By Kent Danjanovich
Now, many of you will recognize the title of this article as the slogan of the National Wild Turkey Federation. I have been fortunate for the past seven years to be involved in this great organization, not because I am a die-hard turkey hunter, but because of all of the outdoor preservation groups out there, the NWTF in my eyes is trying to do it the right way. They are not only working on enhancing and saving habitat, they are also working the hardest to retain and recruit hunters.
Hunting and habitat go hand-in-hand. We can’t have quality hunting without quality wildlife habitat. And the past has proven we won’t have sustainable habitat unless hunters are involved. Hunters pay for 80% of the budgets for state wildlife agencies, which drive the research and work to restore essential habitat for game and non-game species.
Federal excise taxes on the sale of firearms and ammunition – paid by hunters and shooters – have raised $4 billion to purchase over four million acres of wildlife habitat and annually manage more than 50 million acres. These taxes, matched 3 to 1 by hunting license dollars, funded the comeback of wildlife in this country.
Hunters are the champions of conservation. No other civilization or nation has lost their wildlife resources and then rebuilt them like we have. We have the most successful conservation model to sustain healthy wildlife populations and it all depends on a public that loves hunting and loves the animals they hunt.
In order to save the wildlife species and the wild places where we love to hunt them, we must have hunters. But the mission to preserve our hunting heritage is about more than just hunting – It’s a lifestyle, a love for the outdoors and a passion to see future generations carry on the tradition.
Do you really want to give the ultimate outdoor gift? Sharing your hunting traditions with someone new to the sport can and will be that rewarding gift. Mentoring provides an opportunity to give back to the hunting culture and thereby conserve the hunting legacy for future generations. Moreover, mentoring provides an opportunity to give back to the person that mentored you. Going hunting yourself is one thing, but teaching someone new to the sport needs to be our ultimate goal.
Just for a moment, let’s fade from the hunting side of things and talk about the business world. I have had great opportunities to interview many leaders in the world of business. Each in their own way have great stories to tell about leadership, what works and what doesn’t work. The thing that I most often find is new aspiring leaders can benefit from the experiences of veterans who are willing to mentor. As mentors provide experience and wisdom through their stories, the partner benefits with new found information that is based on that description of the past.
History is a set of experiences or events left to much interpretation. When we give meaning to these events, the intent is to get a sense of what is right or wrong— what works and what doesn’t. Knowledge about the theories is the first step. Gaining experience about these philosophies helps us to understand them at a deeper level. Wisdom only comes with time and the application of this information in newer settings. Meaning, value and purpose come from within this wisdom. A great deal can be learned from history. It has often been said, “Those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.” Unless we learn from the past and remember it and apply these lessons for the future, we’re destined to get stuck in the same rut and repeat the same mistakes over and over.
There is so much to learn from others, in life and definitely in the hunting world.
We live in a busy world. For as much as we all lament the lack of adequate time, we somehow manage to find the time to participate in the things that are important to us. Where we have erred most egregiously is in our failure to truly recognize the vital importance of bringing new hunters into the fold. It is not enough to give an afternoon here and there to some organized hunting or shooting event. While we may feel good about the “sacrifice” we’ve made, the few and far between hunting excursion is hardly sufficient to ignite the kind of fire that burns’ in all who consider themselves hunters.
It is foolish to believe that our own children, those born into hunting families and immersed in hunting cultures, can sufficiently replace ourselves as the next generation of hunters. While the overwhelming majority of these children may indeed be hunters – there are thousands of other youths who, without deliberate effort on our part, will never be counted among those who consider themselves hunters. Though our time is jealously guarded, we must resolve to find at least one boy or girl, one man or one women and give them a fair chance at discovering a world and a way of life that is sadly and at great societal cost, disappearing before our very eyes.
No matter the organization that you belong to or support, we all need to stand together to accomplish our goals. Success depends equally on unity and urgency. We must work together and the time is now if we want to even begin to counteract the challenges to our lifestyle.
In life, we never forget the old hunters that taught us the ways of the wild. Even if they have passed, their spirits live on in tales around the campfire or in remembrance of coming home from the hunt. Now, we all need to do our part to bring new hunters into the fold – both young and old to keep our hunting heritage alive for generations to come.