In recent years, I think, there has been a marked increase in deer hunters returning to their hunting camps for the rifle season because of their belief that deer numbers are recovering toward what they experienced years ago. Other factors that have been in place for a few years now have contributed to the trend as well, such as a Saturday opener for the rifle season, and a Saturday opener for antlerless deer season that falls between the two-week season in management units with a “bucks-only” first week.
It is understandable that not everyone agrees that deer numbers are growing in the traditional “deer country” that spreads across the state, perhaps due to some areas not seeing that increase. But it has been my experience that enough hunters have, indeed, begun to visit camps more frequently for deer hunting.
Of course, at this moment, things have changed worldwide with the discovery and spread of the novel coronavirus. How this health hazard affects camp life remains to be seen. Most hunters realize that the most common spreading mechanism for COVID-19 is the close proximity of human to human, and that may sway many camp members to skip their tradition this year. But maybe not — deer hunters are a stubborn lot.
The camp in which I am a member sees it largest group gathering of the year when members and guests join up for the opening of the rifle season. This is mostly true for camps across Pennsylvania.
The members of the camp I’m with know each other well. For the most part, we’ve been together for many, many years, which brings good friendship with not only members, but also their families.
But considering COVID and how it spreads, it’s virtually impossible to know who has had contact with someone in the outside world who has been infected. This dilemma was recently proven when an older member and his wife both tested positive for the virus. And, although they seem to be recovering well, it has to play on the mind of other members.
For many years now, I do not travel to camp during the two weeks of rifle season, mainly because my trips upstate are dates that surround the trout and spring gobbler seasons, archery deer and occasional flintlock season visits. By the nature of those seasons, not many other members are there — often none. Of course COVID-19 was not my concern in years past because no one heard of it. Currently, and for very good reasons, we have all been warned to social distance, wear masks and perform constant personal hygiene. And I, too, must consider the disease.
I’m seriously wondering how camp numbers — not only our camp but all those that normally fill up for rifle season — will decline this year. It remains to be seen, but with a huge increase of infections the country and our state is facing now, and the always scary possibility that infection may ultimately end in death, I’m thinking many reasonable hunters may skip their rifle season trips this year.
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