I can't single out any specific outdoor adventure that hooked me into a life of participation, and work, devoted to hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation.
Many of my friends and coworkers have similar experiences. Most grew up in a family atmosphere that had outdoor recreation woven into its culture.
But in just a couple of decades removed from that time, North Dakota has become more urban - thankfully not more so than many other states, but certainly more urban than North Dakota once was. The last 20 years or so has also produced a culture in which electronic diversions have engaged the minds and lifestyles of the next generation. These two developments together mean we can't assume North Dakota's outdoor heritage will be as important to the adults of the future. We just can't.
Just when a feeling of uncertainty seems to win me over, I unearth a story that shines more light on the future of the outdoors. Early this summer, through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's sponsorship of the Wildlife Management Proficiency Award with the Future Farmers of America, I met Kelsey Blotter, a recent graduate from Turtle Lake High School in central North Dakota.
Kelsey is a trapper. Now, in North Dakota women and girls who hunt and fish are not rare. However, a young trapper who isn't a male is not the easiest to find. I'll let Kelsey explain.
"I grew up in a family of hunting and the outdoors, it's just what we did. I began at about age 7 trapping muskrats, and it's something that I've always known, and it was more than just spending time outdoors,â Blotter said. I spent the time with my Dad, and I really like that. I've grown up around it all my life, maybe I've taken some time off, but not for long."
Her passion for the outdoors, including hunting and trapping, is something all parents can enjoy with their kids. It's not passive like lying on the coach in front of the TV. I won't lie, we've done our share of TV with our three kids, but trust me, there's more time on the other side of the window than on the couch.
Kelsey's enjoyment of the outdoors has transformed into expanding opportunities with her dad and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, testing traps on skunks, a step beyond trapping and skinning and stretching muskrats.
"It was interesting to see what was all documented,â Kelsey said. We had to track wind speeds, air temperatures - the highs and lows - along with the trapping itself, there was so much more to the project."
That included helping keep more than 200 traps in working order and preparing for the fall trapping.
Blotter is enrolled at Minot State University and is planning to expand on her life-long interest in the outdoors to work toward a degree and a career in wildlife biology. But as many have experienced in past decades, that requires moving from a rural area to a more urban setting to attend college. "I'm really going to miss the trapping on a daily basis, but I'll still get back on the weekends to hunt."
Proof that the challenge of involving future generations isn't limited just fishing or hunting. Trapping was a way of life a couple centuries ago, and for Kelsey Blotter, trapping was a key part of her introduction to North Dakota's great outdoors heritage.
Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email:firstname.lastname@example.org.