Willow Hackett, a true wild child, shows off a nice fall brookie.
I recently discovered some sage advice scribbled on the log wall of a local lean-to. Written in a neat, charcoal script, it read, “Welcome to the Adirondacks: May neither drought nor rain nor blizzard disturb the joy juice in your gizzard! And may you camp where the winds won’t hit ya, and the bears won’t gitcha.”
The muzzleloader season for whitetails will be coming to an end this week, and the regular big game funting season will begin this Saturday, Oct. 26.
Following the warm weather we’ve experienced to date, most hunters would welcome a bit of tracking snow about now.
There’s been no need for longjohns or woolies as it’s still mighty brown in the woods, where the deer blend right in.
By the look of things, there may be some interesting times ahead for the next generation of hunting enthusiasts.
Recently, I was reviewing comments posted on a popular hunting website, and I was disappointed to see the NYSDEC was again getting bashed for the decision to host another youth deer weekend across the state.
The annual youth hunting weekend was scheduled for the long Columbus Day Holiday last week. By all reports, it was a major success.
According to the Youth Hunt regulations, 14- to 15-year-old junior hunters who are accompanied by a licensed, adult mentor are permitted to harvest one deer with a firearm, with or without antlers.
It’s a real shame that some sportsmen again choose to oppose the opportunity for a Youth Hunt. Their complaints punctuate the greed of certain hunters who simply fail to understand the importance of mentoring the next generation.
Their efforts in opposition were both selfish and greedy, and their commentary provided a sad note to an otherwise positive effort that is intended to help grow the sport and introduce youth to the outdoors.
In this day and age, hunters simply can’t afford to be so parochial. There is too much territory available to the public for anyone to be so territorial. Whitetail deer are abundant all across the state, especially in the Southern Tier.
There’s no need for the greed.
Last year, when the DEC first introduced the special Youth Deer Hunt weekend, it was considered a great marketing effort. In a business sense, DEC was building a new base of customers, and in the process, the department was protecting our natural resources in the best possible way.
Although statistics indicate it may be a bit late to begin initiating 14- or 15-year-olds to a new sport, it is better late then never. But it isn’t just a sport; it’s a life skill.
Numerous studies have revealed the ideal time to introduce youth to such lifelong recreational pursuits as skiing, fishing or hunting is somewhere between 4th and 5th grade, or ages 10 to 12.
Life skills educators recognize the propensity for pursuing life skills development begins to drop off significantly during their teenage years, when kids usually have other pursuits in mind. Been there, done that.
In many western states, including Colorado and Montana, all of the local ski resorts provide free skiing for every 4th grader in the state. The purpose is to get the kids hooked on skiing early. Research indicates that if they don’t learn to ski by the 4th grade, chances are they’ll never become lifelong skiers. Research indicates the same strategy is even more vital when it comes to growing anglers, hunters, paddlers, bikers, hikers, etc., where mentorship is often the key.
Unlike team sports, which require officials, a playing field and a large number of participants, life skills are activities that can be pursued individually or with friends, in the local area, at little cost, for life. No time clocks, no refs, no uniforms and no whistles; just good clean fun.
The lack of a formal introduction, and/or an accomplished mentor to provide one, is likely one of the main reasons for the declining interest in many outdoor pursuits.
It is usually much easier, and often more comfortable for kids to just play inside with video games or surf the web.
This is the indoor generation, tethered by an electric cord to run their electronic devices.
It takes quite a bit more effort to get them to go outside to hunt, ski, fish, paddle, hike or bike. It also helps if they have a mentor to help with these activities, initially.
Fortunately, the DEC has come to realize the need to increase the pool of the next generation of outdoor travelers, or they may soon be out of business.
Any hunter who would oppose such efforts has likely spent too much time swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.
It is a simple thread to follow. If our youth do not know how to effectively utilize their local natural resources, there will be no connection. Without a positive connection, there will be no perceived value, and thus no need for protection.
A resource, whether it’s natural or man-made, is only of value to those who use it, or admire it, or see a need to preserve it. Certainly there is an ecological, and an aesthetic value to the land, but there is also a utilitarian value.
If the trout were not valued, there would be no need to stock them. The local lakes and ponds could easily revert to fisheries with bass, sunnies, perch or similar species.
If trails were not cut, where would people go to hike or ski?
And what would become of the tourist sportsmen and women who regularly travel north to fish, swim or ski. And what of the hotels that lodge them, or the restaurants where they chose to dine?
And what would the Adirondacks look like without whitetail deer, a speckled trout or the lone paddler enjoying an even lonelier pond?
A lot like suburbia I reckon, except with more pines, less noise, plenty of blackflies, and far fewer neighbors!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.