You may have to go Coronavirus hunting this fall.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be stalking the sometimes deadly little virus. No. You’ll actually be hunting around corona, not for it. You’ll be hunting for ways to avoid the germ while continuing your passion for indulging in the outdoor life. If you don’t want to miss an autumn of hiking, camping, watching, stalking, still-hunting, decoying and otherwise pursuing waterfowl, deer, pheasants, grouse, elk, bears and all the rest, you’ll need to start planning and preparing now.
Why Coronavirus Hunting Could Change Your Plans
But why? Surely no one is going to catch the coronavirus hunting the clean, fresh air in the outdoors? Are they?
I doubt it. I’m no epidemiologist, but I believe coronavirus is transmitted human-to-human via the usual vectors: sneezing, coughing, touching. Close contact with someone already carrying the virus or who has left it on doorknobs, etc. Intimate contact with fresh air, trees, leaves, grasslands, dogs, deer, and ducks shouldn’t be a problem.
So spending time in the great outdoors should be perfectly safe, right? Right. The challenge is… getting there.
A Change in Travel Plans
Think about it. If you’re planning to indulge in that long anticipated Dall’s sheep hunt in the Yukon or moose hunt in Alaska, how are you going to get there? Most of us take a commercial flight. And you know what that means. Check-in agents. TSA agents. Pat downs. Long lines. Other travelers. From all around the world. Who knows where they’ve been.
OK. So we might want to avoid flying. Let’s drive. That sounds like a clean, safe, private way to get from point A to B. But what about gas station attendants? Restaurant and fast food outlets? People. Potential virus carriers. Of course, self-serve stations minimize these risks. Use your credit card. Pack plenty of food to haul with you. Carry a spray bottle of disinfectant to spritz things like gas pumps before you touch them. Wash your hands or rub thoroughly with hand sanitizer afterward.
What about motels, hotels, etc? I’m guessing they’d be safe so long as you minimize contact with people, use the sanitizers, and keep those hands scrubbed. I wouldn’t indulge in the free morning breakfast bar or evening wine party. This coronavirus hunting season is going to be an antisocial one.
Coronavirus Hunting Considerations
- Application season. It’s well underway already. Before you apply for that special tag for mule deer, pronghorn, elk — whatever — consider where this coronavirus pandemic might lead. It could be contained within a few months. But it could continue to spread and be a threat for many months. Who knows? We hope and pray for the best, but each of us must weigh the risks before using our stacks of preference points or scheduling time off from work for a September – December hunt that we might not want to take when the time comes.
- Booking lodging and travel. Typically we book early to secure lodging and flights. Will that leave us with nonrefundable tickets? I see some airlines are already offering free fare changes. That’ll help.
- Out-of-country hunts. I hate to contribute to a business slow-down at any outfitter’s camps, but my small voice crying out in the wilderness won’t amount to much compared to the noise of the general coronavirus scare. I should think that some dry, lightly populated, lightly traveled countries (like Namibia, perhaps?) could be at minimal risk for coronavirus outbreaks, but reaching them remains problematic. At this time I can’t imagine anyone would be eager to book hunts in Italy, China, or South Korea. But heavily infected countries don’t have to be your destination to have an impact on your risk level. Consider what airports you’ll have to pass through to reach Timbuktu and Norway too. I should imagine an isolated wilderness camp in Siberia or Canada quite safe so long as you can get there without catching the bug and no one else arrives carrying it.
- Health care there. Regardless where you go, consider what kind of health care you can get if you get sick while there. I don’t think you’re going to go coughing and sneezing to the airport for a quick flight home. You’ll be quarantined on the spot. Do you really want to spend two weeks in a hospital in Cameroon? Or confined to a hotel room? Consider a good travel insurance policy that includes private flights home if sick.
Coronavirus Hunting Options
This might be the year of hunting close to home. Think about finding hunts you can reach without using public transportation. Look for licenses, tags and hunts you can jump on or back away from without major disruptions to your wallet, time, and future opportunities. I’m thinking a general-tag deer, elk, or bear hunt in any state you can drive to would be a smart choice. So would be early season hunts during which you could camp comfortably.
This might also be the year to emphasize waterfowl and upland bird hunting, even tree squirrel and cottontail hunting. Just buy a license and go whenever conditions are right. Good weather, good health, and hunting locations close to home.
Scout and Map Locations Now
Such do-it-yourself hunts require finding places to do them. This will involve research of state F&G sites and regulations. Most have excellent websites with complete information on seasons, species, and public hunting properties. You might want to create a calendar showing what’s open, when, and where. Don’t ignore States within a day’s drive.
Take a Stand For Productive Hunting
By “stand” I mean a mapping app like Hunt Stand. I’ve just started to explore with the Hunt Stand mapping app and it’s an impressive tool for finding places to hunt. For just $30 I have digital access to maps of the entire USA for a year. And I can view the lay of the land in multiple formats from satellite and topo to land ownership and boundaries. The most useful for initial scouting seems to be the Hunting Lands layer. It shows in each state all lands open to licensed hunters. Once I find these, I can open a Topo layer to get a feel for the terrain. Better yet is the 3D feature on the satellite maps that lets me change my overflight angle to see canyons, hills, mountains, etc.
I’ve already found several of the Walk-In areas I’ve hunted in the past, plainly seeing how the terrain and habitat in those areas correlates to bordering private lands where crop fields and dense cover areas influence game movement.
By combining State F&G game distribution and density maps with Hunt Stand landownership and public lands hunting maps I should be able to locate prime hunting grounds miles and miles from the nearest coronavirus.
Don’t Let a Microscopic Virus Ruin Your Fall
This virus might severely limit air travel to distant hunts, but with early and thorough planning you should be able to map your way around it and drive to some productive, close-to-home adventures.
Spomer may have to cancel some long distance hunts this year, but he’s busy mapping alternatives closer to home.