Outdoors in the COVID Era

By: Capt Jack Renfrew

I suppose it would be best to begin with an explanation of why I was drawn to the outdoors from my early childhood…  My connection to the outdoors began, of course, as most children’s initial interactions by exploring the woods and waters within walking distance of home.  But the real spark that kindled my lifelong pursuit of outdoor recreation and eventually evolved into a hunting and fishing career as a guide began immediately after turning the first few pages of a copy of Fur Fish & Game that I acquired as a youngster. It was there I read stories of hunting and fishing, of trapping and many, many other outdoor activities.  A big part of the attraction was the wildness aspect of all these yet to be discovered skills. I have spent a lifetime honing these skills.  By and large, these pursuits are often solitary or experienced with a close friend or two.  Getting away from civilization and the maddening crowds that existed, even a half century ago was paramount to fully enjoying myself outdoors.  

With the onset of what I call “The Covid Era,” all this was going to change and, in some cases, dramatically.  Since all this madness began about a year ago and folks were not able to work, they began to get outside more and this was a great consolation prize for many.  After all more people getting outside is a good thing, right?  But this is an attitude shared by those who hadn’t already embraced a lifestyle outside, whether on weekends or for much more of their daily lives.  I have personally witnessed public areas open to hunting and fishing become inundated with walkers, joggers, dogs and folks that never used to have that kind of time or when they did would more often be found in a city park type situation.  But they arrived in droves to our wild areas and with the increased amount of human activity have altered the natural flow of things.  And more often than not the mess they leave in their wake is a disgrace.  Trash of every imaginable form is left behind; trails are worn bare; and the list goes on.  Very close to my front door is a ten mile stretch of dirt road along a trout stream. It has now been fully posted save for a few state-owned access spots because of crowds heretofore unimaginable and the disrespect shown by them.  The boundary waters on the border of the U.S. and Canada now have a long waiting list for access. In order to maintain this pristine area, the number of visitors had to be controlled.  I am torn by this decision to control numbers.  On one hand, I am a free born American citizen and I refuse to have my travels limited by any government decree while on the other hand I can see why this has come to be as folks are literally destroying some formerly pristine areas.

In my professional opinion, a big player in this destruction of pristine wilderness areas is the age of the internet.  This should come as no surprise.  Every dipshit with a GoPro has a YouTube video up often giving up specific details on where they hiked, fished or hunted.  For what? Glory? Ego?  Those of you who insist on doing this would be well advised to keep your locations as secret as possible.  If you can’t help but stroke your own ego by publicizing your outdoor adventures at least do so in a manner that doesn’t open the flood gates and send too many people to a fragile resource.  If you don’t heed this advice, I sure as heck don’t want to hear any bitching about how crowded “your” spots have become.

Spring Turkey Season is almost upon us!!

Soon the woods and fields will be filled with the sound of gobbling turkeys and the seductive tones of our hen calls trying to lure a big Tom into range. To those of you who hunt, please be considerate of other hunters.  Always ask yourself: is what you are about to do bother you if you were another hunter in the area? Be ethical.  If you hear another hunter working a bird, give him a wide berth and go find another.  That one is his for the moment.  Be safe.  If you pull up to an area and there appear to be too many vehicles at that particular piece of property, you’re probably safer going elsewhere and much more likely to have success elsewhere.  Wild turkey numbers are up exponentially in much of their modern range this year except for in some southern states.   

If I could give you all homework to increase your chances for success, it wouldn’t be about calling, or the latest camo or other gear.  Those topics are covered, ad nauseam, in many other places.  I believe the best thing you can do is to increase the amount of time you scout out new areas.  I have more spots than I can hunt in a single season and I’m constantly on the prowl for more.  You’ll lose a few spots each year to development and sometimes to those God-awful atrocities and blight on the landscape called solar fields (which get my blood boiling and is a topic for another discussion). Situations can and do change. You must never rest on your laurels thinking you have enough ground to hunt.  I am scouting every waking moment, 365 days a year.  My eyes are always peeled as I travel around but I also glean a great deal of information from other sources too. Chat up your local police, firemen, mailman (I’m not going to refer to them as a mailperson so save your breath) UPS driver, FedEx driver, school bus driver, meals on wheels folks.  These people are up and down just about every road in your area on a daily basis.  They see turkeys and are often more than happy to tell you where they’ve seen them.  If you’re like me and getting a bit forgetful, write it down before you forget later in the evening. Then look at maps of where these sightings are and see if there is huntable land at that location or reasonably close.  I’ve already done a lot of homework before I first put boots on the ground in a new area.  Eavesdrop all the time! You may overhear Mary say to Lisa while in the supermarket “Has Bob got a turkey yet?” Listen for the response and see what tidbits of information you may be able to acquire.  Ladies and Gentlemen, make sure your respective spouses know to keep as secretive as we should!!

We are in the heyday of wild turkey hunting right now.  Enjoy it but do so ethically, responsibly and safely.  I wish all of you the best of success in the woods this April and May…and remember to be sure you know and understand the fish and game laws in the states and regions in which you will be hunting and fishing.

Until Next Time?

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