bodysuits

Warm and dry full-body suits like the one the author is wearing on the winter turkey season hunt in Maryland are far superior to the clothing that existed when he began hunting in 1958.

Let’s pick up where we left off two weeks ago when we were talking about changes in hunting that have taken place since I first pulled the trigger of a J.C. Higgins bolt-action .22 caliber rifle in 1958.

These reminiscence sessions began, you may recall, with my involvement in Mike Snyder’s Mountain Traditions Project when I was interviewed about the tradition of hunting.

Take turkeys, for example. During my early hunting years there was no such thing as spring gobbler hunting. Now it is one of the more popular hunts around. When that season began in Maryland, a hunter could bag one bearded bird. Sometime later, the spring limit was doubled.

It is easy for me to remember the spring hunt of 2010. I hunted two hours in Maryland and killed a nice gobbler … and I was done, even though the spring limit was two. That was the last year that a fall turkey counted against the next spring’s bag limit and I had bagged a long-beard during the 2009 autumn hunt.

Eventually, the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service added a fifth week to the spring hunt. Then, the last couple weeks of the season were opened to hunting from a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. And that is where things stand now.

That is a substantial amount of change in one season, a season that didn’t even exist when I began hunting.

And then there is bow hunting for deer.

In the late 1950s there were a handful of people tromping around the woods with recurve or longbows pretending they were Fred Bear or Howard Hill. Enter compound bows during the 1970s and the mechanical advantage they provided to hunting archers. Of course, compounds were fine-tuned over time with heavier draw weights, but hunters could hold at full draw for an extended period because of substantial reductions in tension once they pulled the bowstring past a certain point.

More recently, crossbows were made legal for deer hunting and that has changed the activity considerably, especially for senior citizen bow hunters, keeping them afield during the archery hunt. Not long ago I looked at a hunting catalog and shuddered when I saw crossbow prices for $2,500. I’ve purchased automobiles for less than that.

There was no such thing as a tree stand when I started this hunting thing. Neither were ground blinds in the mix.

I think one of the more amazing changes in hunting during the past 60+ years is the onslaught of gadgets. Go to your favorite hunting supply website and click on hunting accessories.

Here are some from Cabelas.com: global positioning system units, head lamps, Butt Out (pulls the lower portion of the deer’s intestinal tract out through the rectal opening), bright tacks that shine in the ray of your head lamp to guide you to your hunting spot, face masks, an unlimited variety of camouflage patterns for hunting garments, carts or sleds to pull a deer out of the woods, bear spray, human scent removal spray, trail cameras, game cleaning gloves, deer attracting scents, motorized decoys for doves and ducks, ice chests that cost $300, vests for hunting dogs, elevated deer cabins that cost $3,000, cameras that fit on your firearm or your hat.

I’m not saying all of these new things are bad. Indeed. I figure Jim Bridger would have loved a Thinsulate/Gortex jacket.

The late Peter Barrett put it nicely when he was asked 40 years ago what was the biggest difference that had taken place since he began hunting. Barrett, who bought the first article I ever sold for a three-digit check, was executive editor at Field & Stream. “Warm, dry feet,” was Barrett’s answer.

Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as outdoor editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His column now appears every other Saturday. To order his book, “Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life,” send him a check for $15 to 16415 Lakewood Drive, Rawlings, MD 21557.

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