I don’t write as much about hunting as I did in the early days of these columns about adventures in the outdoors, even though I realize the importance of keeping alive the tradition of hunting deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrel, grouse and waterfowl; and of the hounds sounding off at the treeing of a raccoon or of chasing a fox across the ridgetops.
And coming up with recipes to prepare the delicious and healthy meat for the table as a respite from the supermarket coolers.
The first outdoor column appeared in the Ashland Daily Independent in the spring of 1974. It featured outdoor magazine writer John Weiss and I taking a canoe down the Tygarts Gorge, camping overnight in a tent and casting for bass and muskie on our way down this beautiful stretch of Tygarts Creek.
Before that, in the early 1970s, while I was sports editor at the Portsmouth Daily Times, I was also doing a weekly column on all aspects of the outdoors.
I had replaced Soc Clay there as the outdoor columnist, with Soc moving on to a successful career as a magazine writer/photographer.
You can do the arithmetic and see that it’s coming up on 50 years’ worth of outdoor columns for me.
BUSHELS OF LETTERS
I’m don’t mean to boast, but in those early years I received a couple of bushels worth of letters from readers, 99.9 percent of them positive – although during the deer season there was always this one lady who wrote numerous times each season to say something like, “Shame of you for encouraging the killing of Bambi.”
She was off base, but Ihave to admit that my empathy for creatures of the wild has grown to exceed what it was in earlier years.
Letters received back then were all handwritten. The Internet and emails were not yet dreamed of.
Does anyone still send handwritten letters through the mail, referred to now as “snail mail.”
Now and then I get emails – always welcome, and phone calls, too (I may be the only columnist who lists his home phone number).
Readers report that a column stirred some nice memories within them, or tell me of an adventure of their own that they and their families enjoyed, or escaped from with all of their limbs intact.
But emails always seem a bit impersonal, in comparison to the handwritten letter.
UP IN A TREESTAND
Readers these days know that I enjoy writing essays, that and about looking back to some adventures that happened years ago.
I enjoy writing about fishing, since I can still run the trolling motor and cast the shoreline with ease.
I encourage other anglers to enjoy a peaceful and stress-free trip to regional or far away waters, even to perhaps luck into a record 14-pound largemouth that might swim in Greenbo Lake or a 48-pound muskie that no doubt swims in Cave Run Lake.
But because of a bad back (and advancing years) that brings much pain from walking very far without looking for a place to sit down, I don’t report as much as I used to on hunting or hiking.
OUT OF THE MIST
For me to climb into a tree stand blind would be close to suicidal. But, during the upcoming deer gun season (set to open Nov. 12 in Kentucky, a little later in Ohio) I do hope to hunt from a ground blind in an attempt to see that big buck with a rack that won’t fit through the kitchen door come ambling out of the early morning mist toward me.
It’s important to encourage and help teenagers of the present generation escape from Cyber space in pursuit of the white-tailed deer and other wild game, keeping a family tradition alive.
Adult mentors know it falls on their shoulders to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience that leaves their young companion wanting to return to the field.
It begins on the shooting range and with the teaching of firearms safety, and the regulations and limits that govern the seasons.
Even though I don’t hunt much anymore, I realize its importance to ensuring the existence of wildlife for hunter and non-hunter to enjoy.
The departments of Fish and Wildlife in Kentucky and Ohio get no state tax dollars. They depend on the money coming from the purchase of licenses and permits to manage wildlife numbers and habitat. Seasons and limits keep deer herds down to manageable size.
While I seem to be tooting my own horn somewhat today, allow me to pause for this small commercial.
I recently received from the publisher additional copies of my novel, “That Summer of ’45.” I have about a dozen copies on hand. Also, I have a few copies of “Men of Valor,” a book of World War II combat stories I wrote from interviews with local veterans.
I mentioned “snail mail” earlier, but I’ve always found the U.S. Postal Service dependable and swift in delivery of books ordered.
To order a copy of either book, send a check made out to me for $26, which includes the cost of packaging and mailing, to:
50 First Street
South Shore, Ky. 41175
Enclose a note telling me the person and address you want the book mailed to and whether you want it signed, and to whom.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected]