Young Writers Contest

The question to be answered by the next generation was: "How hunting/fishing has influenced my life." Read the two winner's answers here.

Field & Stream Online Editors

_The theme of the Field & Stream Young Writers Contest was "How hunting/fishing has influenced my life." Although our two winners approach the outdoors in different ways, they both share a fundamental belief: Hunting and fishing allow them to make a vital connection to nature. This connection is visceral as well as intellectual, and it has led both to think hard about their place in the world and how to ensure that another generation can also experience the wonder they feel when in the woods or on the water.-The Editors _

In Every Way
By Seth Bichler
It started for me when i was a very little kid. Even before I really understood what hunting was, signs of it were everywhere. For one week of the year, Dad would go away, and all the guys in town would wear blaze orange everywhere. What I noticed most, though, was the intense feeling of anticipation in the air, like before a big football game or an important national event.

As anyone from a small town can attest, pride and happiness can come from strange places. Often it's from how the local sports teams are doing, or because someone from the town has "made it big in the world." But in our kind of culture, it very often can come from who got the biggest buck or largemouth. Fishing and hunting are some of the main activities people do for fun, and when they are just sitting at the tavern talking it isn't unusual to hear a story about some monster buck. (If you stayed for any length of time, you would almost surely hear the story again. But it won't be the same; it will be altered slightly each time it is told, just like the ancient classics of Homer.)

When I watch TV, usually I see some sort of murder or violence. They always make it look really cool and almost painless and certainly not messy. I wonder how much less violent crime there would be if people knew what death looks like.

A major moment in my life was when I shot my first deer, not because I was finally a man or any nonsense like that. It was because of the shock I felt at the magnitude of what I had done. There had been a living, breathing, warm creature only a few moments earlier, and I had ended its life. I think in that moment I gained true respect for life. I don't think anyone who has experienced this can ever look at death the same way again. When I hear about all the disrespect for life that occurs in the world, it scares me. I think, What if everyone had had my experience¿¿¿would it still be like that? When a person takes a deer, he has put in time and effort, and he is harvesting an animal. There is a distinct purpose to what one is doing and how the animal is used. It is a process that has been going on as long as there have been animals and bigger animals. And it is a process that will continue to go on as long as life exists.

The most important way hunting and fishing has affected my life is in my connection to the natural world. Too often we all think that we just live in this world. We tend to forget that every human is also a part of it. It is basic biology that anything-living or nonliving-in an environment impacts the environment in some way. Much of what we do has consequences somewhere, somehow. When you turn on a light, power is being taken from somewhere. Maybe it is from some coal-burning plant sending countless toxins into the air. Or maybe it is from some massive lake somewhere in Canada (under which may lie some ancient Cree or Ojibway burial grounds). Our need for hot water and light sometimes blinds us to nature's needs.

I think fishing and hunting, especially at a young age, can show us how we affect our surroundings. If we are successful, there will be meat on the table. If we aren't, then there will be one more bass swimming around the lake or one more deer running through a field. And if we act irresponsibly and gut-shoot a deer, it will suffer. It is a big responsibility, but the conces are very concrete and easy to understand. If everyone understood this, then we would understand how we affect our world, and then maybe we would realize that there is still time to save the environment.

I know we in the hunting and fishing community have our critics. Perhaps some of them make good points, but I think the vast majority of it is due to misunderstanding. We have a responsibility to be caretakers of the land and the animals. I think this responsibility makes us a critical part of the world, not just some crazies chasing the past. If someone asked me how hunting and fishing affect my life, I think I would have to say, "In every way."

Metamorphosis
By Alyssa Franklin
I started flyfishing when i was 7. On the West Branch of the Delaware River nothing is ever the same two days in a row. Releases from the Cannonsville Reservoir result in constant and dramatic changes in water temperature, clarity, and depth that challenge even the most seasoned fisherman. Endlessly casting into bone-chilling water with nothing to show but countless mangled leaders and my father's hand-tied flies caught in every bordering piece of shrubbery like ornaments on a Christmas tree, I often wondered what I was doing. Wasn't the purpose of fishing to catch fish? My father, on the other hand, would become oblivious to everything with the exception of the whisper of his fly as it gently landed on the river. Graceful was never a word I thought I would use to describe my father, but I recall gazing at him from across the river and seeing how fluid and purposeful his motions were.

I am not sure when my metamorphosis began. Maybe it was the morning when I stood in the blanket of mist that had tucked the river in securely the night before. The sun seemed to melt as it staggered over the hills, and my size 14 Blue-Wing Olive took on the personality of a trespasser that was violating the river's serenity. I did not catch any fish that morning; there were no missed strikes or even a hint of a rise-but it didn't matter. As I stood there in the river with the water pushing and swirling about me, I realized for a brief moment that I had become part of the river. I was no different from the rocks in a nearby riffle or the tree that had broken off onto the opposite bank. The river treated us all the same, stopping for a brief instant to touch us and then continuing downstream unperturbed on its everlasting journey.

Fishing has profoundly influenced my life. The oneness I feel with the environment has become one of the qualities that now defines me. This oneness has given me great pleasure; more important, I feel a sense of stewardship over its future. I anticipate majoring in environmental science in college. I plan to use this knowledge to increase governmental, industrial, and societal appreciation of environmental problems. Until then, my immediate goal is to help individuals understand my passion.

Many of my 16-year-old friends have gotten to the point that things are only deemed to be important and enjoyable if they can be installed onto a computer or watched on MTV. The more sensational, expensive, and technological the better. Now, do not get me wrong; it is not a case of Madonna vs. Joan Wulff. I am one of the last to pass up a shopping extravaganza at the local mall, and my portable CD player and telephone have become necessary appendages. But none of this can compare to the stimulation that comes from a great day of fishing.

Fishing in its purest form is filled with uncertainty. The speed and direction of the wind, the temperature of the water, the atmospheric pressure, and other conditions all have an effect. How can I explain to my friends the joy and challenge that can come from this uncertainty? You meticulously mend your line so the fly deliberately drifts past the exact spot a large trout has just risen. How can I explain to my friends how your heart starts to race, the tension that appears in every square inch of your body, as you anticipate the strike? The cloud formations, the flight of an eagle, the babble of a stream, the fragrance of wildflowers? How can I explain the sensation of having your senses invigorated? Will they ever be able to understand the concept that the enjoyment of catching fish is secondary to fishing for its own sake?

Fishing has become a passionate, challenging, yearlong recreational activity that has provided me with future academic focus and lifelong direction. But more important is the joy and comfort it has provided. What can be better than that?ow your heart starts to race, the tension that appears in every square inch of your body, as you anticipate the strike? The cloud formations, the flight of an eagle, the babble of a stream, the fragrance of wildflowers? How can I explain the sensation of having your senses invigorated? Will they ever be able to understand the concept that the enjoyment of catching fish is secondary to fishing for its own sake?

Fishing has become a passionate, challenging, yearlong recreational activity that has provided me with future academic focus and lifelong direction. But more important is the joy and comfort it has provided. What can be better than that?