Many of you, like me, look forward to this time of year because we are in the middle of “Hunting Season.” As I write this article, the early inline muzzleloader season for deer is going on, along with archery, and the “rut” has started. And as strange as it may seem to some, in many of our homes it is a time to be with family and friends and to start thinking about the upcoming holidays and deer hunting.
Hunting in our area is so much more than harvesting game. Although the thrill of the trophy buck never quite fades and you never forget the “one that got away,” there is so much more to hunting season. Family memories — you can go by a spot and remember it as the place your dad got the huge buck or where your younger brother succeeded in harvesting his first deer. Many memories lead to many stories and it all blends into family and friends thoroughly enjoying this time of year.
Hunting in rural Pennsylvania is a generational pursuit. Many of us start at age twelve and continue the sport until we are no longer able. You hunt or probably hunted with your father, grandfather, uncles, cousins and nephews, along with your friends and your family’s friends. At this time you also celebrate Thanksgiving and wonder, with the commitment to hunting, when you have time to get your Christmas shopping done, pick out your Christmas tree and attend holiday get togethers.
Hunting and holidays come together as family traditions are created and continue. You are with family and friends enjoying a great time of year. I remember the many times, on the day after Thanksgiving, being at a brother’s rural home and each of us taking turns staying inside to babysit nieces and nephews, while others would be outside sighting in our rifles for the opening day.
Once everyone was satisfied with a nice pattern just slightly above the bulls eye at one hundred yards, we would go inside and and make turkey club sandwiches, and finish off the many leftovers from the day before. We would talk about past hunts and other sporting pursuits, while we waited for our wives to come home from “Black Friday” shopping. I wouldn’t trade those times for gold. If you are a hunter from rural Pennsylvania, no doubt you have similar memories, too.
Let’s not forget the many people who go to their family cabins or to the numerous area hunting clubs: hunters who get together each year to share a great sport and camaraderie.
As pointed out above, many of us gather with people of all ages and walks of life and we need to make sure we can hunt and celebrate the time of year safely. So here comes the COVID stuff. Please don’t get your nose out of joint. I am not telling you what to do, but suggesting that it is up to you to figure out if there is a need to be, and how to be, safe.
There is much to think about here. Do you have bronchitis, sinus infection, just a runny nose, or is it COVID? How many potential hunters sharing the camp will be affected if it is COVID? What if you infect someone, and that infection stops that person from participating in a sport so many of us love? Would you, or the person you infected, go home from the cabin, the club, or just a day out, and give COVID to an elderly family member?
While I understand that many of you are just over COVID, do you really want to take a chance of not enjoying this important time of year? Consider taking these very easy steps to keep everything moving forward.
First, get vaccinated for COVID and make sure that you are up to date on your booster shots. It may not keep you from getting COVID, but it will help keep you from ending up in the hospital. Some new studies suggest the vaccine may stop you from spreading it to others.
Next, don’t forget the over-the-counter tests. If you have COVID symptoms, test. If you will be in close contact with a group, everyone should test before you get together. Why have an asymptomatic individual ruin your hunt and holidays? And if you test positive stay away from others until you are safe.
The bottom line: be safe and stop the spread of COVID so we can enjoy this season. It is up to you. Some will, some won’t, but it is my guess if someone follows the science and stays safe, they may apply those same instincts to hunting, and will come home with a success story to share with everyone over holidays.
Joe Smith is a native of Lycoming County and a member of Let’s end COVID! He enjoys hunting, fishing, biking, paddling and xc skiing in our area’s great outdoors.