The color bright red is seen few places besides on a tom turkey’s head in the spring woods, so when you do see it through the trees, that really gets the adrenaline going. Silently, I slipped my shotgun’s safety off, and remained motionless beneath my full camouflage veil. When I realized it was some rube in a bright red raincoat, I put the safety back on and just waited for him to leave.
He walked within a yard of me and stopped to noisily open a six dollar granola bar and get a sip from his bottle of ginseng tea. He carried a walking stick he bought at a state parks gift shop. The top if it was carved (in China, no doubt) to look like a Morel mushroom. He had one of those big floppy canvas hats and I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that under his button-down denim shirt was a t-shirt that said, “I survived Woodstock, and several associated flashbacks.”
I gently reached over and tapped him on the leg; he shrieked and about jumped out of his skin.
“Oh, Hi! I didn’t see you there!” he said. That’s the general idea of camouflage, not to be seen. He looked down at my shotgun with wide eyes, taking half a step back. His demeanor changed as he composed himself, hung a fake smile on his face and tried to make small talk.
“I’m hunting mushrooms! What are you hunting?”
My inner monologue sometimes takes over involuntarily. “Well, I’m obviously hunting turkey, but if I were hunting clueless obnoxious guys who shop at the Gap, I’d be having a pretty good day!” No, I didn’t really say that, and he didn’t mean to ruin my set-up, he was just a clueless, obnoxious guy who…
“I’m hunting turkey” I said.
Silence, blank stare.
“It’s turkey season and this is a public hunting area” I added, because he looked like he needed a bit more to get the picture.
He turned slightly to the side and said, “Well look at us, just a couple of hunters in AN hunting area!” I hate when people use “an” before a word that starts with “h”, even if it is correct. If Bob Lynch made a cartoon of this scene there would be a little puff of smoke above my head showing my anger. So I let him have it with both barrels, metaphorically speaking, of course.
“First of all, no, you are not hunting. The Ohio Administrative Code defines hunting as being in legal pursuit of a game animal with a firearm or bow. You can say you’re hunting mushrooms, or a Geocache, or your inner-self but that doesn’t make it hunting. This is a public hunting area.”
I guess my tone really conveyed how peeved I was because he immediately got on the defensive and interrupted me. “Well, I went to an evening seminar on mushroom hunting, and the lady there authored a book about it and she told us we have just as much right to be on a public hunting area as you!”
Bob Lynch would now be drawing a full-scale black storm cloud above my head, with lightning bolts. Mort Walker would have included skulls, pound signs, scribbles and ampersands. The words I laid upon our whole earth-y friend were some slightly embellished version of the following:
Ohio Administrative Code Section 1501:31-9-01, paragraph Q which states
It shall be unlawful for any person not actively engaged in hunting, fishing or trapping to be on a division owned, leased, or controlled wildlife area when posted with signs stating "Area Open For Hunting, Fishing, And Trapping only, All Other Activities Prohibited."
Then I let him have it for how stupid it is to walk right past a foam rubber turkey decoy into the middle of somebody’s hunting set-up and, and to display such a lack of common sense as to start an argument in a remote woods with a fully camouflaged man holding a SHOTGUN! (Ok, I didn’t actually include that last bit either. I’m just saying…)
I don’t really have anything against mushroom hunters. On my frequent nature walks I’ve even been known to check at the shady base of a tree the morning after an April rainstorm. When I find a clump of beautiful, spongy morel mushrooms, I leave them there for somebody else. I love mushrooms as much as the next guy but I also love my liver (the one in my chest) and I don’t want it destroyed because I mis-identified a fungus. If you are the thrill-seeker type and choose to harvest mushrooms, put them in a mesh bag and not a paper sack so that on your walk out of the woods you’ll at least allow the poor thing to spread its spores before you take it home and fry it in butter. Good luck, and GET OUTDOORS (somewhere besides a public hunting area)!