With COVID-19 cases beginning to increase in Arkansas, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wants to remind everyone to put a little space between them and other hunters at camp, at the boat ramp and in the blind this duck season. Try to maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and any hunter who isn’t in your close family.
Some hunting pursuits such as sitting in a tree stand or ground blind for a white-tailed deer are a bit more solitary. Even when people are using a ground blind together or two-man ladder stand, they often are hunting with a close family member to whom they normally would be exposed. Duck hunting and time at deer camp, however, are as much about social interaction as they are the hunt, and participants should remember to practice social distancing whenever possible. That may be as simple as sitting on a different truck tailgate from each other after the hunt, or it may mean that some extra steps in planning the hunt should be addressed.
Earlier this year, wildlife and conservation agencies throughout the country recorded record sales of fishing licenses in response to quarantines and shutdowns at the hands of COVID-19. While deer hunting results have remained fairly consistent with years past, we may still see another spike in hunting activity as fall seasons progress. Many people may reach for the outdoors again to escape quarantine fatigue while remaining a safe distance from others.
“We just ask that everyone takes some consideration into what actions they can take to minimize their exposure to people, so they don’t catch the disease or unknowingly spread it,” AGFC Deputy Director Chris Colclasure said. “There have been a number of asymptomatic cases that continue to spread this disease, so it’s important to stay vigilant, even if you aren’t showing any signs of having it.”
Here are a few extra precautions for hunters to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Be patient at crowded access points
Opening morning can often mean a mass of bodies and lines at boat ramps on some of the AGFC’s more popular duck-hunting destinations. Put a little space between your hunting group and the next at the ramp as well as in the staging area if you are determined to be in the middle of the pack at 4 a.m. on opening morning. Better yet, take it easy and let the crowd clear before you launch. Bring a pair of binoculars and watch where the birds are flying at daylight. Stay courteous and keep your distance if you see another hunter has already set up in that location. Not only can the crowds increase your chances of coming in contact with a germ, but they can also cause the hunting to go downhill quickly. Even the best hotspots will begin to cool if hunters are constantly jockeying back and forth at each other’s swing ducks.
Take a few extra precautions loading and preparing for the ride. If you’re hunting with someone not in your immediate family or household, take separate vehicles and think about spacing people further apart in boats. This may mean taking an additional boat if needed to ensure everyone maintains social distancing guidelines. If you purchase gas or food at local vendors, be sure to wear a face-covering and wash your hands thoroughly. Keep some sanitizer in the car to help kill any germs you may have come in contact with.
Bring your own
Sharing a cup of coffee or breakfast during a morning hunt is one of the best bonding experiences in the duck woods, but it’s best to bring your own mess kit and snacks and not partake of your hunting buddy’s famous breakfast burrito or coffee. If you can’t resist a taste, at least have your own eating implements and cup to avoid any transfer of possible germs. And no matter how sweet a hunting partner’s new cutdown call sounds, keep your hands and lips to yourself. Not only will it keep you from catching his germs, but it will also prevent you from catching his wrath.
Keep it friendly, but keep your distance
Waterfowl hunters tend to be a bit on edge already, and being locked up in quarantine and jumping through a few extra hoops could have everyone a little grumpier than usual this year. Try to remember that we’re all in this together pursuing what we love. Arguing over hunting locations or setting up too close to other parties just leads to a frustrating day for everyone. If there was ever a time to keep your distance, it’s now.