Gazette writer Zeke Wilson

The current shutdown of non-essential businesses has had a direct impact on those who enjoy the outdoors and the businesses that they patronize.

Suddenly, stocking up on supplies for the opening day of trout or spring gobbler hunt has become all but impossible while adhering to the “shop small” mentality.

Local businesses are an important part of our community, and it is important to remember these specialty shops when normalcy returns.

The spring rush for items used for trout fishing and turkey hunting has a limited window, and sadly now is when sales would begin to pick up for these independent stores. With the shelves stocked, these shop

owners can only hope that their inventory will be consumed once they are allowed to return to business.

If you were planning to purchase a new pair of waders, fishing rod or turkey gun this year, I would encourage you to wait until you can buy it from what the state has deemed a non-essential business.

• A number of hunter-trapper education courses scheduled for this spring have been postponed in response to the call for social distancing. While the in-person class is obviously the best option, there is the possibility for

obtaining certification online for those hunters looking to purchase their first license for the upcoming youth spring gobbler hunt.

If online certification is completed, I would encourage the hunter to attend an in person class at a later date to further their understanding of hunter safety.

• While I was taking an evening drive on Sunday, a group of deer caught my eye, and upon glassing them with the Vortex binoculars, an antler was evident on one. The buck had only one side of his rack, and I had to wonder if he had freshly shed the missing antler or lost it in a fight during a ruck.

Recent warm rains have promoted growth in the grasses, and the easy antler hunting is fading fast despite the deer still carrying some. Focusing on bedding and feeding areas with a keen eye still will uncover an antler in the weeks to come.

The activity of looking for shed antlers is addictive and can involve family members and four-legged friends alike.

On warmer days, tick repellent should be used as much of the time spent shed hunting will be done where deer have spent much of their time. Wearing brush resistant clothing and tucking in shirts and pant legs will make it tougher for a tick to reach bare skin. If a tick does latch onto one’s skin, a dab of dish soap over the tick will allow for easier removal using a firm pull with tweezers. Alcohol should be used on the bite afterward and the bite monitored for an enlarging bull’s-eye pattern.

• The Kiski Township Sportsmen’s Club outdoor show schedule for Saturday has been postponed and tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8.

• Shooting ranges on state game lands have been closed, although one can still enjoy the abundance of state game lands.

Exploring our public lands this spring is an enjoyable activity, with exercise and fresh air just two of the many benefits. Looking for animal tracks in the mud will allow better understanding of the patterns and populations. Game trails are obvious in the early spring woods and much can be learned by simply following one. At times they may lead to a bedding area for deer, while at other times they simply fade away where the terrain allows less constricted movement.

The gloom and doom of the current situation can be momentarily forgotten with a southern wind in your face, songbirds in your ear and the smell of spring in the nostrils.