This past December, I once again had the opportunity to hunt the amazing brush country of South Texas. My gracious hosts, the McCauley Family of /M Outfitters -- that's slash M -- run a tremendous free-range bowhunting lease southwest of Uvalde (email@example.com). While publishing deadlines forced me to cut my visit short, outfitter Wade McCauley made sure my time was well spent in brushy hides frequented by plenty of whitetails, hogs, javelinas, turkeys, and a mix of wild game, birds, and other critters. While I'm sure that some might criticize my time spent hunting over feed in this oasis among the high fences, I cannot think of a more pleasant place to spend a morning or afternoon sit, either in a ground blind or a pod. It's just plain fun!
And it's also a great place to think. Regular Bowhunter Contributor Jeff Frey had arrived in Texas about a week before me, joined by his wife Jody and son Justin, as well as a number of other family members and friends. Jeff first introduced me to the McCauley operation, and he seems to be turning his Texas trips into full-blown family vacations. I marveled at how Jeff and Jody split up their hunting time to care for four-year-old Justin, as well as how they catered to friends and family and threw in whenever help was needed to recover or care for downed game. And I sometimes had to wonder if they were having any fun at all and if their efforts were really worth it.
Of course, one look at Justin's face when his mommy got her buck resoundingly answered that question -- their efforts were absolutely worth it!
Jeff, Jody, and Justin Frey are a great example of a young family enjoying the bowhunting lifestyle, and I can think of quite a few others like them within my circle of friends and archery industry acquaintances. For families like these, sharing the outdoors and the bow and arrow just comes natural, and it creates a common bond.
But even though it comes naturally, that doesn't mean it comes without lots of planning and hard work -- even some pain. As a father of three young children, I can appreciate that, and I have to wonder if I'll manage to pass my love of the bow and arrow along to my kids. And if I can't find time to mentor them, how will I ever find the time to share my bowhunting passion with others?
With a plan, that's how! Perhaps it's time we all put as much effort into mentoring opportunities as we put into our own hunting. Actually, with the National Archery in the Schools Program, Scouts, 4H, and other organized classes, clubs, and camps like Ray Howell's Kicking Bear introducing hundreds of thousands of young people to archery each year, the opportunity to mentor aspiring bowhunters is probably at its highest point ever. As a matter of fact, mentoring might even be more important right now than our own time in the deer woods.
Let's face it, our favorite pastime is threatened by myriad factors out of our control, but we've got it in our power to make a difference simply by taking a young archer under wing. If every Bowhunter reader makes it his or her point to mentor one aspiring bowhunter this year and another next year, we can boost Bowhunting numbers by nearly 10 percent. That's about 300,000 newcomers to the sport. Start at home with family, but don't stop there. And if coaching isn't your thing, look for ways that you can support others who are spreading the gospel of this healthy lifestyle we call bowhunting. If we squander this opportunity, we will have only ourselves to blame.
And be sure to watch future issues and Bowhunter.com for mentoring how-to's. As you read over the selection of adventures in this year's Big Game Special, I hope you'll realize just how fortunate we are to live and bowhunt in North America. And I hope you'll want to keep that tradition alive by showing a budding bowhunter the way.