For the outdoorsman, distance is no stranger. We long for the boat ride in hoping to have ventured further than the last explorer. The unknown aspects of the vast amount of space that we call the duck slough, or the deer woods, is what drives us to return. The long walk carrying decoys knowing that a few hundred more yards has to be further than the last person was willing to walk. For the outdoorsman, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not fictional, but a reward that one must be willing to work for. Long scouts, cold morning rides, and almost stroking out after a long walk into public land wearing waders are all part of the challenge. Distance has always been the goal. However, the process, for the outdoorsman, is different.
During recent history, we have learned that mankind is not immortal, and viruses have the capability to change life as we have known it for so long. Sadly, distancing has become social rather than physical. Our immediate response was not grace or the benefit of the doubt, but fear and seclusion. Protect myself first and no one else matters. For outdoorsman, this is not the distancing we know and love. For us, sending a snapchat story of a feed of 5,000 geese you just locked down for the morning, or texting a buddy a waypoint for timber flooded with greenheads that hasn’t been hunted this season, is vital to distancing while staying connected. Distancing is not disengaging; it is being aware of surroundings and caring for others. Our sport, waterfowl hunting specifically, has always been about comradery. Straps are better full but pointless if there is no one to share in the moment. This season, we will feel pressure to socially distance, but I would encourage you, refuse that temptation. Be physically distant, as necessary, for the safety of yourself and those around you. Continue to share the blind, share the memories, and be willing to go further than the last person to find that pot of gold!
Here are 5 Ways to stay physically distanced and socially connected:
1. SOCIAL PLATFORMS WERE MADE FOR THIS MOMENT
We often forget the intended purpose for social media, to be social. Instagram is not a brag board and snap-chat-runs down the pile after a hunt do not bring people together. This waterfowl season try to be intentional about telling stories. You may only have one “plus one” for the feed in the morning, but through pictures, story-telling, and reflection, you can bring every one of your followers along for the hunt. Share what worked, share what was difficult about the hunt, share what you learned. This allows you to not only bring others along, but also spread awareness about our sport to your followers that do not partake in the outdoors. This presents waterfowl hunting, and hunting in general, in a much more positive manner than dead piles and smiles alone… (don’t get me wrong, I love pile pics…)
2. THERE IS PLENTY OF SPACE OUTSIDE
Fear cannot be a driving factor in our life. As outdoorsman, we must remember what drives us. The world may never return to what we lovingly refer to as, “normal.” So we must adapt, get outdoors, and explore. Nature is not watching the news broadcasts or following the current infection rates from viruses. The sun still rises in the East and sets in the West. As long as that happens, go outside. Follow the local guidelines on public land from your local wildlife department and go outside. Fear is not the answer in times of uncertainty.
3. BRING THE OUTDOORS INDOORS
Find ways to bring the outdoors home when you are unable to go on an adventure. In our house, it is not foreign to hear the wails of a duck call or to smell my latest recipe for wild game. Late evenings, my wife and I can be found tying flies for our next fishing adventure. If you are unable to be physically outdoors, exercise your mind through preparation for the next trip. If you have been an outdoorsman for any time at all, you have that bag in the freezer that is begging to be your next famous recipe. These are all ways that we can bring the great outdoors home during times of uncertainty. These are also great ways to get the kids and family involved in hunting and fishing. This is another way that our sport can bring people together.
4. SHOP LOCAL
During this season, the kids are home, you are home, your spouse is home, and everyone is required to pitch in a little more around the house. That weekend getaway or special trip you had planned may not happen… so “shop local.” For my family, this has looked like fishing trips to local parks, ponds, or other fisheries. Panfish on the fly with kids is one of the most fun things in the world. As waterfowl season approaches, take the kids scouting and give mom a break. This is a positive experience for kids in the outdoors and may get you some extra points at home!
5. JOIN A GROUP
This somewhat goes along with the first suggestion of social media, but I want to focus on the connection that comes from being in a group of like-minded people. Wingmen has a group on Facebook that shares opportunities, experiences, and lessons learned in the field. This is a great group to be involved with and still feel connected even if we are not able to physically be together. These groups take the early morning pop shop experience and make the same conversation (the coffee is now brewed in your kitchen) available without close physical contact.
This season may be different than any before, but I am convinced that we can come together like never before. As an outdoorsman, remember that distance is no stranger and we need to continue to explore. Continue to invite others along on the journey. See you in the blind!