Last night I found myself sitting in a local VFW hall listening to some president of the area hockey association regale my wife, me and all the other youth hockey parents on what we can expect this season as parents of a “squirt.” For you non-hockey types that is a level in league for a child typically in the 9 to 10 year old range. It was one of those mandatory meetings they wanted all the parents to sit through so we understand just how the upcoming season and practices will work. Great!
Obviously, my mind did lots of wandering. I glanced at the wall and viewed all the pictures of the brave men who had served in various wars…I saw all the other trophies and awards that had been won by teams sponsored by the local hall. I was bored…and I wanted to get out of that meeting as soon as possible.
Then I started to think about the times I used to organize deer and turkey hunting seminars for the DNR…and just how much fun that was. I would go around to many of these local American Legions and VFW’s and rent the facility to host pre-season hunting seminars. Mostly I did the logistics of setting up the location and advertising…and I would have an assistant who came in and did most of the speaking.
It was fun. I believe we used to charge a nominal $2 entry fee and this would help defray the cost of advertising. We’d go around to a few businesses to get door prizes and even serve coffee and cookies to the attendees. My cohort at the time, John Finnegan, would conduct the seminar with topics ranging from biology and management to specific hunting techniques. More than anything it was a great time for area hunters to get together a week or two before the hunting season started and use the seminar to “prime the pump,” so to speak, for the upcoming season.
That was 20 years ago…and today that sort of activity is not done much anymore in my area. Oh, sure, there are the spring Deer Classics, etc. that serve mostly as a gathering of big trophies…but that is not what I am talking about. Nope, I’m talking about the community-based deer seminars that would be held after work usually at some small town VFW hall. A convenient place where the sportsman could maybe stop into the bar for awhile and then bop over to the seminar to check out the speaker and learn some new tricks.
I helped organize these events for several years as a volunteer but then got busy with other aspects of life. Still, I sat there bored in that meeting last night wondering why these seminars don’t exist anymore. I remember seeing a few years back Whitetails Unlimited had a similar such program they marketed as their “buck fever” night, if memory serves me correctly. It was a great tool to recruit and sign up new members. It wasn’t a full-fledged banquet where you could expect to drop lots of cash. Nope, these nights were usually low or no cost intended to gather folks to socialize and begin thinking about the fast-approaching hunting season.
So why don’t the area hunting groups or sporting goods businesses do a better PR job and sponsor this type of educational activity? If done in the right manner a club or business could potentially see lots of new customers who are antsy to prepare for the upcoming hunt. Truth is unless you are one of the big names like a Cabela’s or Gander Mountain (or the like) you apparently don’t spend your time trying to satiate your customer’s or prospective member’s appetite for some hunting education. And that’s a shame!
As the boring hockey meeting was winding down I began to realize a big difference between a mandated sports meeting and attending a voluntary hunting seminar. They are both held at the same type of facility. They are both often held after work on some week night evening. Yet, for me the hunting seminar embodied the true spirit of what hunting is all about…at least for me. It meant sharing time with like-minded individuals who choose to spend their precious spare time sitting in the woods. When those of us hunters would meet on that night we shared a special dream and passion that could be best felt and understood gathering around others with similar interests.
So you wanna know my theory on why these seminars are not popular or why most don’t even exist anymore? Cable TV. Hunters feel they can learn most of what they need to know by watching outdoor programming on TV or videos. There’s just no need to sit in a community hall for an evening like there was 20 or 30 years ago. Now we can have all the information we need to know delivered right to the creature comforts of our living rooms…so why go anywhere else to get it?
What I would like to see is companies such as Federal Cartridge, Birchwood Casey and others providing lots of product incentives (such as free ammo and targets) to get hunters out and back together as a community. We’re truly missing a tremendous opportunity by failing to organize these community hunting seminars. If it’s not going on in your community, maybe it’s time someone steps up to make it happen.
So what about you…have you attended a pre-hunting season seminar lately? Did you enjoy it…and would you go back again?
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.