This ain't your Dad's Great Outdoors

Our ancestors didn't know what real danger was.

Do you remember the “good old days,” when the only dangers an outdoor sportsman or sportswoman had to worry about were venomous snakes, rogue gators, wild boars, and the occasional rabid coyote? Yeah, good times, good times.

My aging fatherand his equally antiquebuddies are always making fun of my generation of modern sportsmen and our “newfangled technology.” Here is a line I never get tired of hearing around the campfire:

“You kids and your silly gadgets,” Ole’ Dad chortles to his buddies, snuggling up so close to my pocket air conditioner that he blocks the entire air stream, while hogging all the good vapors from my ThermaCell. “You’ve got depth finders and fish finders to locate your bass, you’ve got apps on your phone to tell you which way the wind is blowing in the deer stand, and you’ve got night-vision scopes. Well, back in my day…”

Well, Pops, have a seat in my 360-degree adjustable, heated-seat, camp-side rocking chair and let me tell you a thing or two about all the dangers that modern sportsmen have to contend with—if your old heart can handle it, that is.

The Zika Virus

Pop often brags about surviving his military service days and taking malaria pills in the tropics of Southeast Asia. Malaria? Please, old timer. Allow me to introduce you to a real disease. Zika is not only acquired by mosquito bites, you can bring this sexually transmitted disease home and share with your spouse on Valentine’s Day. I can just imagine the conversations at the kitchen table, as the husband prepares to leave on an extended three-day hunting trip:

“Make sure you use protection!” fusses the worried wife. “You bring home the big Z again and I’m taking the kids and leaving you!”

Stephen King himself couldn’t have written a scarier contagious disease scenario for an outdoorsman, unless, of course, the Zika virus started turning people into Zombies. But no worries: my generation will stop the Zika outbreak with our technology. Because I just know that any day now someone is going to invent a ThermaCell mosquito repellant/marital aid enhancer with built-in I-Tunes and Surround Sound. Next time you want to get romantic with the spouse in the outdoors, just fire this baby up, drive the Zika mosquitoes away, set the mood with some candlelight and a little Marvin Gay—well, I think you know where this is going.

Crazy Ants

Dad freaks out every time he finds a fire ant bed around his hunting lodge. The guy even carries a container of ant poison around on his ATV. But apparently he hasn’t seen the news lately on the looming threat of a new invasive species, the “tawny crazy ant.”

The tawny crazy ant—not to be confused with your scrawny, crazy aunt, who drinks a lot and chases old men—is a fast-multiplying, aggressive species of ant known for its erratic movements. Native to South America, these ants have been transported—with a lot of help from man—into the U.S. and are just miles away from the S.C. Lowcountry (Post and Courier, July 30, 2016). These ants have three hobbies: reproducing in such large numbers that they overwhelm other species of ants, secreting formic acid on your skin when they crawl, and infesting electrical equipment, which causes blackouts and other electrical problems, none of which will earn them many human friends or invitations to dinner parties.

Smaller than fire ants and packing a weaker bite, these crazy guys nevertheless scare the bejeezus out of most mentally stable ants. In fact, during a June study, Dan Suiter, an urban entomologist at the University of Georgia, strategically placed a pecan sandie cookie five feet away from a fire ant hill. Why he did not use a chocolate chip cookie is not clear. But Suiter reports that, not only did the crazy ants show up to crash the party, they turned “bully” and took that cookie away from the fire ants. They also stole some young ant’s lunch money, committed a little light vandalism and gave the Zika virus to a couple of the fire ants’ girlfriends, but the fire ants were too frightened and embarassed to put any of that in their police report.

Crazy Hybrids

Dad likes to regale his buddies with the story of the charging, 600-pound wild boar that he put down with one shot. Yawn. Boring. Thanks to my generation and our tampering with nature, we have helped invent some dangerous animals that our forefathers never could have imagined. Unless, of course, your forefather is Stephen King.

As a result of global warming and the recent climate changes, different species of bears in North America are now widening their ranges, going “free love” and getting a little freaky north of the border (Sporting Classics Daily, May 26, 2016).

Have you ever heard of a grolar bear? Well, that’s what you get when a male grizzly bear pushes farther north into Arctic reaches and hooks up with a female polar bear. Ever seen a pizzly? That’s what happens when a male polar bear migrates south and knocks up a female grizzly.  But only a scientist can tell which is which: they are all covered in white fur like polar bears, except, of course, for those really freaky bears that choose to live in nudist colonies.

And have you heard of the new super-hybrid mix of wolves, coyotes and large breeds of dog that people are referring to as coywolves (Sporting Classics Daily, Dec. 31, 2015). Larger than a coyote, and first cousin to the chupacabra, the coywolf is the perfect canine predator. He can survive in wooded areas and urban areas alike—there are 20 confirmed coywolves living inside New York City limits at this moment, according to the 2010 U.S. Census report. Larger than a coyote, one coywolf can easily kill a fully grown white tail deer. A pack can bring down a moose. But they will also snack on anything else they can find, from small rodents to vegetables like pumpkins.

Studies of coywolf DNA found that these hybrids are about 65-percent coyote, 25-percent wolf and 10-percent dog (probably my promiscuous Black Lab hunting associate, Willie the Wonderdog). Scientist blame the coywolf’s existence on human efforts to eradicate the eastern wolf, such as poisoning, hunting and trapping. Faced with a dwindling number of mating pairs and a smaller dating pool, these desperate wolves have been forced to lower their standards and pick up any stray mate they can find, which is kind of what we do in Southern small towns when our cousins start looking attractive at the family reunion. So don’t judge, okay?

Crazy Politicians

We all have that same dilemma: what to do to kill time in the deer stand. My Dad likes to read Louis La’Mour westerns with manly gusto, while never missing a single movement within a mile of his stand. Me? I prefer to entertain myself with my new Android smartphone with 4G Verizon wireless and unlimited data.

I was perusing this device the other day, waiting for a deer that never showed up, when I made the mistake of clicking onto social media and discovered that it was an election year. I was quickly bombarded with messages: “Vote for Trump! Hillary is the Devil!” “No, Vote for Hillary! Trump is Crazy!”   “No, Vote for some guy named Bernie who may be a communist and is so old he may not live to see the actual election!”

Trump keeps talking about building a wall; maybe we better worry about all these crazy ants and coywolves running around without a green card. Or grolar bears and pizzlies wanting their own cross-sexual bathrooms.

Government spies

Ah, Dad, I yearn for the simpler days of yesteryear,  when the only threat an honest outdoorsman had to keep a wary eye out for was that sneaky old game warden, who was always lurking around to harass hunters and fishermen into buying their state licenses, obeying all the rules and regulations and protecting our natural resources. Nowadays, that old game warden is the least of our worries.

Today, biologists and law enforcement officials have remote-controlled flying drones that not only hover unseen overhead to monitor the movements of wildlife, but also keep an eye out for poachers like your Dad and my Dad. Heck, even the anti-hunting, animal rights groups sometimes use drones to spy on hunters and occasionally harass them or try to spoil their hunts.

But Big Brother has finally gone too far. According to Sporting Classics Daily (April 14, 2016), scientists are now using NASA satellites to aid in mule deer research. That’s right, NASA currently has two satellites, the Terra and Aqua probes, that are used to locate areas of vegetation where female mule deer are likely to bed down and give birth to their fawns. Then, using this data, biologists on the ground work to protect these areas and also ensure that these mommy deer have adequate Obamacare insurance.

But this could present some real problems for modern day hunters like me.

“NASA, we’ve spotted a rather large, slow-moving object approaching Baby Deer No. 2669 in Quadrant 3. It appears to be a human-like life form. It also appears to be carrying a hunting rifle and a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Houston, we have a problem. I repeat, we have a problem.”

With everything from hybrid invasive species, drones overhead, gangs of criminal ants below, and that new Zika virus lurking out there in the wilds, it’s almost enough to convince some modern outdoorsmen to just stay home and watch trophy buck hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel.

But I can just hear my Old Man now: “What are you, some kind of sissy? Get back out there!”