The sporting club hierarchy needs your help
What follows is a tale of two counties, but I’ve got a feeling the problem they/we are having is pertinent across New York. I’m talking about participation in local sportsmen’s clubs and the county federation hierarchy on up to the state level.
Although I live in Washington County, very near the Warren County border, the shooting club I belong to is in Warren County and is a member of the Warren County Conservation Council, which is slowly progressing to hopefully overcome previous struggles with its existence. Washington County’s federation, as well, is looking to its future with a lot of questions about shoe filling.
Both of these were once thriving organizations consisting of a solid core of dedicated sportsmen and women who cared deeply about hunting, fishing and trapping issues in their regions. They meet monthly and in the past have proved influential in decisions made at the state level regarding hook-and-bullet sports. This includes issues like access and regulations, in addition to helping DEC with fish stocking, holding youth and women’s events, and fundraisers like fishing derbies and big buck contests.
Some of us take advantage of the opportunity to participate at a greater level, as each of DEC’s regions allow county federations/councils to weigh in at quarterly Fish & Wildlife Management Board meetings, which have been on hold since COVID and need to resume at all levels. This is where our numbers matter. The state FWMB would normally meet biannually and has many players that also include Ag and Markets, the Farm Bureau and the New York State Conservation Council, to name a few.
DEC used to be more involved at the county level as it was common, at least in the counties mentioned, to have a state forester, fish and wildlife biologist, or ECO attend the monthly meetings, which was always a highlight. That hasn’t been happening for several years.
Meanwhile, people are aging out. At a county federation meeting I attended last summer one of the members said during the roll call that members of a particular shooting club all were either sick, or had died. Also, county federation participation in the NYSCC has decreased.
While it’s easy to point fingers at DEC and an aging sporting population, many sportsmen in this state should just look in the mirror. Our numbers really do count for something at the state level, but you can’t count people who are not involved. Buying a sporting license is no longer enough, this hierarchy needs “doers” and we need them now.
Some folks do belong to conservation groups like the NWTF, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and others. Still, I’ll bet that many local chapters of these groups could likely use some help. When they partner with county sportsman’s federations, all the better.
Yes, personal time is precious; kids, families, jobs and such keep us occupied. Yet, many of us seem to have ample time to head for the nearest bass lake or back-40 tree stand multiple times a week.
Please consider putting your differences with other sportsmen aside and, if time allows, bringing your talents to an institution that can really use them. Join a local club or conservation group, get on or start a committee that is of interest to you, and eventually consider being part of the bigger picture at the county, region and state level.
So many have been doing this for so long, for the benefit of others, and their numbers are dwindling, fast. It’s time to do some torch-passing.
(A previous version of this essay was published in New York Outdoor News.)