Dealing with a pandemic’s effect on nature, educating anglers/hunters
Now is the time to step up and offer some assistance to the new breed of pandemic era angler and hunter. With the increased numbers of new users to our natural resources, the established outdoor community needs to focus on mentoring as we enter a new age of stewardship and conservation attitudes.
Fishing and hunting groups need to think outside of the box on how they can offer some help for the cause. It is not just junior hunters and anglers either. There is a significant rise in outdoor users from 25 to 45 years of age that could use a helping hand in getting started. This is an opportunity that has blossomed out of a tragic situation and if we do not reach out and help, we could lose people to other activities. If bad habits are formed, they could be tough to break. And if they do not understand the importance of proper fish handling or understanding regulations, it could negatively impact the resource.
“In the last 60 years, following World War II, Americans have strived to reconnect – with each other, with the goods we consume, the food we put on our table and the environment that surrounds us,” insists Andrew Nisbet, the Fly Fishing and Wingshooting Community Leader for The Orvis Company. “Technology and our current societal situation dealing with a global pandemic has amplified the desire to reconnect unlike any other time in modern history.”
However, with the increased numbers of natural resource users, there has been a negative impact on those resources. Nisbet pointed out:
With increased use comes greater responsibility.
With elevated angling pressure, there can be negative impacts to the fisheries.
Litter and trash have become a problem in many areas.
Sensitive vegetation and wildlife can be impacted in high traffic areas.
Government agencies are understaffed and underfunded to service the increased demand in some cases.
The infrastructure can be overburdened and under-serviced.
To help combat those issues and problems, it all starts with education. According to Nisbet, who currently resides in Hoosick Falls, NY, it needs to come from the state and Federal natural resource agencies, the manufacturers (like Orvis) and from non-profit organizations (like Trout Unlimited and other fishing and hunting groups).
The education is much more than just teaching someone how to fish and hunt, although that is important, too. “We need to educate newcomers about stewardship and conservation,” says Nisbet, “as well as respect for our natural resources. We need to teach proper fish handling, especially when practicing catch and release. We need to pass along what it means to leave no trace. As the current stewards of these resources, it is up to us to lead the way. People see what we signal, so it’s important for us to be out front helping the next generation and other newcomers to the sport.”
He points out other ways that you can lead by example, too. For instance, consider taking the challenge of fishing in areas that see less foot traffic. Rather than focus on premier species like trout and salmon, try targeting alternative species like panfish, bass and carp. “This is our conservation movement,” he says.
As the Community Leader for Orvis, Nisbet is the connective tissue between the Orvis brand, customers, partners, guides, and conservation-based non-profit groups. The 164-year-old family owned business practices what they preach. Five percent of all pre-tax profits are earmarked for protecting nature.
Of course, the company has reaped some of the benefits of the increase in angling numbers. For the first time in decades, Orvis is seeing a shift in demographics. More Generation-Z and Millennials are becoming part of the fishing fold and Nisbet notes that sales are being driven by high quality, entry level gear such as rod, reel, and line combination outfits. “Orvis’ online sales are up over 100 percent to this timeframe last year,” he says.
Speaking of new resource users, with the pandemic forcing an online Hunter Education Program, there has been an influx of first-time hunters into New York’s fields and forests. It is important for seasoned sportsmen to step up and serve as mentors. The most recent statistics show that more than 85,000 people have registered for the basic online course for firearms, with over 46,000 already completing the course. Of those totals, more than 70 percent of those folks are age 21 and older and roughly 40 percent are women.
For the archery safety course, 29,000 prospective bow benders registered, and 17,000 archers completed the program and became certified. It is an encouraging sign for the future, but we need to do all we can to ensure that these new members of the hunting fraternity are safe and informed when afield.
Our foot is in the door. The more comfortable people feel hunting and fishing, the more likely that they will continue to be involved with these outdoor activities. Let us all lend a hand in this process to ensure a brighter future for hunting and fishing, as well as our natural resources.