Sports
Challenging times
By Luke Clayton
Apr 28, 2020
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I’ve heard from more readers concerning this past week’s outdoors column than I normally receive in three month. It’s become very obvious to me that we all are in dire need of hearing some ‘good news’. 

Granted, lifestyles for those of us that enjoy the outdoors, whether it be photographing wildlife, fishing, hunting or camping have been greatly impacted by ‘social distancing’. But we’ve all found ways to enjoy being ‘out there’ and to my way of thinking never before has spending time in the solitude of the outdoors been more important, whether it be taking a walk through the park or catching spawning white bass from a remote backwoods creek.

We’ve all had to adapt to a much different lifestyle. I’ve written about fishing for spawning white bass recently in a remote section of creek on private property where other anglers simply do not go. Here lately, I’ve been going at least one day each week. The exposure to the outdoors helps me clear my head and get through these challenging times and the fresh fish fillets make for some fine dining. 

In past years, several good friends and I have gathered here and enjoyed a day of catching fish which always ended in a big creekside fish fry. It’s pretty easy to catch white bass when they are packed shoulder to shoulder in deep holes along the creek and we always came equipped for a big fish fry at day’s end.

This past week, I had only one fishing companion join me, my nephew, and he drove down in his own truck so that we could maintain the required 6-foot distance. We cleaned the fish on separate sides of the cleaning table and had a great time fishing and enjoying the early spring woods and waters. But we always kept our distance while fishing; he had a stringer for his fish and I had mine.

We made a conscious effort to keep our distance, even when one of us had located a red-hot fishing hole. It’s standard practice when creek fishing to rush to get a lure into the water in an area a buddy is enjoying hot action, but we each fished our separate sections of the creek.

We have relatives that live nearby that enjoy getting outside in the fresh air and especially love a big lunch of crispy fried fish fillets. We had them on notification that if our fishing trip went as planned, we would be cooking and eating them outside, making sure to keep well separated, and enjoy a big fish fry with them.

Granted, this fish fry was different from the norm, nobody was hanging near the fish fryer, and ‘sampling’ fish as they came out of the hot oil. We all kept our distance; my nephew was in charge of the cooking and we gave him his space. When the potatoes and fish were ready, he placed them on the picnic table and, one by one, we came by to fill our plates.

In today’s world, it’s virtually impossible to totally isolate oneself.  But my only interaction with others outside the family this day was to stop and get fuel (I used gloves while pumping the gas) and to purchase a bag of ice. I used my bank card to purchase the fuel and followed instructions and remained standing on the 6 foot markings on the floor that leads to the cash register. I did notice a couple of uniformed deputy sheriffs standing near the check-out booth and I paid special attention to remain positioned on my ‘spot’ marked on the floor until the cashier summoned me forward. 

Everyone in this little high-trafficked store had a serious look on their face, a look somewhere between anger and fear. I didn’t like being there and I was glad to get out and be back on the road. I’m sure these folks would have been their normal cordial selves a week or so earlier, but it was impossible to ignore the huge elephant in the store; the elephant being the fear that all was not well and, of course, the unknown we still face. The fear of contracting a potentially deadly virus from a stranger, the fear of that dozen eggs or loaf of bread not being on the shelf.

Spring turkey season is about to kick off and getting to where the birds are will also require a drive of a couple hours. Once I arrive at the ranch where I hunt, my only interaction will be with the turkeys. I might have to stop for a few groceries and fuel but I’ll adhere to the 6 foot rule and wear latex gloves.

When reading the ‘Shelter in Place’ order in regards to the outdoors, it states something like outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, biking, running are acceptable as long as the 6-foot rule is practiced.  My outdoor activities are not currently specifically addressed. So, until told otherwise, I’ll continue to assume it’s perfectly acceptable to continue with my fishing and hunting.  Staying six feet away from others is pretty easy when actually hunting and fishing and physical distancing can be accomplished. The challenge will be getting to and from the areas we hunt and fish and still comply with the ruling.

This coming week, I’ll be on a quest to put some fresh wild pork in the freezer.  The meat department in my local grocery store has been in short supply lately and I’d just feel better with a freezer full of tasty pork to share with my family and friends if the need arises.

Quality wild meat such as this ham from a fat wild hog provides some quality dining. There is no scarcity of wild pork roaming the woods these days. (photo by Luke Clayton)

I see absolutely no reason that those of us that love the outdoors can’t continue to enjoy fishing and hunting during these trying times.  Honestly, putting fresh wild pork and exotic game meat and fish in the freezer makes more sense now than ever. I have a good buddy that owns a big high-fenced hunting ranch and he says he has had an influx of hunters booking ‘meat hunts’.

We will all get through this together. So if you run into me at a gas station, try to muster a smile and I’ll give one in return. Hopefully before very long, we will all be back to normal.

Email this outdoors writer via his website www.catfishradio.org or lukeclayton1950@gmail.com