Many of us hunters have the little known or understood psychosis called "Pre-Season Hunters Syndrome" or PHS. It comes upon you the day after your hunting seasons end, and continues on till they all start again the next year. The symptoms can be easily recognized by fellow hunters, but are often confused for other maladies by non-hunters. If you can answer 'yes' to three or more of the following questions, you may have PHS and qualify to join Hunters Anonymous:
1. Going to game fairs, gun or outdoor sports shows gives you an endorphin high.
2. You systematically purchase and hide hunting gear from your spouse, 'significant other', or parents.
3. Your 'significant other' often thinks or even says, that you get more excited about hunting than you do about them. (sometimes they are right too!).
4. You grab hunting catalogs when they arrive, sneak off alone, and put post-it flags or dogs ears on the pages that have things you 'need'.
5. You subscribe to two or more hunting or related magazines.
6. You are in denial about the mileage you wrack up on your vehicle for scouting and hunting trips.
7. You are regularly given "The Look" by your spouse, who thinks you might be possessed.
8. Male or female, you get PHS (sort of like PMS) when you haven't been in the woods for a while. "For a while" is anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks, depending upon the time of year.
9. Sporting goods stores or farm stores are dangerous places, from a budget perspective.
10. You grouse about over-spending with your budget, but can always find the money for a new gun, ATV, boat, et cetera.
The symptoms of Pre-Season Hunters Syndrome, or PHS, begin with feeling kind of twitchy and anxious, even grouchy, and never wanting to put all your hunting gear away. PHS is temporarily alleviated when the latest issue of your favorite hunting magazine arrives in the mail, but symptoms quickly return right after you devour every page of the issue... in a flat 20 minutes. PHS is also quelled with activities like post season scouting trips, shooting arrows at the archery range, buying new gear, commiserating with fellow hunting addicts, or cooking wild game on the grill. However, the antsy feeling returns within a few hours or days. The most satisfying and sustained relief from PHS is, of course, extended hunting trips with one's buddies where field dressing, high decibel flatulence and not bathing for a week gives you the full satisfaction of becoming one with nature. The euphoria of being at the hunting shack, engulfed in a nest of one's hunting 'stuff', is a downright primal catharsis. Ahhh, yes!
A sub-category of PHS is 'Camo and Gear Hoarding' which would qualify you to also join Camo Anonymous. A fellow hunter named Kurt first mentioned this term to me, and though I'm not entirely certain as to the extent of his unique obsession, I know the extent of mine borders on the absurd. When you combine the shopping capacity of a woman with unbridled camo addiction, we're talking dangerous. Each year before and after my hunting seasons, I break out all my cammies - bow hunting, duck hunting, deer firearm, etc. I wash them all in scent free detergent, dry them using scent free dryer sheets, and then spread them all over an entire room for a lengthy ritual of inspection, analysis and collating. If a PHS moment strikes, the kid in me itches to gather them all together in a pile and dive into them as one would a mound of Fall leaves... but I hold back lest my family members decide my mental state requires a therapist. Suppressing these urges further exacerbates PHS however.
Camo hoarding also involves the steady accumulation, recycling and upgrading of more and more cammies, boots, packs, gloves, hats, socks, underwear... every type for every occasion and condition. Advanced cases of camo addiction cause you to buy everything camo, from lighters and handkerchiefs, to little cammies for the kids or camo swimwear for the spouse. Gear Hoarding manifests itself when your truck, as if by it's own power, veers into the parking lot of your local sporting goods store and you suddenly find yourself behind the wheels of a shopping cart loaded with hunting 'stuff' you never knew you needed. Once home, your bounty is covertly squirreled into closets, basement, garage or truck box before inquiring minds challenge either the cost or your need for it all. Years later it turns up to be introduced as "What, this old stuff? I've had this forever." Gear Hoarding as an 'art form' involves buying hunting land, generators, ATV's, trail cutters and more. Cloaking these larger purchases is a complicated if impossible task however.
The bad news is, there is no cure for PHS, Camo Hoarding or Gear Hoarding. The good news is, we have Hunters Anonymous and Camo Anonymous through which to vent our foibles. Curiously, HA and CA have yet to define a 12 step recovery program, probably because none of the members wants to be cured. We're all possessed and we like it!