I’m not too serious about making New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it’s due to a checkered history of keeping past resolutions. But I admit there is logic in reflecting on the last year and thinking about the year to come. It’s ingrained not only in our personal lives, but in our work culture, too. Many businesses at this time of year ask their employees to evaluate how they have performed over the year that is ending, and set goals for the coming year. This process may even translate into whether or not a person gets a “bump” in pay, so there are tangible reasons—not just our self-esteem—for wanting to improve.
Without making a mission or crusade of it, I do think about how I might approach the coming year more positively. After all, I’m not that far from the biblical lifespan of three-score-and-ten, which might contribute to someone reflecting on how they will spend the remaining time they may be blessed with.
The things we resolve to do, or to change, in the year ahead may range from the totally selfless to the purely selfish, though one kind may have some of the flavor of the other. I could resolve to contribute some of my fishing time to a charity that provides a fishing opportunity for seniors, or youth or the disabled. That seems selfless, but—based on the limited charitable work I’ve done, like serving food in a local soup kitchen—I know I would get an emotional payoff from it. Doing good does you good.
Just this sort of resolution was found in a recent letter-to-the-editor in a publication I read regularly, called Outdoor News. It was penned by a reader who has been hearing and reading a lot of criticism of some special programs that provide outdoor recreation opportunities for Minnesota youth. Specifically, many have been criticizing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for its youth waterfowl hunting weekend, and multi-day youth deer hunt.
Both programs provide a short time slot before the start of the regular waterfowl and deer hunting seasons when only young people can hunt, but must do so with a non-hunting adult. The idea is to provide an opportunity to hunt in a less competitive environment, hopefully to be coached and mentored in a dedicated manner that is less likely to happen when the state’s full complement of hunters are in their duck blinds and deer stands. Many have been complaining that by allowing youth to essentially have “first-crack” at ducks and deer, the quality of others’ hunting is diminished.
The letter’s author recalled how he was 35 years old before he ever hunted, having had no family members, relatives, or acquaintances who hunted to introduce him. He learned the handling of weapons in the U.S. military, but somehow a seed of hunting interest sprouted, grew, and matured into his becoming an avid hunter.
Not just an active hunter, but one who—as he put it—“was going to see that as many young people as possible would not have to go through what I did.” This resolve led to his participating in Minnesota DNR-sponsored special hunts and fishing events for those without experience or skills. Duck, goose, pheasant, turkey and deer hunting, trout fishing and Great Lakes salmon fishing were among the experiences he shared with “rookies” of various ages.
He rightly pointed out, that—with the passing years and attrition of those aging out of hunting—a smaller and smaller percentage of the population calls themselves hunters. The consequence of that, he also pointed out, is declining influence on policies that are vital to those who hunt and fish. The letter’s author challenged us to seek the satisfactions of the sport not just in the rewards of more birds bagged, or big bucks in our crosshairs, but in seeing the joy and pride of others who we’ve helped to initiate.
Like this mentor, I too, grew up in a family that did not hunt. But I was fortunate to have friends who did, and a willingness on their part—and in some cases their parents—to include me. In high school there was Tom, whose dad included me in their deer camp, and even furnished me with a deer rifle. Kevin, whose dad set us up with a jon boat and decoys to hunt ducks. Randy, whose dad included me with his brothers on grouse hunting expeditions. And Gary, who helped me assemble the right kind of tackle to enter the world of stream trout fishing.
I grew up to be an avid hunter and angler. But, aside from my involvement in organizations like the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, the Ruffed Grouse Society and Trout Unlimited, I’ve done too little to directly encourage the entry of anyone else into these pursuits I’ve come to love. Maybe it’s time—given the great number of years I have enjoyed these sports, and the smaller number that the odds tell me lie ahead—to look for opportunities to mentor or introduce someone who might otherwise remain on the outside looking in.
Maybe it’s time I resolve to pay it forward.