COVID-19 is here, and we must stay away from each other. Those of us who can are working from home and avoiding public spaces. In our spare time, we’re obsessively scrolling through news updates and social media posts. Yes, it’s wise to follow the important news in your neighborhood, but there is a limit. No matter how much media you consume, no post or story can tell you what the future holds.
Outdoorsmen and women are uniquely suited to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Most of us have freezers stocked full of wild game and pantries loaded with goods from last summer’s garden. Many of us have cabins and camps to retreat to, and we have the gear and know-how to survive (and even thrive) if things get really bad.
But let’s not forget our greatest advantage: We know what it feels like to be isolated, and to be alone. As Henry David Thoreau put it: “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
Hunters seek solitude in the best of times—sitting quietly for hours, alone with our thoughts, waiting for a moment that may never come—so we must not spurn our old companion now, in uncertain times.
And just because you have to stay away from others doesn’t mean you have to stay home. When you’re done scrolling through this post, put your phone away and head for your favorite sliver of wilderness. Go by yourself, or bring your kids, or maybe just bring your bird dog, because she has never started a sentence with, “But, what if…”
Scout for turkey sign, or hunt for shed antlers, or just watch the ducks and geese migrate back to their nesting grounds. Take a little solace in the fact that those feathered dinosaurs have made this return trip north long before you were here to witness it, and they’ll be making it long after you are gone.
When you get cold, or hungry, or bored, keep going just a little farther. Let the sun set. Sit still, and listen carefully. Those barred owls or coyotes just might coax a turkey into gobbling. Then make the slow hike back to the truck in the dark. (You remembered to bring along your headlamp with fresh batteries because you were focused on the task at hand, instead of obsessing over the news.)
You’ve made this walk many times before, and these woods have not changed.