In 1991, Mimi and I went to a hunting and fishing show in Lexington. What caught my eye was a vest to wear while turkey hunting that, when placed on the ground, made a chair.
Being able to sit back in comfort while waiting for a long beard to make his way to your calls is very important, as you may need to sit an hour or more. Mimi bought me the vest, paying a whopping $30 for it. I still have the vest, although the weather and years have taken their tolls.
Yesterday, I got a 2016 catalog from one of the major hunting and fishing retailers and found the same vest for $299.99. Either the people who put the vests together have gotten one hell of a raise since 1991 or the price of the material has really gone up — or both.
For the past couple of weeks or so we have been talking about how the cost of hunting keeps rising and the hunter is paying more just to get into the woods than ever before.
When my father went hunting, he carried an old powder sack that every miner had. Two pairs of khaki pants and two shirts — one green, one brown — were his camouflage until the Eighties when Woodland hit the market. He carried all he needed in his powder sack —paper towels, extra shells, a can of pork and beans, crackers, and of course any game he was hunting. Dad carried a canteen of water around his neck and could stay for days in the woods if he wanted without a group of rescuers looking for him. I guess he is what you would call these days a “mountain man.”
No one worried about us when we went to the woods, because they understood that we knew how to live there. My dad would not at all believe what hunters pay nowadays just to get into the woods, let alone to actually hunt. Back in the day, Dad walked into the woods. Today, hunters pay more than $10,000 to ride — and that doesn’t count the cost of the new four wheel drive truck that gets them to where they park and straddle their four-wheelers.
I remember when you could knock on someone’s door and ask to hunt; the answer was always yes. Then, when you came out of the woods the landowner would invite you to eat with them. Now, many property owners charge you to hunt on their land, and it goes to the highest bidder. I am now an old man. I have seen many changes and hope to live to see several more, but I still may not cross the “Silent River” before the end comes for our young hunters. Not because they don’t want to hunt, but because the price to hunt has broke them.