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I heard a very interesting statistic while attending the ATA Show (Archery Trade Association) in Indiana, Indianapolis this past January and must admit that I am very disturbed by it. I heard in a conference that the average age of a bowhunter is now 46.5 years old.
My husband Jim and I have worked for the past ten years to bring more women and children into archery, bowhunting, shooting sports, and the outdoors. We have dedicated our lives toward educating others about the outdoors. Jim and I both feel that shooting sports and the outdoors has a place for everyone and we have to get more people to become outdoor and shooting enthusiast. In 2003, we taught over 8000 people in 105 of our Archery Programs and Outdoor Classroom events. Our daughter is a huge part of these programs, she is fourteen years old and has been helping us in our school and camp programs for years. She is the youngest instructor the North Carolina Wildlife Commission has even recognized in their Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. She has been shooting a bow since she was four and has been going on hunting trips with us for the same amount of years. She loves helping others catch the outdoor bug, so to speak, and is a great mentor to young people.
Why am I telling you this? Is it for a pat on the back and a "Way to Go"? No, it’s a challenge to each and every one of you that reads this article. We live in a society that is computerized and commercialized, our children are products of the computer generation. They would much rather sit and play video games or chat with their friends on the computer than be active outside. While doing our programs in schools and camps, we always ask what their hobbies are their answers are "Playing X-Box," "Playing games on my computer," and "Chatting in my chat room with all my friends." I don’t know about you, but to us it’s like pouring salt on an open wound to hear them say those words.
What happened to the kids that couldn’t wait to get home and go fishing or on an evening hunt? What happened to kids that wanted to spend time in the woods squirrel or rabbit hunting? What happened to the kids that thought a great day was spent with their best bird dog and their Grandpa hunting quail or grouse? What happened to the kids that care about the environment and want to see forest and wet lands protected? It seems we are raising a generation of children that are all more interested in going to the mall to hang out or getting that new video game.
I want to challenge you to help kids get interested in the outdoors and shooting sports or fishing than in a computer screen or an X-Box. You don’t have to teach 8000 people in a year. We started out just by teaching a few kids at a time. If you have kids do you spend time with them in the woods or are you to busy? Do you go to the woods alone and tell your kids that this is your time to be alone? It’s not easy getting others involved, you will meet plenty of resistance. Jim and I have people tell us all the time that we waste our time teaching kids and women. True, we don’t have time to hunt as much as we want or to shoot tournaments like we use to, but we are NOT WASTING OUR TIME.
I do not ever remember my Dad telling me that I was wasting his time when I ask him to take me fishing or early season scouting. I don’t ever remember hearing him tell Mom that he sure wished he had done something else besides take my brother and me to the woods. I am sure that my Dad had a lot better things to do than teaching us gun safety and how to shoot. Neither do I remember my Dad telling me I was too young to go or that I couldn’t go because I was a girl. As a matter of fact, he seemed to really have a great time and enjoy his time with us in the woods and on the trout stream. He seemed to find joy in watching our eyes light up when he pointed out tracks and ask us what they were and we could identify them. Still to this day, I have never heard him say that he wasted his time or that his hunt was ruined because he had to drag two kids to the woods that made more noise than a D-9 Cat.
We have to help kids get involved in the outdoors; it’s just that simple. We all love to hunt and be in the woods, but why do we love it so much? Because one day a very long time ago someone let us tag along with them, they spent the time to teach us the importance of the outdoors and wildlife. They knew that no matter where our lives would take us when we grew up we would carry the love of the outdoors with us. Every day we spent in the woods when we were young would just deepen its roots in our hearts and minds. We have never forgot the way they woods smelled or the way the sun felt on our face as it crept from behind the mountain.
I am sure you can tell me about the first time you harvested a deer, turkey, squirrel, or bird. You can tell me in vivid detail everything that happened that day and tell me in a way that makes me feel that I am right there with you every step of the way. So why are we depriving a young person of this same feeling by not spending a little of our time and giving them the chance to experience the same thing? Why?
Is it because we are afraid we might not know the answers to all their questions? Do you think that you will be ridiculed by your friends or co-workers for teaching kids to hunt or fish? Are we a society that is willing to let others take our hunting and fishing rights away? Not to mention every piece of prime hunting property is being bulldozed under for the new Mall or Shopping Center? Do you think that you cannot make a difference, that you are only one person?
We felt the same way, but we have made a difference in the lives of a few. We teach a lot of children, not all are ready to go out and hunt, fish or give up the mall but there will always be a few that fall in love with it. That’s why we do it!
I heard this quote a while back and it really struck me deep:
You only conserve what you love
You only love what you know
And you only know what you are taught
We are all teachers and have the responsibility to teach others what we have learned in our journeys. This is the way knowledge of all things is passed down from generation to generation. What do we want to leave our kids with? A great sense of pushing buttons while growing bigger backsides or of helping others and preserving what we have been blessed with. There is a great big world out there and our kids have the right to know the same feeling we get every time we step in the woods. My challenge is simple, help one person get involved in the outdoors on any level and watch them share what you taught them with someone else. You will find that it’s time well spent and before you know it you will be the one with the Challenge.
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