PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 5, 2012

Chester Moore column: Outdoors community needs education change

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Hook and bullet.

    That is a term members of the mainstream media use to describe the outdoors community, particularly those of us involved in its communication such as yours truly.

    I have always hated that term.

    With a passion.

    While hooks and bullets are certainly a very important part of this page for example, there is much more to the story.

    The wild creatures that drive us to the field are the glue, which holds the outdoors community together. After all, there could be no deer season without deer or bass tournaments without…well…bass.

    While pigeonholing from so-called proper media types is understandable, the “hook and bullet community” has dug that hole even deeper. Much deeper.

    Not every kid is going to become a full on, camo wearing, gun-loving hunter nor a passionate wadefishing fanatic. And we should not expect them to.

    I realize that probably caused a few gasps but it is the truth.

    There have always been hunters and there have always been gatherers and both serve equally important roles.

    Due to a constant media barrage of animal rights drivel, hunters in particular have a “if you’re not one of us you’re against us” attitude. The result is a large number of young hunters and to a lesser extent anglers who have very little knowledge of the habitat they hunt, game they pursue and no interest in anything that cannot be killed.

    They would not know a ringtail from a badger nor a sand eel from a moray.

    The outdoors experience for many has been turned into a means by which to enhance one’s status on social media by posing with kills and catches alone. And while we should celebrate outdoors triumphs  (I certainly do) appreciating all wild things is important.

    Yes, even stuff we cannot kill.

    Some kids are just not going to hunt or fish but it does not they cannot go to the family deer lease or enjoy time on the water. However framing the outdoors experience in a macho, frat-house type of way we can drive away children not bent in that direction. In fact, we have done this to entire generations.

    Girls are particularly prone to dislike anything even loosely associated with

“redneck” but like all of us a natural love for the outdoors at some level.

    I taught two outdoors classes at my church last year (now a WebTV series at Godsoutdoors.com.) and was shocked that around 75 percent of the participants were girls. These were 1-5th graders and not only were they the majority attendees but by a long shot the most enthusiastic.

    After my spring session, I started asking why and then realized it was how the classes were promoted and taught. It wasn’t billed as “come get your tough on” in the outdoors class. It was simply about enjoyment.

    The next generation of conservationists needs to be the most passionate and dedicated ever due to the growing amount of problems facing our resources. But where are they going to come from?

    When reverence is considered weakness and we are driven by bag limits instead of sum total outdoors experience who will truly care enough about habitat to stand when trouble comes? The few have always risen to benefit the many but the few are getting fewer.

    A friend of mine and I have talked at length about who will take up the mantle of waterfowl conservation. W agree that all it will take to lose about half of the waterfowl hunters under age 35 is a severe drought on the nesting grounds and a three-bird limit.

    Perspective is extremely important and that demographic has nothing to draw from but big fall flights and liberal limits.

    In the end that will separate the chaff from the wheat but it will also greatly decrease the amount of duck stamps sold, numbers of hunters groups like Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl can use when lobbying for pro sportsman/conservation issues and a host of other problems.

    As a community, we need to reevaluate what we are teaching young people and take time to enjoy what is out there.

    Your daughter that tags along to deer camp may never become an adult hunter but if she gets a proper outdoors education and up close and personal wildlife encounters at a formative age she may become a biologist that makes a real difference in wildlife research.

    Your son that seems a little awkward chunking a topwater on the bay may not become an every weekend fisherman like Daddy but he may hold public office one day and hold the very key that keeps your fishing and hunting rights preserved.

    Think about it and more importantly do something about it.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)