Photo #1-SZ Post 12-8-08 (NWTF) Right now, you Strut Zoners are probably in your best physical shape of the year outside of spring turkey season. You’ve been hiking hills, climbing treestands, and on occasion, you’ve dragged a deer out of the woods. You’ve put on drives (where legal), and maybe even hunted a wild turkey or two. Spring gobbler season is coming before you know it. Here are some ways to stay in playing shape, and even to keep what you’ve earned over the years while doing it.

Hunt Small Game: Many “second seasons” are offered for rabbits and upland birds around the country, including wild turkeys and even deer way down south. Ducks. Geese. Don’t stop. Keep at it. Spring turkey will follow all the fun, and it will make winter pass that much faster.

Move That Body, Part II: Don’t care to hunt small game following deer and fall turkey seasons? Join a recreational hoops league (I play weekly in one with several fellow hunters on my team). Indoors, you can also lift weights. Do pushups. Swim. Stay active. Outdoors, you can ice fish. Take up snowshoeing, which is a great way to scout, and even to check out access for new hunting areas. Get out there. You guys down south basically keep going until you hunt that first gobbler. It’s tougher up north in the Snow Belt.

Secure Landowner Permission: If you’ve hunted land this fall and want to keep it, make sure you thank the landowner now. Send a holiday greeting. Drop by his house for a friendly post-season chat. Make an effort to expand your hunting areas too. Sometimes contacting the person who posts his land now will let you hunt gobblers in a few months all by yourself. Permission granted.

I recently talked to a Maine farmer who said, “I need all the help I can get with the wild turkeys. There are just too dang many of them!” This morning, as snowflakes fell, I walked his land these many months before spring turkey season to get a feel for it, and found all sorts of turkey sign. Not that these particular birds will stay, but that’s the fun. Do it. Like me, you’ll have a jump-start next year, and something to look forward to.

What do you guys do in the off-season to make sure you’re in shape for next year? Do you have any special tricks for keeping landowner permission, or getting new land to hunt?— Steve Hickoff