"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more"
— Lord Byron
OK, folks, let's have a talk. This is a crazy time, and many of you are letting this coronavirus situation get to you. Yes, it's serious. Yes, a lot of people are going to get sick and some people are going to die.
Those are the cold, hard facts, but if you do the math as a lot of people much smarter than me are doing, this virus has a very high survival rate, and it will spike and hopefully this will all be over in a few weeks.
While we have had worse flu outbreaks in recent years (no one seems to remember the swine flu outbreak a few years ago), we are seeing something not seen before: a thing called social distancing, a polite way of saying just stay the heck away from people. As soon as I started hearing about this on radio, TV and the wonderful internet — even my dogs started letting it drop into their conversation — I was struck by something.
This is what hunters and anglers have been doing for hundreds of years — social distancing. Good night! This is what we do! This is what we live for! We spend most of our time in these pursuits tramping the woods, trying to get away from anyone else!
I can remember a time in the wilds of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, when I and a couple other game warden types had a very secret turkey hunting place. This was high in the western Alleghenies, and it was definitely not easy to get there. This place was so jealously guarded that we went into full investigative mode if we even saw a boot track we didn't recognize in these thousands of acres that made up this solitary paradise.
My point here is that we, the outdoors sportsmen and sportswomen, can take pride in the fact that we should be on the forefront of telling people how to do this social distancing thing, otherwise known as just getting the heck away from people.
So, as per usual, your humble outdoors scribe is trying to help, providing a few reminders of how outdoors enthusiasts can take the lead:
Most hunters and fishermen are already stocked up. It's no secret most sportsmen keep a well-stocked larder year round. Many of you have a lot of venison in the freezer right now, as well as rabbits, squirrels and other small game. The trout stocking season is in full swing in a lot of areas, and many will take advantage of this by doing some fishing. Sportsmen are by nature more self-reliant than most of the population. We are just more likely to be prepared for any disaster; more likely to raise a garden, take wild game and basically live off the land. Be proud of this, instruct your neighbors and share with others some of the bounty you have harvested.
Follow the horizon. The theme here for all of this is, again, get out there and go explore. There is a whole world for you that is not closed down. There are literally millions of acres of land that you can go to and walk to your heart's content. If you are a turkey hunter, if the spring gobbler season is not open in your state, it will be soon. Get out there and scout for turkeys, look for tracks, look for scratching and listen for gobbling — you know the drill. Like to look for shed deer antlers? Now is the time. Not a hunter? Now is great time to be birding, as in birdwatching. Spring is in full swing, many birds have already returned from their winter migration sites and they are out there in the morning singing their hearts out. They don't know there is a pandemic going on.
Get ready. As noted earlier, hunters and fishermen have always prided themselves in being prepared. If you are going to be indoors, now is a great time to be ready for the spring outdoors activities in the field. If you don't know how to sharpen your knives, I bet you can learn and it is a great way to spend an evening. Fly fishermen don't have to be told that now is the time to catch up on tying their favorite patterns before they hit the trout streams. Waders, boots, turkey vests, calls, shotguns and other gear all need attention before you tramp the wildwoods.
Read. Yes, read. I have been told that some people actually do still pick up books made of paper and read them. Even if it is on an electronic device, you can still read. There is a world of outdoors, hunting and fishing literature out there, and if you have not read some of the classics, I envy you, because I wish I could read them for the first time again. As I have told you before, any of the books by Patrick McManus are good for many hours of laughter and raised spirits. For adventure, you can't go wrong with anything from Russel Anabel and Peter Hathaway Capstick. If you have not read "A Sand County Almanac" by Aldo Leopold, you need to do that. For the turkey hunter, your education is not complete until you have read "Tenth Legion" by Tom Kelley. That should get you started.
As usual, I have gone on too long.
Folks, we are going to get through this. Those of you who wear a lot of camo out there can be a great help to your neighbors during this time. It has been cloudy and gloomy lately, but above those clouds, the sun is shining bright.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.