The Importance of Getting Children Involved in the Outdoors
These days it is of utmost importance is get your children involved in the outdoors at an early age. Many national groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have programs geared at getting children involved in various activities and programs geared toward the outdoors and the recruitment of a new and young generation. Besides the national organizations, there are numerous local groups and clubs that are trying to keep hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities alive with the younger generation. Plus, there also are school activities and sports that take much of a youngster’s free time.
To quote Bob Dylan, “Times are a changing”. There are more and more activities and options for today’s youth than ever before. The explosion of the Internet and social media are just a few of the major competitors for the free time of the young. Computer and Internet skills are necessary to compete and succeed in the world today. But, I’m often disappointed at the low numbers of children involved in many of outdoor activities. But being a young person is not easy these days with the constantly changing world around them.
I give credit to the parents that take the time to introduce their children and pass on their knowledge to their young. There are as I mentioned many groups and organizations that will help you and your young get involved in the outdoors. The outdoors covers many different and diverse activities from hunting and fishing to conservation projects, photography, bird watching, camping, hiking, canoeing, and wildlife watching to name just a few of the many activities that are available. Parents have to work everyday and have their own activities to keep them busy and I give a thank you to those parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends who find the time to include and introduce children to all that there is to offer children in a great state like Wisconsin. There definitely is something to offer for everyone if given the opportunity and introduction to the many and diverse outdoor activities.
Recently, Wisconsin had its Spring Youth and Mentor Turkey Hunting Weekend. I was out and about looking to find some children and parents outdoors for the weekend hunt. Wisconsin has done a wonderful job in making many of the outdoor activities available to children at an early age. The Spring Hunt was available to children who had passed their Hunter Safety Certification and had their hunting license, turkey stamp, and permit for the area where the child planned to hunt. They had to be with a parent, guardian, or individual older than 18 years. The Mentor Hunt that Wisconsin introduced a few years ago allows children as young as 10 years old to hunt without taking hunter safety as long as they were in an arms length of the Mentor. This has allowed many new girls and boys to experience the thrill of turkey hunting while close to their parent and or Mentor.
The family of Amy and Tom Vils live close to me along the Wisconsin River. Amy and Tom have three children Grace, Luke, and Sam who have all been introduced to the outdoors by their father Tom who happens to be an accomplished hunter and angler himself. Tom works hard everyday in Madison, but finds the time to take his children fishing, hunting, and enjoying the beauty of the River and all that is associated with it. Sam does a great job in helping me around my house in some of the things that arthritis has made difficult for me to do. Tom took Luke (17 years old) hunting when he was young and Grace also went turkey hunting before she realized that it wasn’t for her. But, Sam at 13 years old has become a very good hunter and angler who enjoys these activities for the thrill and the patience that it takes to be successful. Sam has turkey hunted with his father for four years now and has done very well bagging a turkey every year that he has been able to hunt. Luke still hunts and Grace has found other activities to her liking.
Here is a family that has had all its children introduced to outdoor activities and been allowed to pursue the activities that they like. But, it’s been their choice and they’ve been lucky enough to have a father who has given them the opportunity to try outdoor activities. This is the point of my column this week. We have great outdoor opportunities and programs in our state and people just have to find and try the many things that are available to us and our children. The best part is that many of these activities don’t have to cost much and are in close proximity of where we live.
All four of Sam Vils’ turkeys have been harvested within a mile or so of their house on state public hunting grounds. You don’t have to go to some other state or spend hundreds of dollars when we have so much close to where we live. There are numerous groups that constantly have programs that many of you might like and enjoy. The Wisconsin DNR puts many clinics and workshops locally and around the state covering hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, camping, wildlife, and many many more. I’m sure that anyone can find something pertaining to the outdoors that would interest them by just checking the DNR website at dnr.gov.
If youngsters are not introduced to these activities at an early age the chances are that they will pick them up later is slim! I thank the parents and all those that get up early and take their children into the magnificent Wisconsin outdoors when they would rather be sleeping late or doing something else on a weekend. Many of the outdoor activities and traditions are things that can be done for your entire life and I’ve found that some things I enjoy more as I get older. Introduce your children and friends to the wonderful outdoors that is as close as the town that you live in or nearby. You won’t regret the wonders that are so readily available to those who live in Wisconsin. Enjoy!