July 6th, 2020
Six-year-old Frank Girondo of Rolla, Missouri went hunting for the first time this spring with his family. Frank says it was fun trying to outsmart a gobbler that came back to his family’s blind several times.
“This one was so smart. He never wanted to come close enough. And one day he came about 30 yards, and I shot,” Girondo F., says.
But he missed it. Still, Frank said he had a great time. The Girondo family of four went turkey hunting 13 times this season. Nick Girondo says that was 100 percent because of the coronavirus canceling soccer, baseball, and family trips.
“With sports and other things going on, we probably would have got out one day at the most, the way planning was going with family events. Yeah, we got out a lot more than we normally would have because of the pandemic,” Girondo, N., says.
The hours and hours spent in the blind were good for the family. Jen Girondo says in a lot of ways it was better family time than what they would have been doing if not for the pandemic.
“When they are playing sports, they are out there with the coach. They’re out and we’re on the sidelines just watching and cheering. So for us, it was neat to be there and get to be their coach, I guess, through hunting,” Girondo, J., says.
The Girondo family is part of the increase in turkey hunting across the Midwest this spring. Almost 20,000 new hunters tried out the sport in MIssouri. Numbers were also up in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Hunting proponents are welcoming the increase after a decade of declines.
Eric Edwards is the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation. He says it’s great that more people tried hunting, but is concerned the increase won’t hold up at these levels once people can go back to their regularly scheduled activities.
“Yes, people had considerable amounts of free time on their hands this year, and we probably won’t see these numbers again unless something like this happens again, but it would sure be nice if we could keep these numbers,” Edwards, says.
But some first time hunters are planning to return. Karli Auble went hunting this Spring when she won a raffle to go on a free trip. The suburban St. Louis resident says normally she would have passed on it, but was going stir crazy at home and the idea of being outdoors was too good to pass up. Auble says it’s an exciting moment to see a Turkey come out.
“You know, your heart starts beating, you start shaking a little bit. And I have to say I’d do it again if I had the opportunity,” Auble, says.
Even with the increased activity, the news wasn’t good for all people in the hunting business. Rob Mahalevich and his siblings run Missouri Hunting and Outdoor, a 13-hundred acre hunting ground in the Missouri Ozarks. He says they had 28 hunting groups from nine states booked for turkey season. But because their property includes a lodge and dining facilities, they had to close because of coronavirus.
“Looking at it… we just couldn’t guarantee our staff’s safety or our guests. So we had to cancel the season. And it was very painful,” Mihalevich, says.
Mihalevich says they hope to be fully open by deer season and are exploring adding campgrounds to their property to accommodate hunters if the lodge has to stay closed. He’s also concerned the coronavirus increase in hunting will be a one-time thing.
But Nick Girondo says the bonding his family had had him focusing on a new priority, even after the pandemic.
“To carve out that time. It showed how special it is to carve out that time and spend that time together, so make sure we have that time, as a group,” Girondo N, says.
Summer is a slower time for hunting in the midwest, so it’s hard to tell if more families will follow the turkey hunting boom into other seasons. But the Missouri Department of Conservation is reporting a slight increase in fishing licenses and small game hunting permits so far this summer.
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