While Most hunting seasonsare months away, there are still manyopportunities to punch a tag for those hunters willing to brave the heat. From epic wingshooting adventures to paradise found hunting axis deer in the Pacific to nighttime raids for feral swine, there’s truly something for every hunter’s budget and skill set. Here are five of our favorite off-season hunts to cure those summertime blues.
The Island of Lanai encompasses just 140 square miles and is home to a population of 3,000 friendly locals. It’s a little piece of paradise in the Pacific that becomes even more attractive when you realize there are also 15,000 axis deer hiding in the brushy flats and jungle highlands.
That’s not a typo, and if anything, 15,000 is a conservative estimate. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to hunt. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
That many axis deer are a blessing and a curse. The brush in the lowlands is thick, and even the stealthiest stalkers get busted regularly, often by deer they never see. But the environment is target rich, and one busted stalk can quickly lead to a shot on another stag ghosting through the cover. I prefer the highlands. Though the flora and fauna are different, a Northwoods hunter would feel at home here, still-hunting through the woods or stump sitting over wide openings cut in the jungle.
Typically, people flock to the Hawaiian Islands to escape the winter, but flights and accommodations are generally less expensive in the off-season. Don’t expect much of a break on the nightly rates at the Four Seasons on Lanai, but the experience and service are worth the cost. Plus, the poolside view is hard to beat, and the nearby ocean is a great place to rinse off Lanai’s red dirt that seems to get everywhere during a day of hunting. For a less expensive lodging alternative, check out the recently renovated Hotel Lanai. The best option for hunting Lanai is booking a trip through the High Adventure Company.
A sounder of swine kicked up dust as we turned the corner of the Texas two-track. Hugo pressed the brakes and pulled the rusted truck to the side. “Did you see that belted hog in the middle?” he said. “They taste the best. Shoot it. I’ll call some amigos, get some cervezas, and we’ll have a fiesta.” I didn’t need to be told twice. I grabbed my AR, eased the squeaky door open, and trailed the hogs into the thick mesquite.
After I got the wind right, it didn’t take long for me to catch up with the herd. I picked out the black sow with the belt of white hair circling her middle and busted up the pig party with a single well-placed shot. Hugo helped me drag the hog to the truck and then proceeded to dial up one hell of a summer barbecue.
Texas is blazing hot in the summertime, but its overabundance of hogs (and a host of exotic animals) makes it a go-to destination for hunters suffering from off-season withdrawal. Hugo and I had actually been hunting axis deer that day, but the soaring temperatures had driven them into the shade of the thick brush. That put us on the hunt for hogs. And that’s the real beauty of the Lone Star State: It’s a target-rich environment. For invasive species and exotics, seasons and bag limits are liberal —and by that I mean often non-existent. If it gets too hot, go nocturnal and hunt hogs in the dark with nightvision and thermals for a real beat-the-heat treat.
While Most people consider May to be the premier month for hunting bears, I’d make the case for June. Weather is typically more stable in the summer months, and you get the added benefit of more hours of daylight to intercept that trophy bruin. Also, the later in the month you go, the better the fishing gets in Alaska, making a summer bear hunt the ultimate sportsman’s package.
There are a lot of options for hunting black bears in Alaska, but for the best chance at punching a tag and putting some fish in the freezer, opt for a self-guided, boat-based hunt. I’ve hunted and fished with Ninilchik Charters so often, the Sundy, their 50-foot Delta charter boat, is practically a second home to me.
Ninilchik serves as a transporter service, which means they’re not allowed to guide you or help spot game in any way. Instead, you’ll spend the days glassing the rocky beaches and surrounding mountainsides from the deck of the Sundy. Once you spot that black bear, it’s up to you to make the stalk, take the shot, and get your trophy back to the beach where the first mate will pick you up and take you back to the mother ship. Spend your down time jigging up halibut or just relaxing in a true wilderness experience.
Wingshooters unwilling to wait for fall can scratch their itch with a trip south to Argentina. High-volume dove shoots can be had around the country, and if you’re a glutton for punishment, the best offer the opportunity to fire off thousands of rounds per day. There’s no better way to tune-up your shooting than two or three full days in the dove fields. Shot opportunities are fast and furious, coming at you from all angles and ensuring you won’t get bored.
Still, as fun as a good dove shoot can be, I get even more kicks hunting ducks in the flooded fields. Liberal limits of up to 25 birds a day make it easy to get out of bed, and the variety of waterfowl will help your life list—and taxidermy bill—grow. Several species of teal, including speckled, ring, and, my favorite, the silver teal, are complemented by flocks of rosy-billed pochards, whistling ducks, and the clown-like white-cheeked pintail.
There are countless number of lodges catering to bird hunters around the country, so the first step is to figure out your budget. While many lodges may look cheap, the real bill racks up every time you pull the trigger, as lodges charge for every box of shells you open. A high-class lodge with white glove service is great, but if you’d rather blow your wad on the shooting, concentrate on lodges that have dove fields nearby. Los Laureles offers the best blend of both service and shot opportunities on doves, ducks, and the fast-flying perdiz.
Sheep seasons are coming up, so mountain hunters already get the jump on the rest of us. For an even earlier excursion into high country, consider a trip to New Zealand. While stag is always on the menu there, chamois and tahr offer lung-busting challenges to hardy hunters willing to hike high into the mountains. As a bonus, both species will be wearing their winter coats, with tahr sporting the full mane that makes them so distinctive.
Due to the painfully long flights from the United States, it makes the most sense to hunt as much as you can while you’re over there. Most outfitters will work with you to build an itinerary that fits your budget and skills. We’ve had great luck with Glen Dene. Richard and Sarah Burdon are third-generation landowners who have killer stag hunting right on their property. The chamois hunting is great as well, and Richard can put you on some trophy tahr within a short drive from Glen Dene Station.