Spending time in nature improves our physical and mental health, relieves stress and brings us together – not just my opinion, but one of a number of our nation's top psychologists. That is why states, like Minnesota, are embarking on efforts to get more people outdoors and leave no one indoors.
Not as easy as it sounds
The challenge is reaching those not growing up in an outdoor recreation-based family. If young people are not introduced to the outdoors before they are in the fifth grade, there’s a good chance they never will. Time constraints, financial reasons and availability to equipment limit participation in some outdoor activities.
Our culture has changed. Today, we have a whole generation of hunters and fisherman with expensive boats, state-of-the-art electronics, trail cameras and overhyped hunting shows promoting food plots loaded with brassica, all catering to the instant gratification desired by today's society. Then experts of the fishing and hunting world talk about the enjoyment being all about harvesting a massive buck or catching monster walleyes, forcing the hand for resource managers to provide it.
A reality check is needed
Game cameras replace the many hours once spent behind a pair of 10-by-50 binoculars. Fishing shows portraying an atmosphere that if you have the right equipment you, too, will have the same results. Instant gratification becomes the goal. To the first-timer, if he or she doesn’t achieve the same results, interest and desire to continue in the sport is lost.
Hunting shows promote that any animal less than a trophy has little or no merit. As one writer puts it, the need exists to get back to the meat pole of old where any animal harvested carries the same merit.
Fishing shows could show that a good day on the water includes the overall experience and how we got there, not totally based on the number and quality of fish caught.
First-timers must understand fishing success is not about owning an expensive boat brimming with equipment. Society welcomes these advances with open arms and the newbie sees them as a necessity. If we scroll through today's world of social media, one could conclude that fishing is only about the equipment to get it done. One veteran fisherman puts it this way, “We want angling to become like a game of golf. GPS coordinates are like holes on a golf course. At the end of the day, a top score is based on numbers of fish caught and released with little understanding about why fish are there in the first place.”
Encourage youth to get outdoors
Today, fishing and hunting in Minnesota are awesome at whatever level you are at.
But there is more stuff we need to talk about. For one, fortunately, there is a revitalization effort geared to encouraging hunting and fishing recruitment. Behind the effort are sporting goods manufacturers, fishing and hunting organizations, and other outdoor advocates.
Within this new initiative each of us could help, be willing to mentor others. Encourage and support programs in our schools that get our youth outdoors. Let our fish and game resource managers do their jobs and not base the success or lack of on how it conforms to how we think it should be.
Encourage our lawmakers to put the resource first when considering regulations and listen to the biologists. Stop the finger pointing, as easy as it is to do, shifting the blame to others. Accept that we are part of the reason and equally as important its solution.