Next time somebody tells you the younger generation is going to the dogs, have them read the following quotes, all of which are excerpted from entries to the Field & Stream Young Writers Contest. The people who wrote these essays are responsible, committed individuals with a strong sense of purpose and self. Hunting and fishing have taught them valuable lessons about life. Patience, practice, responsibility, and dedication are mentioned time and again. As David Daniels of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, put it: “What does it take to be a hunter? Patience, sweat, devotion, sweat.” They’ve also learned to cope with failure, and they understand that failure is often a better teacher than success. Above all, these young men and women have learned about humility, something a lot of adults could relearn. v The emotions and observations contained in the essays run the gamut. Some express simple awe at the beauty of being in the woods or on the water at first light; others demonstrate the incredible family bonds cemented by hunting and fishing. In one case, Kendra Swanson of Freeport, Illinois, delivered a terrific one-liner: “I’ve never been able to understand why they call it cleaning fish. There’s nothing clean about it.” In another case, Luke Burton, of Baker City, Oregon, reached a deeper understanding of what hunting and fishing are all about: “A successful hunt is not measured by the game harvested, but by the memories we take home.”
Fishing to a youngster, it seems, is like money to an adult: You just can’t get enough of it.
-Alexander Juncu, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
If my dad had never taken me out hunting or fishing, I wouldn’t have known how great it is to be in the forest; if my dad had never signed me up for a hunter-safety course, I might not have become a responsible hunter or know how to respect the wilderness; if my dad had never shown me pictures of girls fishing and hunting, I may never have been able to think, I’m as good as any boy. Thanks, Dad!
-Lisa Knight, Shasta Lake, California
Life is like a freeway; it is nonstop and goes by fast. Fishing is like a detour; it allows you to slow down and enjoy life.
-Andrew Richter, Los Gatos, California
You can’t call yourself an outdoorsman. I’ve become an outdoorsman and a good citizen by living according to rules and ethics taught to me by other hunters and fishermen.
-Harrison Tome, Jackson, Wyoming
I learned that it is all right when you fail at something. The words try again have become a big part of fishing for me. The patience I developed from those frustrating times when fish would bite but didn’t take my lure has helped me with my 7-year-old brother. I’m sure my mom appreciates the patience more than I do.
-Josh Breiling, Moses Lake, Washington
I simply couldn’t get the fish to take my fly. I learned a lesson in humiliation but also learned how to appreciate a time for what it was, not what I would like it to be.
Danny Yonkin, Rochester, New York
You sit in silence, in appreciation of everything you are doing and everything going on around you. The rustling of leaves in the trees you pass. The faint lapping of waves against the hull. The breeze that blunts the bite of the sun. In these silences I have learned more than a lifetime of talking could give me.
-Chuck Hogle, Schenectady, New York
The true value of happy pursuits has nothing to do with the price of equipment.-Justin Odle, Alvarado, Texas I’ve always heard my father say, “If you keep kids in the woods, you don’t have to worry about not knowing where they are.”-Michaella Williams, Bixby, Oklahoma I have developed a phobia of lotion, makeup, and hairspray. I am increasingly bored by materialism, pointless dating, and the preoccupation wiith appearance of most girls my age. So I fish. It gets me away and lets me relax. They can all go ahead and have a blast waxing their legs, while I sit in a canoe and scratch my bug bites. They can spend hours online, e-mailing their boyfriends, while I delight in fiddling with my depthfinder. And while they spend hours being fussy and disappointed in front of the mirror, I have only the quiet comforting lake to dip my toes in. Call me odd. I’m not ashamed.
Fishing took me to the road less traveled. I am an adventurous young woman with a mind of my own. I consider myself the richest girl alive.
-Kendra Swanson, Freeport, Illinois
People ask me, “What are your hobbies?” While they expect me to say that I enjoy painting my toenails and curling my hair, I proudly respond, “Well, I like to fish as much as possible, though in deer season you will usually find me in the woods.”
-Erica Danielle Gibson, Covington, Virginia
Because of my fishing experience, I actually won a spelling bee. It was down to the final two contestants, and the boy in front of me got the word wrong. All I had to do was spell his word correctly and I would be going to the regional competition. The word: chartreuse. And I got it right because I remembered how to spell my favorite color of lure.
-Kelsey Solberg, Dell Rapids, South Dakota
I have learned humility. How many baseball players can strike out on an off-speed curveball and walk away laughing about how the pitcher outsmarted him? I can do it every time a deer or fish outwits me.
-Brandon Savage, Rock Island, Tennessee
My dad is a doctor, so field dressing and butchering game has always been an anatomy lesson. I remember one of the first times I went squirrel hunting. As he was cleaning the squirrel he showed me all the major internal organs. He even took the lungs out and blew them up to show me how they worked. In butchering deer I was able to see how all the muscles, bones, and joints worked, too. This has always been of particular interest to me because I plan to follow my dad into the medical field. I learned more anatomy from field dressing and butchering game than I ever did in all my years of school.
-Luke Frederick, Pekin, Illinois
The true test of my ability is not the number of trophies I have harvested, but the quality of instruction that I can pass on to another.
Luke Burton, Baker City, Oregon
My dad continues to be the best guide that I could ever ask for. He is as constant as the North Star, always there to help see that my waters remain calm and that my casting is straight.
Max R. Padilla, Boise, Idaho