The outdoors is a vast resource that is available to everyone at virtually no cost other than perhaps a little bit of respect!Many people take advantage of public lands for hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, birdwatching, kayaking and the list goes on. It is a place for us to go to clear our minds, relax and just enjoy being alive. There is even research providing evidence that spending time in natural environments positively affects us and our well-being. We are found to be happier, calmer and more focused when we spend time outdoors.
As avid outdoorsmen, I believe it is important for us to be good stewards of the outdoors. This not only means protecting wild places and being an advocate for conservation, but to engage our youth and involve them in these practices as well.
It is not enough to just post a picture on social media with a generic caption stating, “I encourage people to get outdoors.” Instead, we must be proactive with our actions. This means volunteering our time with different organization and events. I’ve talked with many people around the country about their outdoor programs and seem to hear the same story: “We are getting older and no new blood is stepping up to fill our soon-to-be vacant spots.”
I realize that it usually isn’t a paying gig and it takes a great deal of effort to do it right, but it is something that we as outdoorsman must do to ensure continued involvement for generations to come.
Here are facts that I think you should know:
- Visitors of National Forests contribute $10.3 million to the US economy
- National forests sustain 140k jobs in the United States
- Only 16% of the United States population hunts - hunters account for 59% of conservation funding
- The number of hunters is decreasing and is expected to drastically decrease over the next decade
- National Parks are vulnerable and a hot topic in the current political climate
- There is a 600,000 square mile island of floating trash between California and Hawaii – to put that into perspective that’s more than double the size of the state of Texas!
The last bullet points is super scary and it is no trouble at all to find plenty of other information indicating the doom and gloom impact we are having on this beautiful planet.
The good news is that this ill-fated future of the outdoors is not irrevocable – there is still time to help improve our planet and kids are a major part of the solution. Kids are some of the most effective activists and if we start teaching them young, then respect for the outdoors can become a rewarding and positive part of their lives.
I encourage anyone and everyone to get out and give back to the outdoor community in some way. Don’t contemplate it and just do it! Go out and volunteer at a youth field day, take a kid hunting (don’t just takethem hunting but teach them as well!), volunteer to take part in clean-up efforts for natural areas to rid them of any trash and debris, etc. By the way, that last part about disposing of our garbage responsibly…it’s important to teach kids (and let’s be honest, most adults too) that there actually ARE consequences for littering. Imagine how many people contributed to the now floating island of garbage in the Pacific, by tossing a piece of garbage out their car window thinking it was no big deal.
Recently, I volunteered at a local youth field day here in Western New York. I was blown away by how appreciative and ready to learn the kids were which goes to show that it’s never a waste of time to offer up knowledge any time and place you can. It amazed and humbled me how many of the kids who participated took the time to thank the instructors and volunteers after each class. That is worth the time volunteered alone.
Here are just a few pictures from our successful Wyoming County Youth Field Day. At this event, kids not only got to learn about different elements of the outdoors but also got first-hand experience with them. We had trap shooting, archery, fishing, turkey calling, blood trailing, a trapping station, and even a dog demonstration given by our local DEC officers!
Do you attend or volunteer at any outdoor events? I’d love to hear any of the positive and memorable teaching moments you’ve all been a part of! So let me know by commenting below and be sure to follow Winchester’s social media channels for more hunting and shooting tips and updates on Winchester supported events and promotions on Facebook, You Tube, Instagram and Twitter.