I try to stay out of most of the political wars on social media, around the tables in local eateries and pubs. After all, my mama always told me that sex, politics, and religion just weren’t good topics for polite conversation.
But this whole raft insanity that has come out of Capitol Hill in the last week has – well might as well be frank – flat pissed this old lady off.
Specifically the closure of federally funded public lands.
The outdoor media has been all over the closures. Hunters and anglers have been rallying on social media and are ready to storm the gates, much the way the veterans recently stormed the gates at the memorial in DC.
Here in Illinois, we are rapidly approaching Youth Firearm Deer Season (October 12-14). Thankfully, Illinois DNR managed public lands are still open and operating business as usual and are readying their properties for the influx of young deer hunters next weekend. Young folks who have access to private land are still excitedly getting ready to hit the woods before daylight on the 12th.
BUT (Oh c’mon you knew that was all sounding too good ) there are youth hunters here in Southern Illinois that have essentially been locked out, sent packing and made to feel that at any given time their hunting privileges and places will change at the whim of a federal government’s folly.
I’d like to tell you exactly how many site specific permits have been issued to youth hunters for Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge – alas – there’s no one available to answer the phone there to give me that information. Hopefully, bright and early Monday morning Illinois DNR will be able to clarify for me just how many young people got the rug jerked out from under them this year’s youth season.
Think about this – it’s your child’s first deer hunt. They have been practicing. Praying, dreaming for weeks and then suddenly, with the swipe of a congressional pen those dreams are shattered.
“I’m sorry honey, but we can’t go deer hunting next weekend because your tags are for Crab Orchard NWR and Congress has locked it up tight. Maybe next year. “ That is not a discussion that I want to have with any young hunter – first timer or not.
An IL DNR employee did tell me yesterday that the young hunters with Crab Orchard (or other site specific tags for federal sites that are currently closed) could try to purchase another over the counter tag for a different IDNR site or county. If there are any left available for that particular county.
The DNR employee I spoke with couldn’t tell me if the young hunters would be refunded the cost of the now worthless site specific tags. My gut tells me they won’t.
So what do we do? Just shrug and tell the young people that the public lands really aren’t theirs to enjoy and explore? Too bad, so sad, maybe next year?
I don’t think so.
We sportsmen and women are constantly having discussions about the importance of introducing youth to the outdoors and our hunting heritage. We wax poetic and take poignant photos of young people in the field with their elders. We talk the talk but are we walking the walk?
Are we calling, writing, and emailing congress to express our extreme displeasure with this financial folly of theirs? Are we pulling out our old hippie cards and staging sit ins at the locked gates of federal public lands?
At the local Illinois level – are we finding ways to salvage the upcoming weekend for a young hunter?
If we aren’t. We have failed.
I’m issuing my own personal challenge – if you feel strongly that Congress just needs to suck it up and find a way to let these kids hunt – for God’s sake TELL THEM – and tell them loudly and relentlessly.
Go a step further – ask around the neighborhood; if you can identify a young hunter that has been locked out, offer to pay for a second set of tags that will get him in an area that is open to hunt.
And if you really believe that the children are the future of conservation and our heritage – and you own some property that is huntable – again reach out in your area to find a young person that is locked out and offer them a spot on your property.
If we are going to talk the talk – it is imperative that we walk the walk.
So – friends, neighbors, acquaintances – lace up those boots and start walking! Don’t let our leaders rob our young people of their once a year opportunity.
This post originally published at www.heartlandoutdoors.com
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* The content of editorial posts does not reflect the official opinion of Carrie Zylka, LLC. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this editorial lies entirely with the author.