Madison Long of King George prepares to shoot her muzzleloader - Ken Perrotte photo (2)

Madison Long of King George aims her muzzleloader.

THE MENTORS who helped guide my generation into the outdoors are rapidly fading away. Several friends and friends’ parents who were dedicated sportsmen and women died this year.

Pete Lysher, a reader of this column, recently shared with me that his father Leon, who lived at Potomac Landing in King George, passed away at age 89. Like many of his generation, the outdoors was part of his being.

“Dad’s passion was rock fishing and taking his grandchildren with him,” Pete wrote. “Dad made his own bucktail lures using deer hair.”

The elder Lysher also loved to hunt and successfully tagged a couple of whitetail bucks in 2017 before aggressive cancer invaded his body.

His pre-Thanksgiving note prompted reflection, contemplating this cycle of life and mourning the loss of another avid outdoorsman. Then, last Saturday, I got to experience the sense of renewal that comes with seeing youngsters enthusiastically embrace their own futures as America’s next conservationists.

I dropped in on the annual youth hunt at Bruce Lee’s Kinloch Farm in Essex County. There, about a dozen kids and their parents or grandparents gathered to spend an afternoon of deer hunting. The hunt is sponsored by the Fredericksburg-Northern Neck chapter of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association.

It usually includes kids who recently completed their Hunter Education courses or are apprentices wanting to experience hunting. This year’s group had participants hailing from Powhatan to Stafford.

A couple of the kids, including 13-year-old Madison Long and 14-year-old Courtney Sanders, have current and past affiliations with the Outdoors Club at King George Middle School. Mark Fike, a middle school teacher and club founder and leader, was at the hunt, coaching youngsters on shooting skills, helping reload muzzleloaders and and sitting with one child in a deer blind as the afternoon progressed.

At least one-third of the youngsters were girls. They performed well, winning two of the top three spots in the friendly marksmanship contest the kids have before hitting the deer stands. Shooting a Savage model 220, rifled-barrel, 20-gauge slug gun, Sanders won the competition with a pair of bullseyes.

Saturday’s weather was miserable, worsening as the day wore on. As the wind picked up and the rain poured, several of us wondered if any hunter would even see a deer. Luckily, a couple of kids made perfect shots when the opportunity arose and tagged their first deer.

Fike, the Deer Hunters Association volunteers and other groups such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and 4-H Shooting are working to help youngsters not only understand but, more importantly, become active participants in conservation’s future. It’s an important mission. Support for legal, ethical hunting remains high in the United States, but we need youngsters and apprentice hunters to help spread the conservation message.

It’s critical that hunters conduct themselves in a best-foot-forward manner because, in this nation of 326 million, 11.5 million hunt. That’s just 3.5 percent. But, as a 2016 report by Mark Damian Duda, Marty Jones and Tom Beppler of Responsive Management, points out, hunters are paying for conservation in this country: “In 2013, the most recent year for which complete data are available, hunters spent about $821 million on licenses and permits and almost $813 million in excise taxes for a total financial contribution of around $1.65 billion to wildlife conservation.”

I’ve also seen analysis that shows adding anglers and trappers to the mix brings you to 6 percent of the population. When you look at their contributions via license sales, equipment purchases and more, some calculate that this small group of Americans is paying for roughly 80 percent of all the conservation work in the United States. This includes game and nongame species.

Many states and the federal government are wrestling with how to ensure the rest of the populace, the people who purport to love wildlife watching, for example, can better contribute to make the situation more equitable. In the interim, when you’re with someone not tuned into how conservation is currently paid for in America and you hear them delight in seeing deer or turkeys in a field, tell them, “Thank a hunter.”

Holiday Gifts

If you’ve got a “gun guy” on you holiday gift list, especially someone who likes to load rifle cartridges and gets amped up when discussing the best new or old rifles, the new 432-page “Gun Gack II: More Stuff about Handloading and Rifle Cartridges” by Montanan John Barsness will likely hit the sweet spot. It’s got everything from how to load for managed recoil to the vagaries of various old and new powders, dissertations on ballistics, and a bunch of stuff on maintaining and rehabbing rifles, to include reboring and “accurizing” barrels.

There are discussions on the many types of rifles sportsmen have toted and Barsness’ views on which bullets offer the best big game performance and why. From triggers to safeties, from bargain basement guns to ones he calls a bit “over-engineered,” this book has loads of info.

The softcover book has many black and white photos, and costs $32.75 with free media rate shipping. Order online at riflesandrecipes.com.

Everyone needs a good pocket knife. Knives made in Bradford, Pa., by W.R. Case & Sons are some of the most collectible knives in the world.

A quality pocketknife makes a great gift. An engraved, personalized pocketknife makes a gift that just might fall into heirloom category one day.

The Case website has a gift guide where you can select products by price range. For example, there are dozens of great pocket knives in the $75 and below price range, most of which are engravable for a $6.95 charge.

To see the range of knives available and place an order, go to caseknives.com.

I’ll try to think of some more stocking stuffers in next few weeks.

Note: For more hunting, fishing, wild game cooking and outdoors travel, see Ken Perrotte’s weblog site at outdoorsrambler.com.

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