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A New Year’s Resolution: Invest in an Outdoorsman

It’s a few weeks into the New Year. How’s that resolution looking? Maybe a little worse for the wear?

A lot of resolutions are for ourselves, but those can be the hardest to keep. After a few weeks, it’s shockingly easy to think that it wouldn’t be that bad if we missed just one day. Before you know it, we’re back to our old ways.

Could I suggest a late addition? It’s a resolution with built-in motivation. It will benefit a young person for the rest of their life as well as Tennessee’s wildlife and natural places.

Conservationists and wildlife agencies have long been concerned about the declining numbers of active outdoorsmen and women, as well as the conservation funding declines resulting from fewer license sales.

As a community, we have developed hundreds—perhaps thousands—of programs nationwide to get kids out and recruit them into the outdoors lifestyle. This effort has grown so fervent that it is a nationally recognized movement focused on recruitment, retention, and reactivation. So concerned is the sporting community that it is supporting significant revisions to the conservation funding model, the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act, to allow monies to be reapportioned to these engagement activities.

The outdoors community has spent considerable sums studying and defining causes leading to the decline in the outdoors lifestyle. Answers range from lack of places to hunt and fish to competition for entertainment dollars and energy, and so on.

Meanwhile, the outdoor industry continues to set records for expenditures, economic impacts, and activity all while broadcasting an artificial outdoor experience influenced by television shows featuring questionable hunting practices.

As a result, sportsmen-conservationists now argue the economic impacts of hunting and fishing to justify conservation rather than make the case for “why” conservation is critically important to our human existence. Make no mistake, the economic impacts are important, but are they the most important aspect of our outdoors experience?

The conservationists among us embrace the efforts to stem the tide of dwindling brothers and sisters in our movement. Yet we miss a very simple and basic point.

The best way to ensure there will be future hunters and fishermen is to take a child outdoors. It’s a simple solution. It’s proven to work. But, we aren’t doing it enough.

Every hunter or angler among us knows a child who yearns to learn more about hunting, fishing, shooting, and camping but needs the opportunity. Perhaps this child is found by reaching out to the single parent who might not have the time needed to go hunting any more. Or perhaps there’s a child who’s expressed interest in fishing but his or her parents aren’t anglers themselves. Yes, we may have our own kids and tell ourselves the demands of our family are more pressing. But I bet each of us, if we tried, could reach a youngster, share our knowledge of the great outdoors, and invite them with us as we go—or as we take our own children—outdoors, and in turn have a positive impact.

So as we begin the new year, let’s make a simple resolution to take at least one child out and teach them about our woods and waters. It may cost you a weekend or two, but it is a lifetime investment.

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