When I was growing up, my dad and I had a metal storage shed in our backyard that was split into two distinct sections.
We had fishing equipment on one side that we used March-September, and hunting equipment on the other side that we used October-January. We usually spent February organizing all the stuff and hiding from the cold.
A picture of that shed today might look like something from the museum of natural history, because there aren’t many people who split their resources equally between the two sports like that anymore.
A lot of people are choosing one or the other – not because they want to, but because they have to.
During the early days of our equal-opportunity storage shed, you could buy a permit to hunt 60,000 acres of timber-company land for just $4. So once your gun and other annual hunting supplies were paid for, the sport was almost free.
When it came time for the good spring crappie run in March, we gladly put our guns away and never gave them another thought until the summer catfish bite finally started slowing down in late September.
Since hunting was so affordable, we went all-out for fishing with our own fiberglass boat, plus all the portable equipment we needed to fish anywhere rental boats were available.
This probably doesn’t come as a news flash to most of you, but hunting isn’t affordable anymore – certainly not like it was then.
You’re lucky if you can find a membership in a good deer-hunting club for less than $1,000 a year now, and you have to spend money on your hunting property year-round if you want to keep it ready for opening day.
You have to buy licenses and permits. You have to pay taxidermy and/or processing fees if you kill a deer.
If you want to belong to a club that offers duck hunting, the price tag will probably be even higher – and no matter what kind of club you belong to, the gasoline to get you there and back will cost you $3 a gallon or more.
As the annual bill for hunting has risen, many of the folks who used to be hunters during the fall and winter and fishermen during the spring and summer have become full-time hunters who take the summer off to rebuild their bank accounts.
Others have become full-time fishermen who brave the lakes and rivers in coveralls and facemasks on days they would have spent hunting in the past.
The occasional hunter, who paid $4 for a permit and went once or twice a year just to scratch the itch or because his kids wanted to go, has all but faded away – and that has produced a younger generation with little or no hunting experience.
A few good things have come out of the change.
With a void to fill during late winter and early fall, a few more people have gotten back into dove hunting and small-game hunting to help fill the long void between the major hunting seasons for deer and waterfowl.
But for many, the days of enjoying one sport while looking forward to the other have all but disappeared. Since things don’t usually get cheaper as time marches on, I fear it’s likely a permanent thing.