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Photo contributed by Larry Case / "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case and Smoke the black setter pose after a successful turkey hunt.

I am walking up a steep hill and sweating like I'm mowing grass on the Fourth of July. The thick brush pulls at me as I stagger uphill and try to gain the high ground. It's mid-October, fall turkey hunting season, but the temperatures will soon hit the 70s on this day, and I am struggling.

With my T-shirt drenched and my glasses fogged, I finally get to the elevation I want and, wonder of wonders, find a pretty decent place to sit. A pair of twin pine trees, big ones, have fallen together and make a great place to hide me and a brown dog. Bo seems no worse for wear as I start to set up our hiding spot, but I look down the hill and think about the difficulty of getting here. I wanted it to be how it used to be.

I would guess any of us over 40 years old think about this sometimes — how it used to be. We recall times gone by, how the world was when we thought we had it by the tail, and friends and family were with us (and we thought they always would be). As hunters we think about this a lot: how we perceived game animals, how we hunted them, the outdoors in general. Here are three cases in particular.

Animal populations. Hunters should realize the number of different species of wild animals go up and down naturally. The amount of whitetail deer — the classic example of a game animal that hunters want to see in large numbers — does not keep climbing regardless of habitat, disease, how many hunters take and other considerations. Some of us hunters — some of us with a little age — tend to dwell on the good ol' days syndrome. We want to talk about how great it was back then, when deer seemed to be bouncing around everywhere we went afield. It is all relative, though, and depends on the time period you refer to as those good ol' days. I could refer to this and talk about when I was coming up as a young hunter. The late 1950s and through the '60s were certainly not the glory years in some areas for whitetail deer. In some parts of the Southeast, there were zero deer at this time. The population increased quickly, however, and by the 1980s and '90s, we had lots of deer in many states. Some of these areas have now decreased in numbers, and of course many hunters bemoan this fact. We want it to be the way it used to be.

Guns and gear. Hunters, maybe more than any other group, love and romanticize the things we use to pursue our sport. Firearms are at the top of the list; we identify with the guns we use and are fiercely loyal to different types of guns and brands. If your dad or granddad was a dyed in the wool Remington man, you believed in the 870 shotgun or the 742 and 700 rifles. It was the same if your family or group loved the Winchester line of shotguns and rifles, Ruger or whatever.

Some of us may consider that we are now in the good ol' days of variety for firearms and gear. There is certainly a wider group of firearms to choose from these days (recent pandemic-related supply challenges aside), but again, some may wish for how it used to be when there were fewer choices. In the realm of gear such as hunting attire, boots and cold weather clothing, I would say we are way ahead of the game. Enduring the cold and wet conditions of some hunting situations is just not as fun as it used to be for me.

Hunting dogs. In probably no other realm do we idolize things in the past as we do our hunting dogs. We think of our canine hunting partners of years gone by and revere everything they did in the field. The downside of this is the dogs that come along after these super dogs (dogs never live long enough) will probably never live up to what our dogs did in years gone by. We need to remember we are seeing things the way it used to be in what is probably a brighter, rosier light, and that includes our dogs. Maybe give the dogs you have now a break and don't dwell on how it used to be.

I think of all this as I am sweating up that hill. Getting ready for a good sit in the woods, I tell Bo the brown dog that somehow trudging through the woods is not quite as easy as it once was. Bo gives me a look as if to say it doesn't matter — just keep going.

Don't worry about the way it used to be.

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Contributed photo / Larry Case

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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