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This past Sunday I was reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune when I came across an article on the outdoors page that gave me some cause for alarm. The article was written by Tony Kennedy and titled “Missing in Action,” which focused on the decline of the numbers of young hunters and anglers.

Over the past few years I have mentioned from time to time about the effect electronics are having on, not only our youth, but society as a whole. For as long as I can remember people have gathered to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, confirmations or just to get together for some socializing. Most of these are still celebrated but way back when, folks would actually have company come calling on a Saturday or Sunday. This is what folks did when I was growing up, my folks would either be the host or the company on most Sunday afternoons and there would be lunch and refreshments involved; more important than that; folks actually spoke to each other!

In today’s world if you told someone that you were having company I wonder how many folks would scratch their head and wonder what the heck you were talking about. These days the time that folks used to spend catching up on the latest happenings is now spent watching the visitor look at his or her phone or tablet. Let’s face it, in today’s world folks prefer texting to sitting down for a face to face conversation. I recall reading a post on Facebook a while back that said “I’m having a few folks over Saturday night to sit around and look at our phones”, I know that this was an attempt at sarcasm which struck me funny at the time, but in all reality it was also very realistic.

Getting back to the article that I read; the writer told about how most states are concerned over the lack of youth participation in the outdoors. Minnesota is not in as bad a shape as some of the other states but the overall numbers of people purchasing hunting and fishing licenses is still on the decline. The scary part of this is that fewer and fewer of our youth are taking up hunting and fishing and they are the future of our outdoors heritage. Our youth are growing up with electronics that have all the bells and whistles that accompany them and let’s face it, it takes less effort to spend time in a virtual world than it does in the real one.

In the days when I was growing up we had to make our own fun; a TV that could get only 3 stations was about the extent of our technology. In my early days we only had radio to entertain and with radio you had to use your imagination. Instead of programmed entertainment we would marvel over the first robin sighting or of seeing a baby bird as it poked it’s head up from that nest in the backyard tree. We were fascinated as we watched tadpoles as they evolved into frogs seemingly right before our very eyes. Yes, they were simple pleasures but ones that taught us not only to appreciate nature and all of its wonders but to respect it.

As kids we spent most of our summers fishing the “crick,” picking cattails and catching butterflies and lightning bugs in a Mason jar with holes poked in the lid for air. I don’t know how many baby “pet” turtles I’d had before I realized that they needed to be free and not in an old shoe box eating store-bought turtle food. We were kids being kids; and in those days that’s what kids did. We also played pickup baseball games in the summer and the location would vary from one backyard to another. I never had a baseball glove so I would always have to borrow a glove from one of the kids on the other team. That was what we did, no selfishness just kids playing a game. We also progressed to football in the fall which was what I liked best and we usually used my Tobin Rote which had “Official NFL football” stamped on it.

I feel sorry for youth today because they are missing out on a lot of the stuff that makes a kid a kid. A lot of parents are so obsessed with their kids participating in athletics or other activities that they organize almost all of their free time and it almost doesn’t seem like they have any time to just be kids. If you want to organize something, take them hiking at one of the many County or State Parks that we have in the area where they can observe nature first hand. Teaching them how to hunt or fish will be a lifelong activity and if you take a child fishing for the first time keep it simple. It is important to take a first timer to a place where they have a good chance of catching something; the fish don’t have to be big and kids don’t really care what they catch as long as they are catching. This is what will keep them coming back and it is a great way to get our youth involved in the outdoors.

Trap shooting and archery are also very good sports to get youth involved in and more and more schools are offering competitive shooting. Any sport that can get a kid to spend time in the outdoors is a good sport and it goes a long way towards preserving a healthy outdoors environment for the future. Our youth are the future of our outdoors heritage and without them getting involved future generations may not enjoy the outdoors as we know it today.

Until next time, there is still plenty of open water fishing to be done; we have a great resource right here at home so take advantage of it. You can feel a lot of self-satisfaction when you take some time to introduce a youth to this great sport. One of the pluses of fishing Fountain Lake is that anyone can wet a line and you can fish right from shore pretty much anywhere.

Please take some time to honor those that have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Take a little time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.

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