To Mom & Dad: Thanks for giving me a life outdoors
On December 22, 1982 – my 9th birthday – my parents bucked a trend that would ultimately shape who I’d become as an individual. The trend they bucked? My dad gave up his good paying city job outside of Detroit to move our family into the rural woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I became a “Yooper.” From that point forward, my life included ruffed grouse, a Brittany named “Tinker,” musky fishing, canoeing, and camping. Growing up in the country was the greatest birthday gift I would ever receive.
Unfortunately, the opposite decision – to move to the city – is the norm for most families in today’s society. In my opinion, this is the singular catalyst that has set a domino of other trends in motion; all leading to one disturbing truth that’s got me and everyone else passionate about hunting and fishing shaking in our Irish Setters – kids today don’t spend time in the outdoors like we used to when we were youngsters.
Now, don’t take this as a condemnation of city life. I fully recognize the cultural, economic, and societal advantages associated with living in an urban area. However, the city life has made getting outdoors complicated. My generation’s dangerous Red Ryder BB gun is no match for the dangers lurking in America’s alley today. Our children’s safety and the fear associated with their protection have made organized, sanctioned activities, team sports, dance lessons, and video games a safe alternative to 24-hour surveillance. Again, don’t take this as a condemnation of baseball, hockey, football, or dance. I cherish my own Little League memories.
The point is today’s youngsters don’t get home from school, grab a fishing pole and head to the river like I did just two decades ago. “Big deal,” you may retort. You may even point a finger and call me a “latch key kid;” yes that dreaded stereotype from the ’80s. Well, it’s those “latch key” trips to the river or through the grouse woods where I learned about nature, the land, myself, and life. I found snapping turtles laying eggs, uncovered salamanders, caught smallmouth bass on orange jointed Rapalas, and bagged flushing ruffed grouse with my Ithaca Model 37. It was a utopian environment for any kid to grow up within. A utopia that’s difficult to find out the door of most youngsters’ homes today.
I don’t have the answer to reversing this trend and I’m not sure that anyone does. But, I do believe the trend does need to be reversed. I’ll leave you with one final thought – “If those of us who care about wildlife and our hunting traditions don’t take the initiative to pass down our passion for the outdoors, then who will?”
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