Explore Outdoors Kansas: To mask or not to mask; that is the question

Steve Gilliland
Pratt Tribune
A hunter, wildlife expert and outdoors enthusiast, Kansas columnist Steve Gilliland encourages citizens to pay attention to their gun rights and get ready to vote to keep those rights secure in the upcoming elections.

I wrote this column a year ago, and was hoping by now I could burn a copy of it along with all our face masks in effigy in the town square, or at least bury them while muttering some sort of incantation to make the need for them disappear. But alas, masks have reared their ugly heads again, so here goes. 

Even though I call myself a “realist,” my wife most often labels me a “pessimist.” I’m not very warm and fuzzy, I don’t go about turning cartwheels of joy and there is usually not a smile on my face for no good reason. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that for us as a people to get through this current “whatever you choose to call it,” I need to begin making lemonade from the lemons life is currently doling out. So, I’ve come up with some ways wearing these dreadful face masks might actually benefit Kansas sportsmen. 

I talk to myself … a lot, and by the way, I’ve never lost an argument with me. With a mask over my face and looking for all the world like Billy the Kid robbing a train, I can stroll down the aisle at Cabalas and talk myself into or out of buying another gun, and no one will be the wiser. Behind the mask, my mouth and lips can be reciting the pledge of allegiance a dozen times forward and backward, or cursing the shortage of toilet paper and ammo and no one will ever know. Unless of course I violate the first rule of talking to yourself and speak so loudly my wife can hear me through the closed bathroom door (yes this is experience speaking again.) And for those of us (you know who you are) who have trouble keeping your mouths shut in a deer blind, voila, the dreaded face mask solves that problem too. 

There are myriads of scents associated with hunting, fishing and trapping. From the sweet, musky scent of gunpowder or spring wildflowers to the near stench of catfish bait or that awful gamey smell of an old tom turkey. And let’s not forget the tear rendering smells that can boil forth from a cabin or tent full of deer hunters, especially after consuming aunt Martha’s secret family baked bean recipe the night before. Once again, face masks to the rescue, as its devilish hard to smell anything through one of those contraptions. It brings to mind a deer hunting trip decades ago when I would have given anything for a face mask. 

One deer season while I was a youth still living in Ohio, I went with a much older coworker who was convinced we needed to hunt Pennsylvania, so we dragged his tiny (very tiny) camping trailer with us to a state park somewhere in PA. The next morning, we stepped out into 8 to 10 inches of fresh powdery snow. This trip was put together on a whim, and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing or where to go, but off we went. After a dismal and exhausting day trudging up and down wooded hills and through endless valleys, and not seeing another life form, we miraculously found the trailer again, and decided to go somewhere for a good hot meal before bed. We found a little café and settled in to await a couple nice steaks. My buddy ordered a beer to go with his steak, and then noticed on the bar what was often a staple in those days at little country joints; a gallon jug of pickled hard-boiled eggs. After we had devoured our steaks, and he’d had another beer and consumed half-a-dozen eggs from the jar, we returned to the tiny trailer and crawled into bed. That night I learned that there is a terrible chemical reaction that takes place between beer and pickled hard-boiled eggs deep within the recesses of the consumer’s body. I can honestly say I would have given anything for a face mask that night, so cheer up, these pesky things might come in handy after all … continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors! 

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.