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GUEST POST: On Fishing, Family and Fighting for the Future
Andy McDaniels is the National Sportsmen’s Outreach Coordinator for NWF’s Vanishing Paradise Campaign to restore the Mississippi River Delta. I am the past Executive Director for the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation, the Conservation Director of prostaff for Hard Core Brands and Huntducks.com. He was a recipient of the Charlie Shaw Award and has worked in conservation for almost two decades. He grew up in Oklahoma and has been hunting and fishing since the age of four.
National Wildlife Week always brings back fond memories of spending time in the outdoors hunting and fishing with my grandfather. For me, fishing and hunting is more about the time we spend with our friends and family, and less about the game or fish we might harvest.
My grandfather told me when I was very young that conservation was important and that it has a significant role in what makes us who we are. He used to say:
“Andy, conservation is the wise use of what God has given us.”
Some of the most important lessons I have ever learned were with my granddad walking behind bird dogs in the central plains, in the duck blind, or fishing the numerous farm ponds of my home state, Oklahoma. I learned a lot about patience, respect and integrity.
Uniting and Fighting for Conservation
I grew up in a much different Oklahoma in the eighties than my grandfather did during the depression. The Oklahoma of the 1930s was in pretty bad shape, the dust bowl and improper game management had taken its toll on wildlife throughout the state. My grandfather and people like him united and formed organizations to address the lack of game and non-game species in our state. They fought hard for responsible wildlife laws and re-introduction of species that were all but gone from our landscapes. Wildlife held a central place in his daily life and that love of wildlife was imparted to his children and grandchildren.
As I grew older, and married my wife and we had four sons, they have grown up in the field and on the water with their mother and me learning, the same lessons I learned tagging along with my grandfather so many years ago. All of my sons love to fish and hunt, their spare time is spent in the enjoyment of nature and the diverse array of wildlife they have grown to admire and love. The boys became conservationist at a very young age, like I did before them. These things have helped mold them into the wonderful young men they have become and it has enriched their lives beyond measure.
My oldest son was married two years ago and his younger brother is engaged to be married later this year. I think about my grandchildren and what role I will play in teaching them to respect and be thankful for the opportunities we have to spend time with nature. I wonder if they will love to hunt and fish, or if they will enjoy watching wildlife, and as their grandfather what a big pair of shoes I will have to fill.