By Josh Boyd
As yet another year passes by, as a windswept feather in the afternoon breeze, we begin to reflect on the previous twelve months, and ponder what the upcoming year holds for us. With this comes a relative volley of New Year’s resolutions.
Some seek to lose weight that has burdened their minds and bodies for some time. Others long for prosperous days in their professional life, marked by a promotion in job title or a significant pay increase.
For avid outdoorsmen and women, our New Year’s resolutions can, at times, differ to an extent from those of others. Many hunters set out to finally take the western elk hunt, of which they have always dreamed, or to tag a monster buck. Fishermen dream of landing that always elusive ten-pound bass, or posting a win in their local fishing classic.
However, since the onset of the year to come seems to serve as a historical period of self-reflection for many, it never hurts to delve a little deeper into what makes us who we are as sportsmen. Although these goals all hold their own level of merit, are we missing the bigger picture?
Sure taking the buck of a lifetime or catching a fish that will make your buddies jealous is undoubtedly a proud moment. But let us not forget, our love for hunting, fishing, and the shooting sports runs far deeper than a hero shot with our trophy of the day. What we do is a passion that burns deeply among us all and should be cherished as such.
As stewards of our outdoor heritage, we see the bigger picture and understand the valuable role that our actions play in the year to come. With this level of understanding, we are better able to base our goals for the upcoming months on the things that truly matter.
Become A Mentor
If you were taken afield at a young age by a kind soul that showed an interest in sharing their passion for the outdoors with you, it is likely that you understand just how significant this was. Unfortunately, there are many of today’s youth that will go without these same experiences.
Some children simply come from homes where hunting and fishing is not a prevalent activity. Others lack the opportunity to be taken afield due to their parents’ need to work long hours in order to keep the lights on and food on the table.
No matter the reason, the truth is that the number of hunters and fishermen has been on a steady decline for a number of years now, and we must all play an active role in reversing this trend. Doing so begins with getting our youth afield.
By taking a child hunting or fishing, you are not only making a difference in their lives but also providing them with the means to pass such a pastime to their future children moving forward. From your time spent as a mentor, a ripple effect across several generations can be imparted.
Help The Less Fortunate
Is your deep freeze full, but you still have a tag left in your pocket? If so, then you have a unique opportunity to help the less fortunate in your community. By filling an unused tag, you can provide fresh meat for a family in need that might have otherwise been left to wonder where their next meal would come from.
Everyone experiences hard times at some point, and when this occurs, it is not always easy to provide yourself and your family with meat for nourishment. However, just one deer can be the difference between a warm meal and going to bed hungry for those facing these unfavorable circumstances.
Often times, a family in one’s own community can benefit from such generosity, and in these cases, a whole deer can be donated as needed. However, many states now feature Hunters For The Hungry programs, where an entire deer can be donated for processing and distributed to shelters and food pantries.
Join A Conservation Organization
As most outdoorsmen and women are well aware, our hunting and fishing heritage is under attack on a daily basis by those that would like nothing more than to see us never be allowed to go afield again. For this reason, we must stand united in our efforts to protect all that we hold dear.
This is what makes conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Whitetails Unlimited, QDMA, NWTF, and RMEF, among numerous others, so effective against threats to the pursuits that we are so passionate about. Conservation organizations work to educate the community regarding the vast role that hunting plays within conservation practices and to reform any anti-hunting/fishing legislation.
By becoming a member of, or donating your time to one of these organizations, you are taking an active role in the protection of our heritage as the original conservationists.
Make Safety Paramount
When striving to set any goal for the year ahead, few considerations are of as much importance as putting safety first. The reality is, accidents can and do happen yearly, both in the woods and on the water. For this reason, we must remain diligent in our efforts to be as safe in our endeavors as possible.
It only takes moments for the unthinkable to happen. This is why a momentary lapse in judgment can cost you everything. As cumbersome as wearing a safety harness while in the stand or a life vest while on the water might seem, you must always remember that loved ones at home await your return, and the occurrence of a preventable accident will leave them devastated.
Along the same lines, always encourage safety measures among your fellow hunters or fishermen. Remember, being too “cool” for the use of safety gear can get you killed. Foster an environment that puts safety front and center.
As we transition from one year to the next, it is always important to take stock of how we can better ourselves as outdoorsmen and women in every sense of the word. Although success when afield is certainly of worth, our true achievements come from the legacy that we leave behind. When keeping this in mind, we will be much richer for the experience.