Youth...the future of our Outdoor Heritage
At the ripe old age of eight, I can vividly remember my mother yelling out the front door to come in the house and wash my hands for dinner. After school, road hockey being played by six, ten or twelve of us out on the street was the norm in our neighbourhood. In those days outdoor sports is what kept us kids occupied and active. If it wasn’t the season for playing hockey, we were over at the school yard throwing a football around or playing scrub baseball.
There were no cell phones, texting, iPhones, Tweeting, iPods, email, Facebook, Messenger, Skype, or any of the other options available to kids today. There were no fifty-inch High Definition flat-screen TV’s with eight hundred channels and “Surround Sound”. We had one rotary dial phone in the house and one television with a choice of six channels. We had no MTV or Much Music depicting videos with sexual content and crime. There were no teenage reality shows attempting to influence and warp our young minds. Back then we actually had to get off the couch and manually change channels on our huge twenty-one inch televisions… can you imagine?
As a kid, I was one of the fortunate ones brought up in a home where my dad and grandfathers hunted and fished. These activities encompassed most of my free time when I wasn’t in school, and I am so grateful today I was granted the opportunity at a young age to experience hunting and angling. It set the stage for what resulted in being my life-long passion.
Today my outdoor heritage is one of the most important parts of my life, not only as a participant, but as an Outdoor Writer as well. However, I have watched a lot of changes over the last four decades, in particular the amount of youth, or lack of, in the hunting and angling fraternity.
It seems modern technology has overtaken young people’s lives in more ways than one.
I can say this with confidence after watching my own and many of my friends’ children become captured by a revolution of electronics and communication gizmos.
Has the computer age robbed our youth of valuable experiences?
I see kids ten-years-old with cell phones and fifteen and sixteen-year-olds with Blackberry’s and iPhones with complete data packages and full internet access. They ride the school buses with eyes glued to their electronics. Is this necessary at that age? I know some young people who would rather have an arm amputated than lose their cell phone, texting and emailing capabilities.
A Balanced Lifestyle
Although we are ALL caught up in today’s technology in some way or other, I believe some level of responsibility should be placed on parents to ensure their children have opportunities to experience the wilds whether it’s a day in the field – hunting, angling, camping, hiking, or another form of outdoor recreation. I don’t believe there is a youngster anywhere who would not enjoy a day out on the water catching a few walleye or smallmouth bass. Or maybe walking some trails hunting small game (rabbits or grouse) with a .22 or a .410 shotgun.
Over the years I have had the privilege of taking several young people out to do just this. The majority of them embraced it and to this day are still avid hunters and anglers. The key word is “opportunity”. If more kids put down their cell phones, logged off Facebook and ventured into the bush or onto an inland lake, they may see a whole different world out there; one which they never knew existed and one which they may like and ultimately turn to.
One such fellow who was granted an opportunity to hunt and fish at a young age was Paul Olsen. Paul is the son of a good friend of mine Terry Olsen who in his own right is a well known seasoned outdoorsman, pilot, hunter, angler and conservationist. Terry is the President of Coastal Steel, and also the President of our local chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Terry has also been involved with Ducks Unlimited for 28 years and now sits in the District Chair’s position. His passion for the outdoors is second to none and his hours volunteering and his dedication for each organization all speak for themselves. His son, Paul, has obviously inherited Terry’s outdoors gene and will continue to carry the torch.
I had the opportunity to speak with Paul and he said this “My dad always made it his mission to show me the outdoors from a very young age. I spent countless hours in the bottom of a boat as a toddler and even looked for moose up north with Dad when I could barely walk. My parents always tell the story of when they had me up at camp in a car seat and they shot a big bull moose! I guess I have gotten into the outdoors so much because my dad and uncle always took the time to take me with them and show me the way.”
You don’t have to be a hunter or angler to give someone else an opportunity to try it. We all know somebody who is an outdoorsman, whether it’s a relative or a family friend with whom your son or daughter can tag along. There are several avenues to take for children to experience the outdoors we are famous for in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.
Ducks Unlimited has a “Greenwing Program” for kids seventeen years of age and younger, which has over 60,000 members in Canada. I know the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has a program that is geared toward young people as well called “Get Outdoors, Youth for Conservation”. Organizations such as our local archery club (Lakehead Archers) welcome any young people to their facility on Vibert Road and give them a hand at shooting a bow.
With written permission from a parent or legal guardian, applicants aged 12-15 years may enroll in the Hunter Apprenticeship Safety Program and hunt with a licensed Mentor. The young person must have passed the Ontario Hunter Education Course Exam and observe all other requirements of this program.
The future of our hunting and angling heritage is becoming more reliant on our youth of today and with more pressure being put on us by the well-funded anti’s, it is imperative that our young people become more educated and more involved in our hunting and angling activities. This is imperative in order to sustain a viable resource that has been in place for eons.