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The author spent the last day of the year social distancing while hunting geese in Oklahoma.

Outdoor Life: La. sportsmen didn't miss much in 2020

An old song from the 1980s written and sung by the late Mac Davis titled “Happiness is leaving Texas in my rear view mirror,” is probably the way most people across America feel about 2020. But, looking back on this past year, I didn’t necessarily find people who participated in outdoor activities felt quite the same way.
When the COVID pandemic “officially” broke out I happened to be in Buras attending a conference put on by Vanishing Paradise that was designed to update the outdoor media on the status of coastal restoration projects post BP Horizon Oil Spill. Of course, it included a couple of days of fishing, food, and good conversa-tion. Trust me, no one was watching FOX, CNN or MSNBC.
On my way home I called my wife Christine to let her know my ETA when she said, “Honey, have you been watching the news?”
“No,” I replied, “Why?”
That’s when she told me the President had been on television calling for what we’ve all come to know as a lockdown designed to flatten the curve. It was surreal. It felt like the introduction to some science fiction movie that we all suddenly became actors in. Only people were really dying.
Immediately, nonessential businesses closed, some people began working from home, as we all learned about social distancing.
What’s interesting is outdoor activities seemed to become fashionable. Bicycles sold like hotcakes and fishing tackle was swept off the shelves along with guns and ammunition. Oh sure, the latter may have been driven by the conspiracy theorists, but essentially people had time on their hands and were spending time outdoors.
After all, the CDC did say outdoor activities were safer than indoor activities.
During that first month of the pandemic we had another birth in our family. A grandson. And, Christine went to spend a few weeks help-ing out, leaving me alone.
Did that stop me from chasing things in the wild? Heck no! I got my canoe out and paddled the local waters looking for photo opportunities. Nature didn’t disappoint me either. I have now watched and photographically documented the entire courtship, nest building, hatching and fledging of Great Egrets. On my social media pages come to find out, birders all across the state were doing the same thing.
Birders weren’t the only ones spending time outdoors. For goodness sakes, fishermen were posting amazing pictures with stringers of bass, and ice chests full of sac-a-lait, redfish, and speckled trout on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Almost always with the caption, “Social Dis-tancing.”
It appeared outdoor men and women were embracing the CDC’s social distance rules by redefining the meaning.
Locally, we even held the Morgan City Oilfield Fishing Rodeo at the beginning of summer. Of course, the event was scaled down compared to past years. Nonetheless, it was outside, anglers for the most part spent the day on the water separated, and everyone had a good time.
We all know the pandemic was politicized. Up north, come to find out, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s husband Marc Mallory had a few Memorial Day social distancing plans on water of his own — a state with some draconian COVID-19 rules implemented by his wife.
Apparently, Marc did a little name dropping to an employee of Northshore Dock LLC trying to get his boat launched ahead of the weekend crowd. We all know people like that who cut in line ahead of others. Unfortunately, with the lockdown and excruciating rules, the dock was behind sched-ule.
Owner of the dock, Tad Dowker, outed the Governor’s husband on Facebook and let’s just say the optics weren’t good for the State’s Chief Executive. When asked, Gov. Whitmer claimed it was merely a joke. But hey, clearly Michigan’s “first family” are outdoor people and who can blame them for wanting to get on the water?
Closer to home, a Jackson Parish Police Jury in their infinite wisdom decided to close all of the public ramps on Caney Lake in an attempt to social distance. The closure caused a public outcry and lasted about as long as it takes a tournament bass angler to get to his favorite fishing hole.
This past summer when the water went down in the Atchafalaya River, the bream fishing was stellar in the basin. I counted no less than 16 boats in one location putting a smackdown on chinquapins one Saturday. It was social distancing at its finest in my eyes. What’s more, Christine and I were amongst the whole bunch of them.
By September things had loosened up a bit as we seemed to be “stuck” in Phase II or some revised Phase II edict of safety protocols from Gov. John Bell Edward’s office to prevent the spread of COVID. And, I have to say the September Teal Season was amazing.
Waterfowl hunters seemed to learn how to not spread the disease while sharing pit blinds in the rice field country. I’ve got to tell you, to date, I personally have not met one waterfowl hunter who has contracted COVID. That’s not to say they’re not out there. I’m sure there are some — bound to be. I just don’t know them. And, I know a lot of duck and goose hunters.
I spent the last day of the year in a layout blind next to six or seven other goose hunters on the prairie of Oklahoma. Our group of hunters consisted of a father and daughter from California, a guy from Pennsylvania, another guy from Mary-land, me from Louisiana, and a couple of local Oklahomans.
We were about a foot apart for most of the morning. None of us in talking had been exposed to or contracted COVID, “as far as we all know.” But, looking back at 2020 as hard as it was for some, with sickness and loss of life, most people who spent time outdoors didn’t miss much.
I’m glad we’re all looking at 2020 in our rear view mirrors. Here’s hoping 2021 will be the year COVID-19 ends and we can see the smiles on each other’s faces again. Happy New Year.


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