Note to Our Readers
The boy was smaller than most of his classmates. Like many, he had trouble getting the worm on his hook. With a great heave, he cast as far as he could into the pond. Then waited. Other students began catching catfish. He cast again and again. Suddenly he tensed. “I think I got one,” he whispered. Finally he reeled it in and the teacher helped him unhook it. He jumped up and down, pumping his arms in air, yelling with absolute joy, “I got one! I got one! I got one!” He was bliss in action.
What if every child (or if every adult who didn’t have a chance as a child) could live that happy moment? It could be fishing, seeing an arrow hit a target, breaking clay birds with a shotgun, finding a spot with a map and compass, or simply exploring and taking home a flower or rock that becomes a personal treasure.
You can help make it happen with your children, grandchildren or neighbors. I suspect with most of you it will be your grandchildren or neighbors. Two years ago we did a survey of Missouri Conservationist readers and found the average reader’s age is 58. That’s about ten years older than what it was in the 1990s. We also learned most of our readers don’t have children at home. Then how do we inform the next generation, if not with this magazine?
To get a better idea of what to do, we conducted 12 focus groups last year with people ages 25–40. They said, “If you want to reach us, you need to do it through our children.” So we’re exploring the possibility of starting a children’s magazine that would go to their homes six times a year and have interactive Web links.
Passing the word along is key. Shared experiences and word-of-mouth—that’s how people have always kept cultures thriving. This spring, you may hear ads from the national “Take Me Fishing” campaign. The goal is get people to share the fun.
The idea of being a mentor to someone, of passing along your love of the outdoors, can take many forms. We have a new Apprentice Hunter Authorization. Its purpose is to help people share their passion for hunting with friends and family who may not be sure they’re interested. This provides a chance to get a feel of the sport for two years in the presence of a certified hunter. National studies have shown that a third of new hunters and anglers are over 21. We have youth hunting with hunter-certified adults. Why not give adults a chance to do the same?
What happens, though, when the parents don’t know much about the outdoors, but they’d like to instill a love of it in their kids? The Conservation Department’s Discover Nature programs will help to bridge this gap. We reach children through programs in schools, through programs for the whole family and through programs geared toward women.
But back to the simple joy of a child and fishing. How about setting a summer goal of taking one child out for their first catch? It won’t change the world, but it will change the child.
Lorna Domke, outreach and education division chief