Being a hunter has many advantages. Yet, I never thought preparedness for isolation from my fellow Americans was one of them. In these strange times, I find myself fine with the idea of social distancing. It’s something I have doing on purpose for the last 30 years.
Please don’t mistake that statement for any sort of downplay on the severity of our situation. This COVID-19 outbreak is unlike anything we have seen before. No one alive has dealt with these circumstances. We are truly relying on each other to put an end to the spread of this virus. It’s kind of hard to fathom the best way to help someone is to not go around them, but in this case, that’s a fact.
I realize many of you live in suburban areas. Your neighborhoods may not have the same sort of outdoor opportunities afforded to us who live a more rural way of life. From what I have read, though, regardless of where you live, most stay-at-home bans do allow for outdoor experiences. This is a great time for you to discover the many large public land properties and waters you have access to.
To begin with, the Hoosier National Forest includes 202,814 acres of land for you to roam. You don’t have to stay on trails. You can just go stroll around. Hiking and backpacking is allowed anywhere on the forest and camping is free. Just walk out into the woods and set up camp for a few days. I know not everyone is capable of doing so, but if you are, now’s a good time.
Indiana has 12 state forests and many more state parks, fish and wildlife areas, nature preserves and state recreation areas. These properties are managed by the Department of Natural Resources, who has made many provisions to allow for more people to be outside right now. First of all, all entrance fees are waived at DNR properties. That means you can enter state parks for free, you don’t need a pass. If you want to camp, you do need to make advanced reservations.
The DNR has also made all 2019-2020 basic hunting, basic fishing, hunt/fish combo, youth licenses and stamps set to expire March 31, 2020, valid for use until Friday, May 22, 2020. So, you don’t need to worry about buying a new fishing license. Grab your tackle box, go out in the back yard and dig some worms and head out to the nearest lake, pond, or river. Or go explore some other water you’ve always wanted to check out and spend some time catching fish. Just don’t set up by anyone else. Keep your distance. Bring some fish home, filet them, and have a fresh fish fry. It eases the mind a little to know you can provide a meal for your family from nature’s bounties.
Right now, out in the woods, you can find shed deer antlers, and real soon, you can find morel mushrooms. There is a lot of deer sign visible in the barren woods, so you might locate a great place to hunt this fall. Also, turkeys are starting to gobble. You can scout, if you’re a hunter. If you’re not, then just sit by a tree in the early morning and listen. If you’ve never heard a turkey gobble, you won’t be able to believe it. Anyone can call to a turkey to make them gobble. You don’t have to be a hunter. Pick up a box call. They are so easy to use. Walk out into the woods and throw out a few clucks. You can’t imagine how cool it is when a gobbler thunders back at you until you hear it.
There is a lot of hardship going on around us. Serious times call for serious measures, and we are in the throes of it. Fresh air, stiff legs and a stringer full of fish are all antidotes to anxiety. Please take every precaution to keep yourself and everyone around you safe. Taking off for a walk in the woods isn’t going to hurt anyone and doing so will be good for your mind, body and soul.
All the best to each and every one of you. We’re going to get through this together and will soon be floating rivers and sitting around campfires in large groups telling stories about our own isolation. I hope you have a story to tell about the adventure you took in the wild when the outdoors was what you needed most.
See you down the trail…
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