Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Greatest Threat to the Sporting Lifestyle

For weeks I have struggled with this topic in my head. I have pondered it, and really fought with emotion of the whole idea of the story. The the school shooting in Florida compounded the issue. Let me pause here and say clearly, my prayers go out to all of those families involved in this senseless act of violence. I do not know how you handle this grief without the full love and grace of God being with you.

As I have struggled with the idea of "what is the greatest threat to the sporting lifestyle'? One word keeps coming to mind. That word is, Apathy. I sense there is a lot of apathy in the outdoor world. Apathy defined, is an "absence of passion, emotion or excitement." Another definition I found says Apathy is a  "lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern".

Mention this to certain sportsmen and women and they will argue aggressively they are passionate about their particular sport or activity. Bow hunters are passionate about bow hunting. Bass fishermen are passionate about bass fishing. There is little argument here, but when it comes to a bow hunter standing with and defending a bass fishermen, apathy emerges. When the opportunity arises for an upland hunter to defend the right of a big game hunter to pursue his passion, there is a real lack of enthusiasm or concern. If a fly angler is conversing with a traditional tackle angler, it becomes elusive. We are apathetic to the activities of others, preferring instead to protect our little nest, our activities at, often times the peril of other outdoor activities. We see it all the time that one segment of the outdoors rally's and lobbies to have their activity protected at the expense of others. Hikers want hunters banned from wilderness areas, and vice versa. Environmentalist want streams barred from angling. Forest service personnel close gates arbitrarily to prevent access to our public land.

Whether we are discussing stream preservation in the Catskills, or CRP land along the great prairie's, sportsmen and women should stick together and stand in one unified voice. Divided we will never be able to protect what we love. Just because it may not be your "thing" does not mean it is not a valuable activity and one that enhances the opportunities afield.

Sure there are differences between styles of outdoor pursuits. There are differences in methods, approaches and there are differences in levels of passion. A traditional bow hunter does not understand why someone would want to use a crossbow to hunt with, and they tend to ridicule their choice in using the crossbow. A fly angler scoffs at someone using spinning tackle for trout instead of a #22 caddis. None of us are immune to this trap. It is happening right now in the world we live in. As one seasoned outdoorsman once said, "I am glad I don't have to understand it to still support it." Certainly I agree. Personally, I find bass fishing one of the least exciting types of fishing. But I support others rights and excitement in doing it. I may choose to chase salt water species, and they chase bass. We all win, if we support one another's activities.

After the terrible shooting in the school in Florida, Dick's Sporting Goods announced wholesale changes to their policy of selling guns legally to anyone under the age of 21. The removed certain styles of guns from their shelves because of how they "look". And next week the Bassmaster Classic "Presented by Dick's Sporting Goods" will take place near my home town. A classic example of Apathy by the leaders of BASS are allowing this to occur.

If there were unity by sportsmen and women, BASS would have immediately severed ties with Dick's Sporting Goods and refused to allow them to advertise, promote or otherwise support their biggest event of the year.

As an outdoor writer, I am saddened by the lack of support one side of the industry offers to the other. Fishing and hunting are intertwined as much as jasmine in the trees and yet there is no communication between the groups. There is no support from one group to another, there is nothing.

I realize I am hoping and wishing for something that will probably never happen. However, if we can start with groups within a segment of the sports. If the NWTF and QDMA, or Trout Unlimited and BASS could coordinate then there could possibly be an opportunity for all of us to unite and be heard and make effective change. Perhaps hunters could help with stream restoration, and anglers could assist with habitat improvements. Or better yet, we throw apathy aside and develop a real passion for all things outdoors. We control most of the threats to our lifestyle. If we begin ourselves setting aside feelings for the greater good, everyone wins.

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