I am the duck hunter.

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I am the paddler breaking through the cattails, making way to a duck blind that calls my name. I am the anticipation in the hour of darkness that unravels into legal light. I am the steadiness, the readiness, the call and the shot as wild wings descend upon the decoys.  I am the face towards an autumn sunrise that feels like an exclusive show. I am a vow that wetlands will always have my volunteer action, and my voice, to protect them. I am the hunting skills passed down by generations of duck callers and wing shooters. I am the spectator hidden by camouflage as Canada Geese spell V on a flight that plays the soundtrack of fall. I am the quality time I promised a special hunting buddy, making bonds and another heartfelt connection to nature. I am the passion that comes from waterfowl hunting pastimes. I am conservation.

 

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Lessons learned from my paper route

Written for the 2018 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Magazine.

IMG_20150715_202105_editWhen I was 11-years old, I had a paper route. I delivered the Orillia Packet & Times in the village of Atherley.  I had 45 customers, and I knew everyone by their first name. Delivering the daily newspaper was a chance to learn more about the people in my community. I always made time to build those relationships.

As winter approached, I was off to K-Mart to buy Christmas cards for my customers. I found myself trying to match pictures on those assorted cards with the interests and personality of my paper route customers. For instance, the anglers and hunters on my route received the cards illustrated with deer or snowy cabins. A family with young children received the cards that colourfully captured Santa or Frosty-the-Snowman, and the faithful church members received the cards adorned with hallowed angels and a nativity scene.

Important people deserve important considerations, I thought, no matter how subtle the gesture. Focusing on the custom-made details and the personal touches are always worth the extra time.  Inside each of those cards, I wrote an authentic, personalized message. I wished my customers well in the New Year and tried to mention topics or coming events in their life that I distinctly remembered from some of the conversations we shared.

As I was taking interest in my customers’ lives, they were taking an interest in mine. They remembered my open discussion and enthusiasm for saving up for a new bike.

While it is always better to give than to receive, in return for service and sincerity, receive I did. House after house, customers slipped a Christmas card into my newspaper delivery shoulder bag. Inside, a generous Christmas tip and a special message: “put this towards your new bike.”

Anyone who is familiar with Robert Fulghum’s best selling book “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” might suspect where this OFAH membership story for the Salmon Spectacular is going. All that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters embraces about quality membership service and donor stewardship is perhaps emphasized by the important life-lessons learned on a paper route.

The OFAH understands that relationship building and communication is always a two-way street. We listen carefully to the interests and ambitions of our members, and we never stop showing them how hard we are working to achieve our goals.  That kind of trust and dialogue opens the door on opportunities through the new I am Conservation campaign.

I am Conservation was developed to promote the OFAH as a highly acclaimed charity in addition to already being a highly respected membership organization.

Your personal outdoors passion

It’s impossible to pick one K-Mart greeting card that speaks to the interests of all paper route customers, and it’s even harder to pick one outdoors passion that speaks to the heart of millions of conservation donor prospects. The OFAH has been creating the I am Conservation themes and messaging, as well as producing personalized appeals that really show how much our organization has been listening, and how much we care.

I am a deer hunter.

I am a trout fisherman.

I am a trapper.

I am a waterfowler.

I am a _________ . (Please tell us!)

No matter if, when and how often these “I am” statements match your outdoor lifestyle, there’s one statement that galvanizes all fishing and hunting pastimes. I am Conservation.

I am Conservation is the single greatest statement that describes the passion and purpose behind every traditional outdoors pursuit. I am an OFAH member is in the echo of 80,000 voices that never give up on the fight to improve outdoor opportunities. I am Conservation is in the heart of anglers and hunters who volunteer, donate, mentor, or in anyway, lead by example to quietly and humbly give back to nature.

The OFAH promotes many ways to make an outdoors difference. While OFAH membership is certainly the most popular option, the OFAH conservation mandate cannot be delivered on membership dues alone. Through the purchase of OFAH Conservation Lottery tickets, donations to OFAH wildlife calendars and other products, as well as participation in the OFAH monthly giving program, about 50 percent of OFAH members proudly contribute dollars beyond their annual membership fee. Some supporters prefer “membership only” and we respect their wishes to be removed from OFAH campaigns ahead of standard membership renewal reminders. It’s also important that we hear from passionate anglers and hunters who believe, as does the OFAH, that we must hold governments responsible to make sure our tax dollars are properly reinvested for the future of fish and wildlife.

Nevertheless, anglers and hunters are motivated by the potential for new outdoor opportunities – a bright outdoors future that the government alone may never be able to afford.

Guided by Purpose

OFAH involvement in enhancing our natural resources is not unlike the work of other great charities that enhance community services, including healthcare. Yes, taxpayers have a right to keep pressure on the government for more support, but at the same time, we must backup our tireless community volunteers who help provide various sport and wellness center needs as well as essential hospital services and equipment such as rehabilitation equipment, radiation facilities and MRI machines.  No matter if it is health care or conservation, progress is achieved when more people find opportunities to give a little extra.

To recognize the “extra” help from OFAH members, we take the time for personalized, hand-written notes to special conservation donors, and we make sure that we remember what topics motivated their OFAH support. We are paying close attention.

Like the paper boy who takes the time to get to know his neighbours, the OFAH is also focused on building long-lasting connections within our own fishing and hunting community. Every home is different, but we make every home feel like they are the most important outdoors home in our organization. We are building on our great membership service reputation, and we never make apologies for reminding our supporters about things we are saving up for – and no, not for a new bike, but outdoor priorities like local fish stocking and hatchery upgrades, moose research and fisheries and wildlife habitat improvement.

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Conservation is the brush that allows everyone to paint their own outdoors picture.

If stone fences could talk

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Historic stone fences are monuments of strength. They symbolize the willpower for a better life. Timeless works of perseverance and back forty landmarks that shaped our countryside. Rock solid, like the character and determination that took on the heavy lifting to make a humble living. The metamorphosis of rugged real estate into gentle meadows is the legacy of work ethic, land stewardship and a vision.

Canada was new when these fence lines were drawn, and so too was the ink on the Queen’s Crown land patent. The township’s first private land owners were sworn by her Majesty’s land grant, and a dream.

If these old fences could talk perhaps we would learn more about farm kids in the 1870’s who picked and piled every piece. Their backbreaking labor achieved what machine driven contractors couldn’t possibly quote. No entitlement. No shortcuts. No rest until the job was done. Farm life meant following farm family orders: Venture into the backwoods and scratch open a new farm field.

Form followed function as these fences were never engineered to impress the neighbors. Built to keep livestock in or, at the very least, to pronounce a boundary, stone fences were a practical use of the raw material that interrupted the walking plow that cut the furrows. A blacksmith-made plow point found on Pye Acres helps tell the story.Furrow

Acres of rock surfaced by the frost, lifted by hand, loaded onto horse-drawn stone boats and then strategically stacked. Bring on the cold, then the heat, and the nerve-wrecking black flies, mosquitoes, poison ivy, wild predators and all of the other elements that challenged the young homesteaders’ fortitude. Did childhood even exist for the architects of these stunning stone creations?

Today, the fallow fields of Pye Acres serve as an oasis for wildlife and family recreation time. The smiles and freedoms of the Pye Boys shines as big and bright as the historic stonework. The boys climb up high onto the fences. Their shoes shuffle across the rocks that were painstakingly maneuvered with youthful hands over a century earlier. The boys race each other over grassy drumlins to a home with electricity, running water and every other on-demand privilege that our rural roots simply never imagined.

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A window to the commitment and hardship of this lands’ past is what our countryside home represents. On her 101st birthday, our property’s predecessor enjoyed a cup of tea and the eastern view from our dining room table. No one owned this land longer than Madeline McCarthy. She pointed to fences she crossed, and described the special places  on the property that gave her heart comfort. When Madeline was widowed at age 54, this land soaked up the tears as she privately sat in the fields and mourned for her husband Joe. Solo sits are personal moments of escape and soulful reflection, and it seems that Madeline started a trend.

Nature therapy is the motivation that brings bus loads of high school students to Pye Acres. Since 2006, annual field trips are literally just that. Fields and forests, watersheds and wide open spaces for Cathy to connect her classroom lessons about life sciences to the context of real outdoor life, past and present. Her science students collect plants, mosses and pond water samples to help identify the parts of their world that are sadly estranged from today’s adolescent norm. This is where science and history lessons meet. Cathy’s science lab is delivered against the backdrop of a stone fence where students consider the realities of early settlement and how they would have survived. The field trip concludes with a solo sit – twenty distraction-free minutes to contemplate an idea, process a curiosity and untangle anxiety.

Outdoor experiences provide the power of perspective. Gone are the days of shaping the landscape by hand but the resilience required to turn obstacles into prosperity will never change. Stone fences lead us back to our roots.

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This blog is dedicated to Madeline. 

Enjoying Every Fishing Moment: DockTalk365 Interview With Robert Pye

Last year, I was scouted by DockTalk365, an educational and entertaining series that profiles anglers throughout the United States and Canada. As part of this interview,  I shared my heartfelt thoughts about family and fishing, as well as a carpe diem expression in honour of my friend Melanie Main. Seize the day!

Melanie is my reminder that outdoor opportunities with family and friends are always a priority. Life is precious. Enjoy every fishing moment.

DockTalk365 graciously promoted the Pye Acres blog so I thought it was time to return the favour with an opportunity for my blog readers to check out “Enjoying every Fishing Moment.”

The interview can be found here: www.docktalk365.com/interview-robert-pye/

Robert Pye's DockTalk interview

This interview was published by DockTak365 on June 14, 2017. The full interview can be found at http://www.docktalk365.com/interview-robert-pye/

 

 

I am the trout fisherman

I am the shadow cast against the riverbank where my Dad used to sit patiently with me. I am the lessons he taught me there about the speckled trout, the current, and the presentation. I am the tenacity of cold finger tips on an early spring morning, fumbling and learning through years of lost hooks, lost worms and lost bites. I am the echo of the sound that fills the trout stream air and every perfect note that drew my heart closer to nature. I am the student of the outdoors, learning how every piece of nature is connected and why my decisions really matter. I am the voice that speaks up to protect special places from plazas and pavement. I am the optimism that always looks upstream, determined to leave an outdoors future for the next generation. I am my son’s fishing hero, tying his line where my Dad once tied mine. I am the tradition that is making another family memory. I am the passion that comes from the stream. I am the trout fisherman.

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The life of Enzo

A year of reflection helps heal the hurt of a sudden goodbye.

A year of four seasons to return to the places and occasions that built Pye family bonds around the love of a devoted young dog. A year to retrace our heart strings from our smiles when we brought him home to our tears when we set him free.

A year ago today, Enzo was released from the pain and tumors that stole his young life.

His short life was an accomplished life. Born to win the laughter and affection of two special boys, and the unleashed freedom to run and hunt the land of great English Setters before him. He was a classic dog with pride and compassion that could be read in a glimpse of his wisdom filled eyes.

A year of remembering Enzo doesn’t stop here. He is the spirit of family time on Pye Acres and the iconic example of life lived for the precious moments we have to share.

We love you Enzo.

The Outdoors Journey

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The White Otter Inn was in my rear view mirror and the rising sun was on my windshield.  I was up unreasonably early to drive home from a late-November OFAH membership meeting in northwestern Ontario. Slowly,  the break of dawn unveiled the full view of an empty Trans-Canada Highway… empty except for the OFAH company Jeep I was driving and a half-ton truck up ahead.  That truck was also flying my organization’s emblem.

Back bumper or top windshield corner, I can spot an OFAH membership decal a mile away. Our bright blue membership sticker is the highly recognizable “I’m proud to fish and hunt” statement affixed to boats, ATV’s, trucks and cars all throughout Ontario, especially in the north.

With a full travel mug of coffee and an extra hour on my side, I had no inclination to pass my fellow OFAH members.  After all, a weekend full of fish hatchery tours, club meetings and conservation topics couldn’t replace this anonymous OFAH membership success story being told, from the shoulders up, with backs against a truck cab window.

With every mile I paid closer attention to the OFAH members sitting side-by-side in the cab of that truck. Their blaze orange hats and jackets made it easy to tell how they were spending the morning.  A father and his son, I predicted. Going deer hunting, I assumed.

I recognized their body language from my own childhood hunting trips, sitting beside my Dad on the bench seat of his old two-toned-brown GMC Sierra. The constant bobbing of two hunting hats to the beat of their discussion made me wish I could hear it. The steady nodding of the driver’s head told me that he enjoyed listening and learning from his son. The enthusiastic expressions from the young passenger told me that today’s hunt was already successful – successful if only from the perspective of quality time between two lifelong hunting buddies.

Simple moments like these that remind us why a passion for hunting comes from the heart. Hunting is about the fulfillment of the journey not the squeeze of the trigger. Hunting builds character and a deeply rooted respect for nature.  Hunting connects us to the family and friends who cared enough to pass down the hunting heritage. Hunting is our identity. It is a core value for millions of Canadians.

National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day

20170720_120625The need to express the importance of our outdoor heritage has always been the OFAH motivation to push for federal and provincial recognition of those who fish, hunt and trap and serve fish and wildlife conservation.

In Canada, on the third Saturday of September, our great traditions are saluted with an official “Day.”  That Day is the new National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day, presented by the Government of Canada.

Even when the occasion has come and gone, our pride in Canada’s outdoor heritage, and the great conservation story of anglers, hunters and trappers, deserves to be told every day.

National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day gives the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and its conservation allies another opportunity to put long overdue public attention on how our members and supporters contribute to our natural resources.

Conservation leadership

Yes, we love to fish and hunt but anglers, hunters and trappers have done more than that.

When wetlands were considered wastelands, it was duck hunters who were the first to demand the protection of wetlands and the international Migratory Birds Treaty.

When some people didn’t care about cold water streams and its value to fish and wildlife, it was trout fisherman who volunteered to plant trees, prevent erosion, built spawning beds and fish ladders.

When an entire industry was built on the decimation of wildlife for commerce, it was hunters who demanded seasons and limits and the prohibition on selling wild meat.

When catch and release wasn’t even a concept, it was fishing club members who built hatcheries and stocked lakes with fish and locally promoted conservation and responsible angling.

When our delicate waterways and forest ecosystems faced the threat of invasive species, it was the OFAH that built partnerships, programs and awareness to stop the spread.

Improving local streams and wetlands, stocking lakes, planting trees, building nesting boxes, picking up litter from rivers and forests, volunteering for habitat restoration programs, promoting hunter education and teaching kids about responsible fishing and conservation are all examples of how the outdoors community makes a difference.

Right now, somewhere in down-to-earth-rural-Canada, there’s a valuable conversation happening between two life-long hunting buddies. Perhaps they are sitting side-by-side on the bench seat of truck as they’re heading into deer camp. Perhaps they’re reminiscing about past hunts, legendary bucks and all the special family memories that the great outdoors provides. Respect for nature and quality time with family and friends is never taken for granted, and National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day helps express our passion for the outdoors journey.

Crossbowhunter