Social Distancing Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Outdoor Distancing


I was actually working when the stay-at-home order was announced, so I didn’t see the press conference on TV, but a quick read on the local news website summed it up: The Governor was ordering everybody to stay at home unless it was a necessary activity.

“Well crap.” I muttered under my breath.

“What?” my wife inquired.

I pointed at the screen, read the headline, and commented “there goes my turkey season before it starts.”

I lived in the home-bound funk (free of archery, decoys, camo, and hope) for the better part of an hour.  And then I decided to really read the order as it was passed in great detail. Every word. Top down. After all, it was only three pages, and if I wasn’t turkey hunting or fishing, what else was I gonna do?

30 minutes later I danced a little jig in the living room as I discovered that “essential activites” included any outdoor activities that still met requirements for social distancing.  They specifically mentioned things like walking, running, hiking, and biking. Although no mention of hunting or fishing was specific, I assumed that if walking was allowed, walking with a bow would be allowed as well.

A little digging with the Wildlife Resource Agency confirmed my hopes: “Turkey Season to Start As Scheduled; Lakes and Rivers to Remain Open.”  It was the best headline I think I had ever read. I immediately starting pulling together gear, requested a vacation day from work, and decided to do some social distancing OUTSIDE of my house to maintain a little sanity.  

The lesson for me is this: Social distancing does NOT mean outdoor distancing.  For many states the great outdoors are still on limits and open for business. So here are some things you can do for social distancing this spring to beat cabin fever.

  1. Turkey hunting - many states are keeping their spring turkey season open.  My recommendation is this: make a WHOLE day of it. Pack a lunch and some water bottles and stick it out ALL day.  Especially later in the season, gobblers can get lonely around lunch time when hens hit the nest, so don’t give up hope if you don’t kill them while the sun is still rising.  Use a crow call between bites during your lunch break and you might strike a hot tom.
  2. Bow Fishing - if you haven’t tried it before, now would be a great time.  There are some very affordable bowfishing packages that can convert your recurve or low poundage compound bow into a great bowfishing rig.  Hit local lakes, rivers, and ponds to help thin out the carp and you might even luck into some delicious shootable options like cats or large bass.  Bow fishing is an awesome way to beat the heat, flex your post-turkey season archery muscles, and is also fun for kids.
  3. Scout like its going out of style - Once turkey season is over, many of us shift to the upcoming deer season.  Get some boots on the ground and start working up a game plan over the course of the summer. You can observe spring and summer deer behaviour to get a bead on early season patterns, and finding sign like last season’s rubs is a great way to get a lock on where the bucks spent time chasing and tending does.  If you really want to get deep into the digital data, try mapping all of the deer sign you can find on an app like OnX. You might discover some potential pattern, trail, or pinch point that you have overlooked in the past.
  4. Stock the freezer by wetting a line - Spring and summer is an awesome time to get out the rod and reel and put some fish in the freezer.  In the south, almost everything is spawning between April and May, so everything from bluegill to stripers can be had AND eaten. Out west, spring is a great time to chase rainbow and brown trout during the spring hatches.  And in the Great Lakes area you can set a hook into steelhead, trout, perch and walleye. All are fun to catch. All are great to eat. Fresh fish tacos are one of my favorite springtime delicacies.  
  5. MIX IT UP! - I like spending the whole day out for my great outdoors social distancing.  So come up with a plan, pack everything you need, and try to get several activities in. My favorite is to try and kill a turkey off the roost.  If unsuccessful, I’ll go fish for a couple of hours and give the hens time to hit the nest. I’ll go back after a brown bag lunch to see if there are any hot gobblers willing to die.  If the turkey won't play, it usually turns into a scouting trip for deer. Then I’ll try to head the turkey flocks off as they head back to the roost for the night. Its a sunup to sundown affair, but it sure beats staying inside all day.

Being outside can do a lot for our mental health, especially in a time when we are all cooped up.  So make sure to be safe (pack hand sanitizer and a mask/gloves if you like), pack a lunch, snacks, water, and more gear than you’ll think you need.  And make sure to throw some ice in your cooler. Between the turkeys and the fishing, you are almost certain to come home with some fresh meat from your social distancing adventure.

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