My father was a senior conservation educator for most of his professional career. At age five we moved from center city Albany to the boom-docks in the Taconic Mountain Range of New York. There, in a small town called Cherry Plain, at the end of a two mile dirt hollow road, was home to me for the next five years. I was surrounded by 6,000 acres of near virgin timber. Here I learned to trap, hunt, fish (with pole and with my hands), ski, snowshoe, ice skate, toboggan, swim in mud bottom ponds, build small breakwater dams and basically develop a relationship with Nature.
My father was my mentor and he taught me well. NEVER did we harvest anything, plant or animal, that we did not use. Hunting is a sport, but it is also a prominent form of conservation. Most of the hunters I have know have this same "Love of Nature," a keen insight into our Native American heritage. Most, if not all, tribes believe that animals have a spirit and to harvest them was a privilege, not a sport.
I eluded to this in my first column "Oh Deer," but never came right out and said as much. Hunting is a prime factor in herd, flock, school, etc. management/control of our wildlife population. I can remember taking a course at Cornell my sophomore year entitled "Wildlife Management" taught by Professor Douglas from Colorado. He introduced the western philosophy of game management. The class rounded out my upbringing and was to be one of my most memorable courses as an undergraduate.
I firmly believe that hunting, fishing, Scouting, and the like are an integral part for the youth of today. Sure, not everyone is a "killer," but the philosophy of Nature-Conservation is a subject that needs more study as our youth grow and learn. Take Baltimore Woods Nature Center as a prime example, I was introduced to this organization through a former director, John Weeks. John worked with my Father back in 'the day.' This is NOT a hunting preserve, rather a means to introduce nature to the young and old, too. There are so many excellent programs available to members and the public. As an example, there was a program last Fall on "The Heavens Above Us." The instructor was a man that had followed his passion for the stars and he conveyed this passion to the adults and kids that attended that cool evening session. I had never looked through a powerful telescope; had never seen Mars and its polar ice caps, Venus, Saturn and its glorious rings, nebula, the many constellations that are above us, but I did that night. Then a communications satellite passed above us for 33 seconds. Then it was gone, its path tracing the curve of our planet as it swept across the sky.
So, the next time you see a deer strapped to a fender or a brace of migratory birds hanging up to age, think 'outside the box,' and consider that maybe it is not just a "sport," but instead a connection to nature.
Scott Drahos grew up on his family's farm in Aurora, which is now the site of McKensie Childs Pottery. A retired army reservist and registered landscape architect, he has relocated back to CNY and now resides in Skaneateles. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org he is often hangin' at the Creekside.