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

 

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Living in Black Bear Country

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A few months ago, Cathy asked me a very important question.

“You are going to hunt for bear this year, right?” she said.

Clearly, she was submitting a request, not an enquiry. I got the message.

Bears are a serious conversation these days. We have plenty of them around. Cathy’s survey of my upcoming bear hunting plans is an equal amount to do with her interest in family security as it is the pursuit of more outdoor recreation and quality food. Bear meat is delicious. We value every morsel of sustainable, organic and highly nutritious wild food that comes directly from our forest and fields.

We’re a family that loves the outdoors and that’s why we built our home in it. Bears are an important part of country living, and it seems that everyone from a country-side bungalow, small town business, family-farm or on a rural school bus route has a bear story to share. Around my neck of the woods, we see bears meandering through fields. We find bear tracks in the mud, bear scat on the trails and huge rocks flipped over by hungry bears scratching for bugs. Bear sightings and signs are everywhere, and at safe distances, they feed our fascination for these legendary omnivores.

However, bear fascination also means bear apprehension, especially when kids and pets are involved. That apprehension is on the rise and we’re not alone. Over 80,000 “Bear Wise” calls and over 18,000 “bear incidents” (aka clear and present bear danger) in the past 15-years means that thousands of rural families (in Northern, Central and Southern Ontario) share our wary attitude about backyard bears.

Every spring, my best friend, Jane, finds a bruin in her driveway. Her smart phone is full of her front-yard-bear pictures. Lately, though, she says “bears cause me nothing but stress.” Instead of taking pictures, she’s texting and calling out warnings to her neighbours. There’s a 400-pound bear in her backyard, a smaller bear in the front yard and a dog that just barely made back in the house in time. This spring, she was visited from five different bears. She can’t walk her dog, and she doesn’t let her nephews and nieces ride their bikes over to visit.

Two years ago, bear stress struck close to home. As the crow flies (or as the bear roams), my family lives only a few miles away from the trail where a sow bit into the stomach of a 53-year-old woman.

Cathy’s confidence in my hunting skills/tenacity aside, she knows that bear hunting is not easy. There’s no guarantee that I’ll kill a bear. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that I’ll put the crosshairs on one of the bears leaving tracks behind our home.

Bear experts say hunted bears are wary bears. While there’s no guarantee that my personal hunting efforts will bring an end to bear stress for my family and neighbors, it’s an opportunity to do what’s right for wildlife management. It’s an opportunity to do what’s right for my family.

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