The Careful Carnivore

From ‘What can I do?’ to ‘This is what I can do now’

Beth Kennedy
Posted 3/25/20

My plans for a little road trip to the eastern part of the state for a low-stress spring turkey hunt have evaporated. I’ve got plenty of time, since I’m on a “vacation of …

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The Careful Carnivore

From ‘What can I do?’ to ‘This is what I can do now’

Posted

My plans for a little road trip to the eastern part of the state for a low-stress spring turkey hunt have evaporated. I’ve got plenty of time, since I’m on a “vacation of undetermined length” from my day job. Sitting in the woods with Henrietta, the plastic hen turkey decoy, would count as social distancing but traveling does not seem like a good idea right now.

After a bit of sulking and angst about the whole situation, I started thinking about my parents, grandparents and other older relatives who made it through World War II and the Great Depression.  How did they get through that experience? What did they teach us?

Some of them taught us kids directly, like how to lay out a garden, and what, when and how to plant. Some just told stories like — how to eat (or not eat) an opossum. My mom and grandma showed us a lot about gardening, canning and raising chickens. My dad taught us to drive a tractor first, but before he taught us to drive a car, he made sure we could change a tire, check the oil and fix a fan belt. They wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves if we had to make it through our own hard times. So, here we are, with our work and recreation disrupted in ways we did not foresee just a few weeks ago.

My grandma focused on work to get through her tough times. She had little patience for whining or moping if life didn’t go your way. She told us to focus on what you can do, what you can do now and especially what you can do now that is useful. I’m not working my usual job, but what are some useful things I can do right now in these uncertain times?

I can clean up the garden and plant some early vegetables. Check.

I can dig a new bed in the garden. Check.

I can build a new trellis for the peas out of material I have on hand. Check.

It is work. It is simple and useful.

What we can do for recreation has changed too. Remember when you used to say, “I wish I had more time to (fill in the blank)?” We’ve got that time now. So how would you fill in that blank? With just one thing? For me, it would be to return to traditional archery equipment and instinctive shooting. Not for bowhunting, but for pleasure. For the focus, breathing and stillness in that practice. I probably have everything I need. The equipment is somewhere, in a box, closet or shed. I have some experience because I learned to shoot a longbow first.

Back in the last century, when I learned archery, there were no compound bows with all the wheels and cables, just recurves and longbows with no array of light gathering sights, stabilizers or mechanical releases. The first sight I used on a bow was a pin, a sewing pin, stuck in a thin piece of foam taped to the face of the bow. You adjusted it by pulling the pin out and sticking it back into the foam strip again. Sometimes the pin would just fall out. Try finding a pin in the grass. That was when a pin with a red plastic head was a big deal at the archery range. It was simple and useful.

For the archery project, I am cleaning up the main backstop and clearing the blackberry vines off the hillside I use for a secondary backstop. Tomorrow, I’ll start gathering my old equipment, inspecting and making repairs. That old bow is pretty much just a stick and a string. Simple and fun.

So much of our lives have changed in such a short time, but we can refocus on work and recreation by asking ourselves: What can I do now that is useful — and I wish I had more time to (fill in the blank).

Be careful, stay sharp and wash your hands.

(Retired U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Beth Kennedy was a hunter education instructor for both firearm and bowhunter safety for more than 20 years.)

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