TAKE A KID HUNTING
By Bob Confer
Statistics show that the outdoors sports arenít recruiting youth like they used to. For every 100 hunters lost to old age and disinterest in the hobby only 69 hunters take their place. Itís a far cry from the good old days when hunting was a family affair passed on from generation to generation and we were 100 for 100.
What accounts for this decline? For starters, itís the ongoing exodus from tradition. America was long a nation of hunters. It was a shared experience, a way for fathers and sons to bond, commune with nature and put food on the table. Nowadays that connection seems almost quaint, even outdated.
Other catalysts for the decline are the unhealthy lifestyle choices of modern youth. These sedentary souls seem to prefer locking themselves indoors, hunting one another in the virtual world rather than hunting a beast in the real world. They also prefer processed foods to the bounty that nature has afforded us.
Itís up to adult hunters to change all that. We need to get these kids off their duffs and into the woods.
Harkening back to tradition, getting kids indoctrinated to hunting is a great way to build a rapport with them. Rarely do todayís parents get to spend true quality time with their children. Spend a weekend in the woods, though, and you have their attention and they yours. Many of my best times as a boy were spent camping and hunting in Allegany County with my folks. At an age when a lot of kids looked at their parents as foils, I looked at mine as my best friends. I still do, thanks to the healthy relationships fostered back then - and today Ė by putting game in the freezer.
Thereís no better time to start than now: The spring turkey hunt is upon us in New York State. That season allows you to expose youth to the wiliest and most delicious of wild game. The large bird is exciting to hunt. The slightest movement is visible to turkeys, even 70 yards away, and can send the bird flying. That drama - the fear that a twitch can ruin a hunt - will send anyoneís heart racing. To bring him in, you need to be an expert caller, and thereís nothing more enjoyable in all of hunting then calling in an aggressive gobbler from hundreds of yards away. Any youngster or teen who gets to experience your hunt as an observer, maybe even as a cameraman, will find it exhilarating and will undoubtedly want to get his or her license as soon as possible (remember, unlicensed youth cannot carry a weapon or call your turkeys).
Itís the best time to be in the woods, too. May is the most beautiful month in the Empire State as the forests and fields awaken from their winter slumber and, over the course of a few weeks, the trees go from barren to lush green, with the forest floor seeing a wide variety of wildflowers and the canopy being overcome with wildlife as migrating and resident birds of all sorts sing their songs, at times making the woods almost deafening. The spring hunt ends at noon daily, so that gives you the afternoon to do any number of outdoor activities like hiking, exploring or trout fishing. Itís rare that any child - let alone any adult - is left unimpressed by the May wilds, the best that Mother Nature has to offer.
So, if youíre looking for a way to get your kids more physically active, more in tune with the natural world, and interested in sharing time with you, take them hunting this spring, just as your dad may have with you or your grandfather might have with him. Itís time well spent.
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at email@example.com.
This column originally ran in the 02 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers
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