Once Upon A Time

This speech was presented at the 2015 OFAH Fish & Wildlife Conference.

This speech was presented at the 2015 OFAH Fish & Wildlife Conference.

Once upon a time are the four little words that start a special story.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters certainly has a special story. But today, it doesn’t need to start with once upon a time. After all, we are an organization for the future, not the past.

Let us not think about once upon a time as in yesterday. Think about once upon a time as in right now… because this business development and corporate messaging report takes us into the conceivable future… at an OFAH Conference… far, far away.

The year is 2038, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is celebrating its 110th Anniversary.  A lot has changed since the 2015 OFAH Annual General Meeting. But still, 23-years-later, isn’t it remarkable that retired Mississauga Mayor, Hazel McCallum was here this morning to bring greetings to the OFAH. {Joke}

If you think that’s ridiculous, what if I also told you that, nearly quarter of century later, the Leafs actually made it to the playoffs?

You’re laughing because you’re optimistic; and perhaps even a little bit crazy.

What isn’t crazy, however, is your 2015 prediction about the crazy technological world that we live in.

As you envisioned, Generation X lit the match on the fuse of digital technology that brought skyrocketing advancements in media and communications, transportation and global commerce.

In 2015, you were also right in your observation about the relentless progress of woman and man.  Urban sprawl sprung to urban speed. The cityscape devoured more landscape when most were too busy texting and tweeting.  Some families sold the farm… others sold the family farm values.

Yes, welcome to 2038; yet another era when environmental priorities and social change still can’t come fast enough.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And when it comes to Ontario’s fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities, creating the future is something that OFAH members have always done best.

Back when Model T-Fords rattled down the dirt roads of Toronto, it was our founding members who predicted that, without a fishing season, Ontario would see the demise of its bass populations.  So, in 1928, our Federation was born following a grassroots victory in the creation of conservation laws.

In the 1950’s, OFAH members predicted that our great hunting legacy would be crippled by the bad reputation caused from hunting accidents. So, we took charge of our destiny by spearheading one of North America’s finest hunter education programs.

Throughout much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, OFAH members predicted that Ontario could, once again, be home to wild turkey and elk. Forward-thinking prevailed.P1030614

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” It’s a sentiment once shared by Theodore Roosevelt… and, to this day, it accurately explains why so many anglers and hunters need to belong to the OFAH.

Membership is the lifeblood of the OFAH. In year 2038, the OFAH can be very proud of its strength in OFAH membership and support. However, the journey to membership prosperity is never a smooth road. It is a reality that the OFAH has experienced years with spikes and dips in membership.

During the 2015 OFAH AGM, it was reported that OFAH strength was holding solid at 84,432 members. Remarkable retention deserves a pat on the back, but trickling growth causes a scratch to the head.

In 2015, OFAH members and staff were asking important questions.

Why didn’t critical OFAH success leverage critical OFAH membership growth — particularly during a time in OFAH history when our organization landed its longest line-up of wins: Sunday gun hunting, record highs in hunter education, the demise of the long gun registry and a returned spring bear hunt… to name only a few.

Sadly, wins that were absolutely unimaginable in the past are apathetically taken for granted in the future.

Every day the OFAH is going to work for the members we have; meanwhile, our successes benefit the members we don’t. It’s a classic case where the majority count on the minority to make one hundred percent of the progress.

When gun owners and hunters’ backs are against the wall, OFAH membership works for the entire outdoors community. But when the walls come down, we can’t afford to wait for another crisis to get the outdoors community back.

It’s a classic case where the majority count on the minority to make one hundred percent of the progress.

It’s a classic case where the majority count on the minority to make one hundred percent of the progress.

This winter, another crisis, another hunter. He said:

“My town council is trying to ban hunting, and I really need the OFAH’s help.”

We said:

“The OFAH will be there!

Oh, and by the way, your OFAH membership is expired.

We need your help, too.”

The future of OFAH membership is shaped by many symptoms including economics and demographics. Apathy, however, is our greatest threat.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.”

In year 2038, the good old days of hunting and fishing are still being invented by a next generation of OFAH members – members who followed in the footsteps of those who fought for the outdoor opportunities they enjoy today. They chose the front line over the free ride. They trumped apathy with passion and they joined the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for all the right reasons. And the hat and knife were just a bonus.

Indeed, the future of hunting and fishing are alive and well today because the OFAH membership never stopped making a difference. Hunting and fishing are in our DNA, and no matter how much society will change, the majority will always count OFAH’s united approach to make gains for individual pursuits.IMG_20140930_075556_edit

Once upon a time, a father and son stopped suddenly on a trail. A partridge flushed and the .410 went off. Big smiles; pats on the back; and a quick photo to mark the spot on the trail of the boy’s first bird.

The father said, “Promise that you will always protect hunting.”

The boy said, “I promise, Dad.”

The trail to OFAH membership success is told with thousands of these important stories. After all, the OFAH is about people and passion. We are an organization for the future not the past.  Once upon a time is written today.

Welcome to the future.

 

Sugar Maple Memories

Charlie can't get enough of this classic series.

Charlie can’t get enough of this classic series.

Behind the cover of a Laura Ingalls classic is a seven-year-old boy who is absolutely fascinated with her every word. That seven-year-old boy used to be me, and I’m proud to say is now Charlie.

Like my son at his age, I spontaneously connected to the 19th century homesteading hero. She was like a long lost friend. Every Laura Ingalls chapter cheered on my childhood curiosity about pioneer life.  Simple, honest stories that capture special moments when family and friends help grow gardens, store preserves, hunt deer, harvest fuel wood and make maple syrup. For our little boys, these outdoor heritage connections are innate, especially against the backdrop of a maple bush and a sugar shack.

Maples on Pye Acres go untapped. When the sap drips, we leave Pye Acres to head a mile or so down the road to Avalon Acres. We prefer syrup production in the company of our friends and neighbors, Tom and Melanie, and their two young homesteaders, Noah and Gabe.Many years ago, Tom broke trail to the Avalon Acres sugar bush, gradually adding to his investment in buckets and taps, a wood-fed boiler and a cozy little shack. Like all homesteading skills, maple syrup production is a labour of love.

IMG_20150315_111854_editWhen the warmth of the March break sun breaks the cold grip of winter, the snowy woods provide refreshing comfort. Family and friends arrive, and so does a team of horses. Silver pails on Maples, and the sweetly scented smoke-filled air signals their attention. Add potluck meals and music and the days that Laura Ingalls called the “Sugar Snow” stands the test of time.

Tiny winter boots trek up hardwood hills. The boys are going as fast as they can to lift the lids on nature’s candy. They’re having too much fun to ever consider this hard work. For the boys of Pye and Avalon Acres, homesteader rituals are just a way of life. And, like a recently read chapter from Little House in the Big Woods, another heart-warming pioneer adventure lives on.

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Chill of an Early Fall

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When morning coffee time calls for a sweatshirt, it’s time to welcome the chill of an early fall. As far as this Blogger is concerned, that first refreshing moment of seasons change really heats up the outdoors adrenalin. The recent clamour of Canada geese is the sound track for my hunting season anticipation.

Summer days are shorter and my mood to crank a bait caster is overshadowed by an urge to shoulder my shotgun. A walk in the woods feels more rewarding than a paddle through the lily pads. Waterfowl spell V in the sky and a duck blind is calling my name. My deer hunting tag arrives in the mail and suddenly every hardwood on Pye Acres has tree stand potential. These are the little clues that remind me that hunting is not only on my brain, it’s in my heart. Hunting is my identity. It’s my passion.

That passion is embraced by Cathy and the boys, and shared with my Dad and my best friend, Jane. But perhaps no one lives out that passion more energetically than our English Setters. This hunting season, every inch of upland game habitat will be pointed out by Enzo, our gun dog in training. He’s being trained by the best…. Molly’s 12-year daughter, Bella, and our 6 and 4 year old boys. Enzo is 9-months-old. He doesn’t even know what a partridge is yet, but he’s ready to hunt them.

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The Life of Molly

Picture Molly

Anyone who truly knows me knows Molly.  She’s more than a great dog, she’s my identity.  Inseparable throughout 15 monumental years, Molly’s amazing life story is also a Pye family biography.

‘Neath the stars of an old farmhouse/bachelor pad, Molly joined me on the front porch as I quietly confided to my dog that I was starting to fall in love with that girl we met on the river. Molly and I fished and camped together on dozens of rivers and lakes. During grouse season, Molly took me to incredible hunting grounds where, years later, we would actually own the nearby acreage. Molly travelled with me on business trips and hung out with kids at the very first OFAH Get Outdoors Summer Camp. She delivered nine beautiful puppies right next to my bed. Later, Molly proudly welcomed home two more babies and she was there to make sure our boys made it safely to a brand new home. Indeed, from the moment Cathy and I met along the Indian River, to the day we moved our family into our dream home on Pye Acres, Molly was there.

On October 26, we said goodbye to Molly. She lived an incredible life. She now rests beside her son, Bert, who we buried on the day we promised to build a home on the hill that overlooks him and Molly. Keeping watch over them is Bella, Bert’s sister/Molly’s daughter who, at ten years old, makes sure that our local grouse population doesn’t go un-hunted.

A house is not a home without the love of a dog.  I’m proud to announce that our home is about to shine even brighter. A new English Setter puppy is coming this spring! With blood lines connected to Bert and Bella, our new English Setter will be born on January 6 at Kendal Hills Kennels. We can’t wait to welcome a new dog to the Pye Family – a family that was lovingly founded in the Life of Molly.

We love you, Molly.

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Country Roads

Madeline McCarthy is about to turn 101 years old, and today the country road along Pye Acres was officially named in her honour.  McCarthy Road is a fitting tribute to a century of love and respect for the countryside she calls home.  Madeline is our lovely neighbour, and she is just as sharp today as she was when she lived her youthful adventures on hundreds of acres of land that borders her namesake.  The title to our 138 acres was signed to the founding owner in the late 1800’s, and in the early 1940s, Madeline proudly took over its deed. Cathy and I are now the third owners, inspired by the values that Madeline established here before us — pride in family, and pride in land where family is raised.  Perhaps that’s why there were tears in Madeline’s eyes on the day that we told her a baby Charlie was on the way, and so too were construction plans for our family home on her previous property. It’s flattering that Madeline enjoyed experiencing the Pye family house-raising as much as we did last year. We are also proud that Charlie and Jack will remember spending time with the lady who put her heart and soul into our property and her name on the road that leads right to it.

Painted Hero — The Dwight Jacket story

The Dwight Jacket

The Dwight jacket is complete. It only took 22 years. Dwight’s lesson in tenacity paid off.

The Pye Acres Blog is about the pursuit of dreams. On Friday night, another one came true. Dwight Yoakam autographed my jacket.

My quest for Dwight’s autograph spans 22 years – ever since Grade 10 when I commissioned a high school buddy to produce a custom-made Dwight jacket. Painted on an old Levi’s jacket (later tailored to fit my adult life), this tribute piece was ready in time for the 1991 “If There Was A Way” tour when Dwight came to Toronto’s Massey Hall. A 1,000 miles of travelling to 12 more Dwight concerts later, my jacket was escorted onto the music icon’s tour bus and he graciously signed it.

The jacket wouldn’t be complete without the ink from the major musical talent that currently surrounds Dwight, including Mitch Marine, Brian Whelan, Jonathan J. Clark and Eugene Edwards. All of these guys are class acts, and I’m proud to have their autograph on the Dwight jacket as well.

What is it about an autograph? Perhaps the determination for an autograph is the icebreaker that dedicated fans need to simply say thank you. Fans buy albums, go to concerts, join fan clubs and order merchandise but do the artists know how much we admire their work? Do they know how their dedication to their craft and skilful attention to detail makes a difference in our daily lives? Will they ever know that a certain lyric or melody helped their fans sort through the highs and lows of life? Do the artists know how much they motivate thousands in a concert crowd to go home and give the 100 percent that we saw them deliver on stage?

Dwight’s music ignites my soul, and his tenacity inspires my life. He is a major role model, and my careful attention to his passion and perseverance has served as a catalyst for dreams beyond an autographed Dwight jacket.

Dwight fans are Dwight fans because we can always count on Dwight being Dwight.

Dwight fans are Dwight fans because we can always count on Dwight being Dwight.

After the concert, Eugene tweeted me: "you put out as much energy as we did tonight, brother." that compliment is music to my ears.

After the concert, Eugene tweeted me: “you put out as much energy as we did tonight, brother.” that compliment is music to my ears.

Jonathon J. Clark -- very humble guy who cares about the fans.

Jonathon J. Clark — very humble guy who cares about the fans.

Cathy and I with Mitch Marine and Brian Whelan. Great guys. Amazing players.

Cathy and I with Mitch Marine and Brian Whelan. Great guys. Amazing players.

P.S. For more on my tribute to Dwight and his 3 Pears album, see: https://pyeacres.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/3-pears-for-a-new-kitchen/

Pull!!! A party with a bang.

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A Canada Day party calls for fireworks but, at Pye Acres, we prefer 12 gauges. PULL!!! I think we just started a new summer long weekend tradition. The 1st annual Pye Acres Skeet Shoot & BBQ was… wait for it.. a blast. Over 20 new and experienced gunners cracked clays on our back-forty skeet range. When the shooting irons were safely stored away, we cracked beers. What could be more Canadian than shotgun sports, a potluck BBQ and a campfire? Enter in a mix of backyard kite flying, pellet gun plinking, marshmallow melting and bush-buggy riding for the kids, and you’ve got the kind of family fun event that Pye Acres was designed to host. The skeet shooting event is nothing new for our property. Since we bought the land in 2006, dozens of shooters, young and old, have pounded their shoulder with some basic wing shooting practice. We always welcome new shooters. The only thing more exciting than blasting your first flying target is watching a first time skeet shooter dust theirs. It’s an experience that is perhaps underrated, not just in terms of outdoor hobby interests but in terms of building self confidence. It’s particularly rewarding when a new shooter trades in their previous firearms fears for firearms respect and a fascination for this timeless target shooting tradition. Meanwhile, back at the house, everyone is welcome to pull up a lawn chair around our new campfire. Appropriately, it was officially lit during the most memorable Canada Day long weekend ever. Thanks for coming out! Let’s do it all over again next Canada Day.

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Our new backyard feels complete with a great campfire pit. It was officially lit this past weekend.

Our new backyard feels complete with a great campfire pit. It was officially lit this past weekend.