The old Mark Chesnutt song goes something like “too hot to golf, too hot to fish and too cold at home,” but for many hunters struggling to power through the dog days of summer, it’s just plain boring at this time of year. From searing heat that scorches the brain, to an endless pile of chores around the house, farm or lease, to those memorable-yet-maddening Clark Griswold-like family vacations with everybody packed in the car like sardines, opening day of whatever season can’t get here fast enough.
With some help from my hunting friends around the country, here are 10 reasons why the summer lifestyle just wasn’t made for hunters.
No. 10: Golf Many hunters I’ve talked to despise golf (particularly if they play it), for the insanity of repeatedly knocking a little ball across 18 manicured holes, and for the fact that those green courses gobble up some otherwise great hunting land. Heck, most are loaded with deer, turkeys and especially geese that nobody will ever get a chance to hunt. That’s just wrong in a hunter’s mind. Embarrassing myself on the links at Disney World’s Palms golf course recently, I could barely believe my sweat-stung eyes at the number of Toms with 11- to 12-inch beards strolling right next to the cart paths. Here turkey, turkey, turkey. Can you say, “FORE!”
No. 9: Cutting grass If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result, then a landscaper’s existence is one of true madness. So is the mower-pushing homeowner who works hard to grow a nice lawn just so he can go out at least once a week in the angry sun and push himself to near heart-attack levels of sun-stroked activity. If we had any sense, we’d just use Round-Up on all of it at the beginning of May and take the rest of the summer off. Why can’t our food plots grow like a neglected lawn?
No. 8: Family vacations I’m not talking the relaxing Caribbean paradise or mountain resort get away with the spouse or significant other here; not even the occasional fun day at the theme or water park with the kids. I’m talking the all-out, week-long, pressure-packed forced family fun of the multi-state road trip. You know, with the little ones fighting like a pack of wolves over the last elk in Yellowstone, one of them barking out the eternally unanswered question of “Are we there yet?” every 30 seconds—despite your assurances that “NO, we are not. We still have 10 hours to go.” The trips where every fifth trucker or teen who just got his or her license flips you off at the slightest perceived threat to his imagined NASCAR stardom or the wife demands you turn the AC down despite the fact that you’re already sweating like Arnold Schwarzenegger during a Commando-style battle sequence. The intent of these trips is always fun, and despite the madness, many of us do have some. But there is little doubt that when everyone gets home, a strong sense of relief washes over the entire family.
No. 7: Running low on meat I knew I should have killed those does when I had a chance instead of holding out for that big boy. I do have a nice set of antlers coming back from the taxidermist, but that provides little benefit when it comes to dinner time. The kids and I have already worked our way through all the venison sausage and backstraps and are down to the last few packs of burger, and it’s only the beginning of July! I, for one, am committed to filling more tags in the coming season just to prevent this from ever happening again.
No. 6: Fishing Now, there are plenty of guys that like to hunt and fish, but let’s face it, given the choice among those who do both, I know fewer sportsmen who would pick the chance to fish over hunting. Besides, with the price of gas still well above the $3 mark, tooling around the lake in a boat is about as cost effective as leaving the patio door open in an effort to cool your backyard. And if you and some pals are going offshore? Fuhgettaboutit. You’ll need to take out a small loan to get where the tuna and marlin swim. As outdoor photographer Mitch Kezar said, “There’s nothing to shoot but carp (in the summer).” And, for most of us, we don’t even get the chance to shoot them (though I did manage to haul a pig of a carp to the net the other week using my three-year-old daughter’s Barbie fishing pole.) I will admit, it’s nice being on the water and enjoying a cold one with rod and reel in hand, but it still lacks the excitement of a huge whitetail slipping toward you or sighting down your shotgun as a flock of geese set their wings for a landing in front of your blind. In fact, that leads us to No. 5.
No. 5: Lack of excitement My friend Janita Burgess Hess said it best: “I miss the feeling in the pit of my stomach when the bow is stretched tight and the arrow is about to fly. You just don’t get that [feeling] aiming at a bail of straw.” You’re exactly right about that, Janita. Straw tastes lousy, too.
No. 4: Lack of rain Remember the $800 you spent on seed for your food plots, along with the other grand you kicked in for lime and fertilizer, not to mention the weekends you should have been doing something with the family, but you just had to get that seed in the ground in order to catch the benefit of spring rains? Now you’re watching it all wither and die in the scorching summer heat while every nutritionless weed known to modern science thrives and chokes out the remaining few stalks of clover, corn or soybean you planted. Funny. Yep. Real funny.
No. 3: Poison ivy If it has three leaves, my rule is just stay away. When I was a kid, I could crawl through the stuff. As I’ve gotten older, not so much. While a lot of hunters hate that the summer woods are so full of leaves that you can’t see the wildlife, even more hunters hate that a lot of those leaves are entwined with poison-secreting vines. I’ve known diehard hunters who won’t turkey hunt in the spring because they are so susceptible to poison ivy. After scouting or hanging stands in the late summer heat, I remove all my clothes and drop them into a plastic bag as soon as I get back to the house. Then I scrub down in the shower like a Japanese nuclear plant inspector.
No. 2: Heat It’s debatable whether this one should actually be sitting in the No. 1 spot. After all, nothing defines summer like hot weather. Whether you live where humidity hovers so high that you can drink the air or in the West where locals try to make you feel better in triple-digit temps by explaining that it’s a “dry heat,” once the mercury tops the mid-90s, it’s freakin’ unbearable no matter how you slice or dice it. Step from the shade to work food plots, cut trails or perform other chores at home or lease and the sun will bake you down into a burnt mess. A lot of uninformed non-hunters out there accuse all hunters of being rednecks. Curse them, but at this time of year, among our sunburned masses, they are technically correct.
No. 1: Bugs Buzzing, stinging, biting insects are a source of immense aggravation to the outdoorsman at this time of year. Far removed from the cacophony of crickets and locusts in the rural woods, even the suburban-dwelling sportsman can’t escape the sting of the mosquito or the persistent buzz of the gnat in his backyard. Try to sit a stand over a field while scouting late summer and the mosquitoes will draw more blood than the cast of “Twilight.” They can make an otherwise tranquil evening outside unbearable in a matter of moments. Throw in the two-week persistent itch from chiggers and the threat of lyme disease or other maladies from head-burrowing ticks, and there’s no denying it, the summer woods are a creepy place. At this time of year, bug spray and Thermacells can be man and woman’s best friend. So can a swimming pool, where you can relax and watch the bug zapper work its magic. Let’s face it, right now the bugs have the best hunting going on.
Let us know why you hate summer and share your comments below.