It’s good to see fishing and hunting participation on the rise. Based on recent reports revealed through the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, angler numbers have increased by 11 percent and hunter numbers jumped by nine percent since 2006 – the last time the survey was conducted. National organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited can certainly take some of the credit through their youth programs like JAKES or Greenwing efforts. State youth hunting days, mentoring programs and the Families Afield initiative are all making an impact, too.
The Recreational Boat and Fishing Foundation substantiates those increases with a study of their own within the sportfishing community. For the first time in the history of their report, fishing added more participants than it lost, by nearly a million people. Efforts like National Fishing Week has played a role in getting more kids out fishing, thanks to special events put on by grassroots fishing clubs. Niagara County is but one county that does an excellent job getting those kids out fishing, with local clubs hosting no fewer than eight different children’s fishing derbies to get the kids – and the parents – out fishing. Fishing clubs like the Niagara River Anglers Association and the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association have a huge focus on the next generation of anglers.
That said, it’s always good to see how a little bit of patience and mentoring can make a difference with the next generation. Eighteen-year-old Ashley Butcher of Lockport has been fortunate in that her parents – John and Cookie Butcher – have been very supportive of her outdoor involvement. Most of it is focused on the shooting sports, from participating in the Scholastic Clay Targets Program to hunting. John is one of the backbones behind the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs and youth shooting sports in the county.
Just this summer, Ashley was part of a three-person team that won the state SCTP title for Sporting Clays and Skeet. She also placed second in the individual ranking for skeet. Busting clays birds has become a passion for her and she’s proud of those accomplishments.
However, her biggest feat this year was something she did without much recognition. Working through the North Forest Rod and Gun Club, Ashley organized a special shooting event to raise funds for the Wounded Warriors program. Entitled “Clays for Heroes,” the 100-bird shoot attracted 68 shooters at $50 each to compete on the field by shooting 50 sporting clays, 25 skeet and 25 trap targets. When it was all said and done, she helped raise $3,000 for our military veterans who have given up a little bit more than everyone else.
Kudos go out to Ashleyr for taking her dedication and unselfish attitudes to the next level. She’s becoming a leader in the community as a result, an excellent representative of the sporting fraternity and the future of our outdoor passions. Thanks for a job well done!