I know what you’ve been wondering while you count your rolls of toilet paper: What is Duane doing during this time of social distancing and self-quarantine? It may surprise you but something I’m doing more than ever right now is hunting.

“Hunting? What’s in season?” I can hear you say. “You aren’t poaching are you, Sherrill? Hunting out of season is a crime in these parts. Has it come to that already? Do you need some grocery money?”

First off, I’m one of those hypocrites who enjoys shooting and eating game animals but isn’t into hunting them. Provided you shoot it; I’ll eat it. My dad was a big hunter given his hillbilly upbringing deep in the mountains of Rhea County in east Tennessee. So, I was raised in a hunting family. The sounds of hunting dogs barking in the night was common when I was a kid as my father kept a kennel full of them. He would go out, bag his limit (and sometimes a bit over) and bring it back for my mother to cook up. Now mom was a Yankee, straight out Maine, so it was somewhat of a culture shock for her to be pressed into cooking up the various varmints my dad would bring in after a hunting trip. And, frankly, if it was in season, that was well and good, but he would basically shoot whatever popped its head up out of the ground or whatever the dogs treed in the woods. We weren’t the richest folks on the block so whatever added to the dinner table was welcome, even if were a little tough to chew from time to time.

Ground hog, possum, raccoon and birds of all types (except eagles since my father was a patriot) were dishes on our dinner table all during my upbringing. I learned to not only eat but enjoy squirrel brains. If you haven’t tried it, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

“That is disgusting, Sherrill,” I can see you turning up your nose. “How can you eat squirrel brains?”

With a folk, actually.

However, I digress. This isn’t the hunting I was talking about. The hunting I was referring to is always in season and is in keeping with all CDC suggestions as far as social distancing. It is also healthy for you since it gets you off your butt and out of the house and away from other people. The hunting I’m talking about is Pokémon hunting.

“OH MY GOODNESS!” I can hear you exclaim. “Don’t tell me that you’re one of … them.”

Okay, before you get all judge-y on me, let me explain myself. I was much like many of you in the beginning when the Pokémon Go fad hit a few years ago. I thought it was ridiculous, watching the folks walk around with their noses glued to their phones looking for invisible creatures stirring about the neighborhoods. I was so turned off by this silliness that I even wrote a column in the paper I was working at, making fun of them. As I recall, I referred to Pokemoners as “clueless people walking around like mindless zombies, oblivious to the world around them”. I even called them a public menace since they would walk around without looking up, sometimes stepping into traffic. Others, who were the lazy version, would drive around looking for Pokémon instead of walking around, as the game was meant to be played.

If you, for some reason, missed the year 2017, Pokémon Go was invented to encourage people to get out and walk and explore their surroundings. Players are rewarded for the miles they walk while they search out and capture Pokémon creatures. There are several other facets to the game but that’s the gist of it.

Anyway, I continued persecuting Pokemoners like Saul before he saw the light on the road to Damascus. I made fun of friends who did it at every turn.

“How do you play that stupid mess?” I asked a friend as she walked around looking at her phone.

“It’s fun and it gives me an excuse to walk,” she responded, not looking up from her hunt. “You ought to try it or maybe get Henry to try it since I hear it is good for children with autism.”

That last part convinced me to download it one day. I figured Henry might like it. However, after a couple of walks downtown it became apparent that he was more into playing in the grass and doing other things rather than looking for Pokémon. But, much like a drug, it only took a couple of times to get me hooked. I didn’t realize it at the time but the game played into some of my favorite things like going for long walks, collecting things and not to mention enslaving fictional creatures inside of Poke balls to do my bidding.

So, I began hunting. But, like most addicts, I did so in private, careful not to reveal my addiction. I mean, come on. What would people say after I had lambasted Pokemoners so publically?

I was able to get away with being a closet Pokemoner for several weeks until I got careless one day as I was sitting across the table from the same friend I’d made fun of. I forgot to turn down the sound on my phone as I started up the game. Its loud theme music told on me.

“Is that Pokémon?” her eyes widened. My lying eyes told the rest. All I could do is drop my head. I was busted.

I came clean that day and then decided to publically come out of the Pokémon closet. In the column next week, I admitted I had resorted to catching Pikachus and apologized for my criticism of Pokemoners.

That’s been three years ago. I’m still in the game despite it not being the shiny new thing to do. I’m one of those who is usually the last one out the door on a fad.

With that being said, in these days of social distancing, it’s given me something to do as I go on those long walks. So, if you see me taking my early afternoon walk around the neighborhood here off Lakeway Place, the chances are that I’m on a hunting trip – one that doesn’t end with the consuming of squirrel brains.

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