luke on creek.JPG

Luke Clayton practices social distancing on a remote creek in this undated photo.

I’ve tried over the years to keep this little column upbeat with the goal of exposing readers to the wonders of the outdoors and hopefully entertaining and possibly educating veteran outdoor types. But this week things are a bit different.

I normally receive a handful of emails throughout the month from readers commenting on the columns I write. Occasionally I get a reprimand on a topic a reader might not agree with, but the emails are largely from folks that enjoy my take on a recent hunting or fishing trip or just spending time in the outdoors.

This past week, I heard from a surprising number of readers — without exception, they were words of encouragement thanking me for writing about the good things in life such as time fishing with friends and family, the simple things that we sometimes take for granted. These letters gave me reason to pause and wonder what had sparked their heartfelt responses. The answer became crystal clear: We are all now treading in unknown waters.

This new social distancing is totally foreign to us. We’re accustomed to going to the store, bait shop, gun shop or wherever we wish when we wish. Because of warnings from the media, we, out of necessity, have had to isolate ourselves in order to avoid spreading a dreaded virus. This will obviously be the norm at least for the next few weeks, and it’s something we will just have to adapt to and learn to live with.

I contemplated writing about what we as outdoorsmen/women can do during this trying period; after all, it’s springtime and the fish are biting like crazy, and turkey season is about to open. My normal calls of “let’s get our gear together and head to our favorite lake or creek to fish” or “how about a quick trip to the range to pattern our shotguns for turkey season” are no longer quite as easily accomplished. We have all been instructed to limit our exposure to crowds and stay home as much as possible.

Like the vast majority of the population, my family and I have escaped this virus but to be honest, I’ve developed a pretty bad case of cabin fever. I’ve organized my turkey hunting gear, and my tackle box has never been in better order. New line is on all my reels and all knives, even those used by my wife in our kitchen, are sharp. By the time you read this, I hope to have experienced the cure to my malady while practicing social distancing.

The meat department at the local grocery store has very limited offerings. My wild pork stock is dwindling in the freezer, and we’ve been eating fish about as fast as I catch them. I’m planning on heading out to spend a couple days hunting hogs during late afternoon when they move the best and devote midday to tossing small spine baits in a remote creek for white bass and crappie. I even purchased a new trotline and plan to stretch it down the middle of the creek and hopefully stock up on a few good eating catfish.

But this little outing will be different from most. At the gas pump, I will be wearing the same gloves I use when field dressing deer and hogs — can’t be touching the handle to that gas pump with bare hands. I have a friend who owns a little convenience store near where I’ll be hunting and fishing, and he makes some very tasty breakfast sandwiches. I usually stop by for a sandwich and hot coffee. I doubt if he will be open, and even if he is, I’ll pass on by.

Many of my friends are fishing and hunting guides, and I’ve seen on social media where they are offering clients the opportunity to get out and stock the freezer with fish, wild pork or exotic game meat in a setting that is virus-free, the great outdoors. I’m hoping many will take them up on these offers but during a period when the government is planning to provide us a check to help us through this period of economic instability, it’s easy to see why many will be holding their dollars close.

In effort to keep this column at least somewhat informative, let me share a very simple recipe for making bread at home. The bread aisles at many of the groceries I’ve been to are bare. You can make your own bread at home, and it’s much tastier than what you can buy at the store. Make several loaves, freeze and use as needed.

Begin by mixing 3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons yeast, one teaspoon salt and sprinkling of sugar if you like with 1.5 cups water. Knead well and allow to rise at least a couple hours, overnight in the refrigerator is even better. Bake at 350 degrees for about 48 minutes and you will have some of the tastiest of bread imaginable.

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website

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