As I begin my fifty-seventh year of hunting I cannot help but reflect on how different my excursions afield in 2005 are from what they were in 1953.
A large part of my preseason preparation is to collect coupons and start buying batteries by Labor Day to be ready for season. My cameras have to be charged up as well as my mini-mag flashlight, 2 way radios, cell phone, Trail cameras, even my battery operated socks. These are among the gadgets I never dreamed of in the "old days." Now, the night before any season, every plug in my house is busily engaged charging one size battery or another.
Let's not forget the Walker's Game Ear that will make it possible for me to pick up the slightest rustle or footstep from 100 yards. My shotgun's red-dot sighting system has its unique battery requirements. Each year, it seems, despite my best preparations, my camera batteries die just as I've spent 10 minutes smoothing out a 20 pound gobbler's feathers, laying out the beard just so, setting the automatic self-timer then rushing to position myself in the shot. And waiting to hear the click. But - the battery is dead.
Photo for the Mirror by Shirley Grenoble
Charlie Dix bagged this buck during the second week of hunting last season that sported a radio collar.
Carrying extra batteries for all this stuff weighs down my gear. Heaven forbid that I'm on deer watch on a zero day and my battery socks go dead. Got to tote along extra "D's." I scoffed for years at the idea of battery-powered socks but one day I chanced upon a pair at a yard sale for 50 cents. I decided that for that price I could try them. I sneaked them on under my wool pants, hoping no one else in the gang would discover I was wearing them. After all, I was too "macho" to be caught "cheating" like this.
But when my toes began to tingle with the cold, I snapped the batteries into place and soon my feet were toasty. Since that day, I haven't cared what anyone thought about it, I don't go deer hunting without my battery socks.
A few times over the years I've had to complete the deer-dragging chore as the flashlight grew dimmer and dimmer and the night grew darker and darker. Trying to read a compass or watch by light of a match is a tricky feat indeed, not to mention singed fingertips and running into every branch and mudhole possible while trying to drag a deer in the dark.
And in this high-tech game management generation I face an aberration I once could never have imagined. Any game I manage to bag this year is very likely to sport a battery pack of its own. How many years now is it that bears have been wearing radio collars? Now everything, from wild turkeys, coyotes, bobcats, deer, elk right on up to rattlesnakes, may well come outfitted with some kind of beeping box, ear tags or tattoos. Seems to me as if everything I am sharing the woods with is likely to be the target of some kind of research study.
This past deer season, however, I benefited from this modern age. I came upon a dead 10-point buck lying in a small ditch on early afternoon of opening day. It had obviously been dead for a couple days. Examination of the carcass showed it had not been shot. But I noticed the tags in its ears and they said "$100" reward. So I cut them out of that buck's ears, called them in and collected that reward. Just from the information they had on file from that number, I learned exactly what day and on what road that deer had been tagged.
That animal had been a spike buck when tagged on Jan. 9, 2009. I found it dead a year and half later and it was a beautiful 10-pointer. I don't know how it died. I have several guesses but I don't know.
I read with interest the report of Game Commission biologists following the rare Indiana bats, which of course have been fitted with battery packs, as they migrate from their hibernating haunts to their locations in other states. I compared that to the report I got of all the cuts that are being made to Game Commission programs and vehicles because of lack of funding and wondered how chasing "radio-active" bats is deemed more important than the local WCO's radio or vehicle.
Well, if I was to investigate this thoroughly - and I haven't - I'd probably find that most of the bat chasing is federally funded as well as augmented by funds from special interest groups. That's just a guess, mind you, but I do know that turkey, duck, grouse and wildflower groups all contribute to the Game Commission for their species' good. I'm not sure if there is a "Brown Bat" society but it would not surprise me if there were.
All of this makes me wonder again how our forefathers ever bagged any game without all these gadgets. No climbing treestands, no doe-in-heat lure, no peanut butter scented wafers to hang from a limb, no coyote calls, no grunt tubes, no bottled cover scent, hand warmers, GPS systems, and certainly no battery-powered anything. Today's hunter has his skills measured by how many electronic widgies he has that will keep him from getting lost and warn him of the approach of game.
Well, if I sound cynical, I guess I am. I can still remember when none of these things were available. Nevertheless, when you see me in deer season, you can bet I'll be wearing the battery socks with a couple extras somewhere in my gear. How could I possibly exist in the deer woods without them?