fitness to climb hills in search of game, or the muscle strength to carry game out of the field and back to your vehicle or camp, or even the arm strength to successfully pull back a bow string.
The good news is that you don’t actually require expensive gym equipment to keep hunt fit. Sure, there are many exercise programs you can follow online, just as there are many fitness apps. But even some basics will keep your fitness levels up and ensure you’re ready to hit the hills the minute the lockdowns are lifted. You could start with some simple weighted stair runs. Strap on your full backpack and run up and down your stairs for as long as you can, gradually pushing yourself just that little bit further each time you do. Do push ups and the plank to build arm and core strength. Increase lower leg strength with calf raises. Do burpees to improve both your strength, and your mobility (great for getting up and down fast in the field). Increase arm strength with bench dips, or if you’re into bow hunting, do some target practice in the back yard. Improve mobility and strength in your knees with some simple body weight squats. Increase your climbing ability with some high bench step ups using a chair or bench in your lounge room. If you have a spare tyre (in the back yard, not around your belly), tie a rope to it and pull it around the back yard. It will be great strength training for carting that deer out next time you’re in the field.
13. Practice your bow hunting
There are a number of reasons people choose to bow hunt over (or in addition to) rifle hunting. But one that people rarely think about is the ability to practice your sport in a suburban back yard. Now, if you did that with a rifle, you’re likely to get a visit from the local police. But shooting some arrows in your backyard is a perfectly legitimate and safe pastime. It also has the added benefit of increasing your hunt fitness, as we mentioned above.
First, sight in your bow.
Next, remember that it’s not just practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. In other words, practice how you intend to bow hunt in the field, which is rarely going to be standing directly in front of your prey at 10m. Practice firing your bow from your knees, or crawling along the ground with your bow across your back. Practice shooting from behind a tree – or if you have the space, and are likely to be shooting your bow from a tree stand, set up your stand in the backyard.
14. Improve your culinary skills
If you’re lucky enough to still have some game meat in the freezer, use the time you have in lockdown to try out new recipes and cooking styles you may not have tried before.
Search the web for new ways to cook game meats or check out The Game Kitchen right here on I Am Hunter.
If you’ve never made your own sausages before, you can easily order supplies online from My Slice of Life or a similar company. There are literally hundreds of videos online on how to make your own sausages, and what meats and fats to use. We find that pork fat goes really well with game meats, but it really is up to your imagination and taste buds which combinations you choose.
Try cooking with a sous vide, which is a fancy French cooking technique that is actually pretty simple to do at home and produces some impressive haute cuisine results.
While there are tons of things to do to keep active in lockdown, there’s nothing wrong with spending some time on the couch just chilling out either. Life is all about balance. Besides, it’s probably a lot easier being in lockdown in the Digital Age than it would have been back in the Spanish Flu days. Here’s four things to do to keep you entertained during lockdown.
15. Binge watch hunting shows
Thank God for streaming video services. Can you imagine what lockdown would be like without Netflix, Foxtel, Stan and all the other options we have for binge watching TV shows. But did you know there are also options for binge watching hunting shows? MyOutdoorTV is an online streaming platform owned by The Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel, which has over 15,000 hunting shows. A subscription costs just $99 a year, which allows you to binge watch episodes of Jim Shockey’s Uncharted, which is hands down one of the best hunting series we have ever watched. Or check out the Keefer brothers epic hunting series, Dropped. Or perhaps take a Wild Ride, with country music singer and hunter Nick Hoffman. Or maybe you can learn what goes into making a hunting tv show with Jim Shockey’s The Professionals. And of course, don’t forget to watch our episodes of I Am Hunter, which also airs on the platform.
16. Discover podcasts
I was a latecomer to the world of podcasts until I started travelling long distances for work and 8 hours in a car became a little too long to listen to music. Once I discovered podcasts, I never really looked back, and found that the time on the road disappeared so much quicker when I was actually engrossed in what I was listening to. And once I delved into the world of podcasts, I found there was a HUGE array of hunting podcasts out there to listen to.
There are a number of ways you can listen to podcasts – Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher all have their own apps you can listen via. You can also listen to our I Am Hunter podcasts right here on the website.
Here are just a few good ones that you should try out:
Hunting Camp Downunder with host Craig Hailes.
The Hunting Collective – with 177+ podcasts about all things hunting and the outdoors, this one should keep you entertained for the next few pandemics!
MeatEater – if you’ve ever watched an episode of MeatEater, you’ll know that Steve Rinella is a master story teller who has brought the concept of hunting to the masses.
Australian Hunting Podcast with Jason Selmes is probably one of the best known and most widely listened to Australian podcasts. He is pretty passionate about keeping hunting alive, and not afraid to take it to our politicians to demand better laws and regulations.
The Educated Hunter – hosted by Kiwis Matt Gibson and Kuran Ireland, the Educated Hunter was one of the first hunting podcasts I found and still one of my all time favourites. They have such an easy, carefree way of discussing hunting and a deep passion for keeping it alive.
17. Shop online
There’s no denying that these lockdowns have been tough on everyone, but our hearts really go out to all those small businesses who have been absolutely smashed by the constant lockdowns and government restrictions. We have spoken to many of the owners of hunting stores and gun shops, and nearly all of them are struggling just to keep the doors open and the debtors from their door. Not only are they still having to pay high rents when their shops are closed, they are also carrying huge amounts of inventory on their shelves, or facing the polar opposite problem of struggling to get supplies due to broken supply chains and transport woes. Stores in Victoria have been the hardest hit, but those in NSW are also starting to feel the pinch. And while you can’t just duck down to pay them a visit, most are still taking orders online.
So the next time you need some hunting or shooting supplies, check and see if your local store is still taking orders. Most can ship it to you through the post, or via a courier – and some are even allowing Click and Collect.
Here’s just a few of the guys we know who have been hit quite hard (which is by no means an exhaustive list):
Mansfield Hunting and Fishing – https://www.mansfieldhuntingandfishing.com.au – located in Victoria’s picturesque High Country, Mel and the team stock a huge range of hunting, shooting, fishing and camping supplies and can process your full order online.
Mialls – https://www.mialls.com.au – located in Frankston in Victoria, Mialls are one of Australia’s largest gun shops and gun smithing facilities.
Hunting Haven – https://www.huntinghaven.com.au – located in Armidale in Northern NSW, the Hunting Haven and its sister store, Camo Warehouse (https://www.camowarehouse.com.au) stock a wide array of hunting gear, optics and shooting accessories and will ship anywhere in Australia for a flat $10 shipping fee.
If you’re an I Am Hunter member, be sure to check out which of these stores you can claim a discount at by checking our Rewards Page.
18. Plan your fantasy hunt
To be completely honest, the thought of booking a hunting trip anywhere at the moment is definitely a fantasy. Between border closures internally in Australia and international borders being slammed shut on us, who knows when we’ll be able to travel again to hunt. But that doesn’t stop us dreaming about that hunt of a lifetime, and maybe, just maybe starting to plan for it sometime down the track.
Whether your dream is to hunt big game or plains game in Africa, hunt red stag in NZ in the Roar, hunt whitetail and elk in the US, or just hunt Australia’s own big game, the water buffalo, there’s no harm in window shopping and dreaming about when you can finally go.
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