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Christmas has come and gone. Everyone has received their gifts from Santa, family and friends. And in the process, there are many, many gifts to spring the joys of the outdoors.
Whether it is a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun that starts a young kid into shooting sports and hunting, or a new pair of hiking boots for an adult, these gifts represent a new avenue in life.
Somewhere there is a two-person tent that will begin collecting the memories of several young friends staying the night outside in the backyard, then the woods, then the mountains. A new sleeping bag will become an alternate security blanket in the beginning as new sounds, at first scary and later familiar and comforting, whisper and sometimes howl through the night.
Later, that same bag will provide the comfort and warmth needed to brave the colder nights while still allowing a glimpse at a winter sky in which the stars are more plentiful and a little closer.
Perhaps there is a fishing rod, perhaps with a plastic hook and plastic fish that sparks the interest of a 3-year-old. Perhaps the playfulness brings a parent and child closer as they decide to enhance that interest with their first fishing trip, probably for small panfish, come the springtime. And from there, that first catch, a small bream the size of a toddler’s open hand, takes that child into a lifetime of enjoyment and peace and the willingness to share with future generations as well.
Then, there is the surprise gift that the parents saved for after all the presents under the tree have been opened.
Much too big to fit in a paper bag or wrapped paper, a kayak waits in the garage for the mouth-opening, hands-on-face excitement akin to Macaulay Culkin’s famous portrayal of Kevin in “Home Alone.” Weekend after weekend, that same kayak sets out for another adventure, bringing the beauties of the creeks, swamps, rivers and waterways that cannot be reached by other means.
While a new game for a gaming system may promise the equivalent of 48 hours of enjoyment, a set of hiking sticks promises much more.
A hike into the Gorge or a full-on, 2.200-mile epic excursion along the Appalachian Trail is the award that awaits.
Yes, with the right gift and the right mind-set, a new generation is born and an old generation is invigorated.
What lies ahead depends on what seeds have been planted and what springs from the earth afterwards.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.