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Growing up outdoors

June 10, 2012
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist ( , Lake Placid News

As a youngster, I had always considered the month of June to be the finest month of all.

June signaled the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. It was a month that provided a segue between seasons of work and play. It was a precursor to a season of fun and adventure, a timeframe that separated schoolwork and the drudgery of classrooms from the regular tomfoolery and adventures that surely lay ahead.

While growing up in Elizabethtown in the Pleasant Valley of the Boquet River, June was always a month of complete greenery. By the time the school year ended, the trees had fully leafed out, the grass was tall and I could hear a call coming from the woods and waters. Trout were active in the streams and bass lurked in the lake.

Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
Father’s Day Weekend on June 16 and 17 signals the opening of bass season and is a young angler’s dream, with bass, boats and good times shared with dad.

Green is a color of summer and summers signaled complete freedom, with no rules, no schools and no worries. June always began a grand recess that lasted until September, when the land turned brown and school was back in session.

I must admit that green has always been one of my favorite colors. I reveal this fact with the clear understanding that I may be branded as a "greenie," which is still considered a venomous slur among many Adirondackers. I find green to be a very soothing color - restful and calming.

However, green is also a great color for "sneaking," which was a very popular pursuit among young boys. It was simply too easy to be seen while wearing a red shirt and blue jeans; and a white t-shirt, why that was just a dead giveaway. Paint me green.


Bits and pieces

Over the next few weeks, there are a number of important events to note, the first of which is the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation's Take Me Fishing annual campaign, which is intended to encourage families, kids and outdoor adventurers alike to experience the joys of boating and fishing in their own backyard.

Fishing with children is more fun when they bring a playmate along. Two or more children will entertain themselves for longer periods than will a single child. Be sure to provide youth size PFDs and sunglasses, and take plenty of pictures.

The Take Me Fishing event is intended to highlight the importance of recreational boating and fishing as a means of enhancing people's quality of life and preserving our country's natural beauty.

This year, New York State will be offering Free Fishing Days over the weekend of June 23-24. Free Fishing Weekend, which is the weekend after the opening day of bass season and Father's Day Weekend, allows anyone to fish the waters of New York with no license required.

The event is intended to provide a chance for current participants to introduce the sport to newcomers, especially children. Sadly, less than 25 percent of school-aged children currently participate in a regular form of daily outdoor physical activity.

For most of human history, families had every reason and every opportunity to encourage their children toward learning and play that was steeped in nature. It was where life skills and strengths were developed, and where the most fun and action could be had. It was also safe, inexpensive and readily available play.

Currently, due to the rise of electronic entertainment, the introduction of longer school hours and busy, two-income family lifestyles, the traditional access to and motivation for outdoor adventure is in much shorter supply.

In fact, childhood has largely become an indoor event. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child now spends more than 35 hours a week staring at the screen of a television, computer, cell phone or a similar hand-held electronic device.

However, research indicates that fishing is one of the top "gateway" activities, which can lead to involvement in other recreational interests that may help to introduce kids to an active, healthy outdoor lifestyle.

A fishing pole may actually be one of the best available detox tools to help wean children off their Xbox addiction.

Children today spend less time outdoors than any generation in human history, devoting just four to seven minutes a day on average to unstructured outdoor play while spending an average of seven and a half hours every day in front of electronic media.

As one parent explained, "Kids don't think about going outside like they used to, and unless there is some scheduled activity, I don't think they know what to do outdoors anymore."

I know that they are still making fishing poles, and the lakes and rivers remain the same as always, but it appears they're just not making kids the way they used to.


Straight shooters

Congratulations go out to the seven students from the Tupper Lake school system who recently traveled to Kentucky to compete in the 2012 National Archery in the Schools Program National Tournament.

The students were accompanied by Pam Savard, the school's health teacher who helped develop Tupper Lake's archery program after achieving certification through the National Archery in the Schools Program. Savard pushed the students to compete in the national tournament and arranged the trip with financial assistance from the local Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club.

The National Archery in Schools Program, which is sponsored by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, has taken off across New York, with more than 15,000 students from 122 schools participating in the most recent state tournament.

"The National Archery in the Schools Program is growing rapidly in New York," explained DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "This cooperative effort between conservation agencies, school systems and private organizations is a great way to bring the sport of archery to millions of students across the United States and other countries."

Archery, similar to angling, is an individual life skill activity. It is a positive outdoor pursuit that can be practiced regularly by most participants in their own backyard. Outdoor life skills are defined as wildlife-related outdoor recreation that are not oriented toward team sports. In many rural areas, these activities may provide the only positive recreational outlets available.

Including pursuits such as bird watching, paddle sports, hiking and skiing, outdoor life skills may serve to help shape a society that once again considers it to be normal and expected for children to play outside in natural areas. Maybe the concept of raising a wild child isn't such a bad idea.

The 2012 National Archery in the School tournament attracted 7,804 archers from schools in 38 states to compete in the event in Kentucky. Thanks to the generosity of many NASP sponsors, there was more than $50,000 in scholarships awarded to the winners. The recent National Archery in the Schools Program national competition was also certified by Guinness World Records as the largest gathering of archers competing in a single event.

In other record-setting news, archery in the United States has recently been named by World Archery, the sport's international governing body, as "the best nation in archery since 2008," contradicting conventional wisdom that the sport is dominated by Korea, Italy and other nations.

In pulling together its research, World Archery took "into account all the results in major archery events since 2008," and the United States tops this ranking ahead of front-runners Korea, Italy and India. "We measured the results at all the major events in outdoor archery during the current Olympic cycle."



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