AUTHOR'S NOTE: Due to the rotation of when columns are published by various publications (and me being late as usual), you are not seeing this before Christmas. That's OK — all of us here at the Case Ranch still wish you a very Merry Christmas.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as I write this, and it also looks like I will not be able to not stop by and have eggnog, cookies or anything else with all of you this year. That is a shame because I was hoping to hear about how your deer season is going (or went), how that new beagle hound is doing on rabbits, whether you are seeing many squirrels this year and if you think you might be getting any new firearms for Christmas.
(Please don't start talking about spring turkey hunting season yet; it is just too early, thanks.)
This time of year always seems to cause us to pause and do a lot of reflecting on the past and what may be awaiting us down the trail for the next year, so here goes.
I do hope your deer season has gone well, but if not, take heart. Lately there seems to be a lot of controversy in the deer world: chronic wasting disease; antlerless bag limits, antler restrictions and buck limits; baiting and how to hunt deer in general, to name just a few. These debates will come and go.
CWD and other maladies will not wipe out the entire herd, and deer hunting will survive in America. The general population may be down in your area, but this will change because, as I have written many times, wildlife populations don't remain rigid — they rise and fall. That is the way of things. The bigger issue here, as I have written many times, is hunter unity. We have to quit squabbling among ourselves and protect all who are in the fold.
Maybe that would make a good New Year's resolution?
I could give myself the same advice on turkey populations, which have been down in my area for several years. We never seem to have a good hatch in the spring, which gives us lower numbers in the fall season, and when spring season comes back around, the gobblers do not seem to be as talkative as in the past and in general do not act like turkeys did some years ago. Coyotes? West Nile virus? Climate change and Brexit in Europe?
I don't know, but we must remain optimistic. The population will take an upswing sometime, and maybe I will be offered a hunting place with three big flocks of turkeys on it. (I can still dream.)
I am sticking with the notion that going after squirrels may still be the most fun you can have hunting. There are few complications, not a lot of prep time is needed, it's perfect for kids and new hunters, plus there are often lots of opportunities to bag game in a day — large groups or solo, however you want to do it. It also gets you what I think is probably the tastiest wild game.
Squirrel hunting will teach you about all you need to know when you start down the hunting trail, and they are found over most of this great country of ours. Another good resolution may be for you to squirrel hunt more next year.
My fishing has become almost pitiful the past few years, and I am resolute to do better. Fishing — like hunting, cleaning out the garage or anything else — is largely a matter of just showing up. I want to try to show up for more fishing next year. I live in an area that has a lot of smallmouth bass I have not met as of yet, a lot of good trout water and — hold on to your hat — some dynamite musky fishing, too. The big toothy muskies intrigue me deeply, though why I do not know.
I know several guides in all of these venues, and they have said they will take me fishing. Hopefully they have not changed their minds. (If they have, who could blame them?)
Once again I have not covered half of what I intended in this little holiday sermon to you. My wish for you, for all of my brothers and sisters in camo, for all of you who are kind enough to take the time to read my misguided but well-intentioned words every week, is for you and all of your family and friends to have the merriest of Christmases and a wonderful new year. Raise a glass (even if I am not there) to all of our fellow sportsmen and all that we stand for.
I will do likewise.
"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.