When I was 12 years old my father and uncles introduced me to the tradition of hunting, first allowing me to follow and watch attentively and eventually carry a rifle of my own.
It undoubtedly was the single most positive influence on my young life becoming even more so during my formative years.
A stabilizing force that grounded me when things went awry.
It taught me responsibility. Taught me respect for the environment and admiration for the animals that call it home.
From it I have memories I will forever cherish. The camaraderie of hunting camp. The bonding with family and friends. The solace of the woods.
In a word, it shaped my life.
Which is why I think it is such an important pursuit to share with our young and why it is time for our state legislature to lower the big game hunting age from 16 to 14.
Legislation pending in the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee would do just that. The bill would create a junior big game hunting license that would allow under adult supervision young hunters the opportunity to grow from all the outdoors has to offer.
The problem is that standing squarely in the way are 65 inner city legislators more than half of the Assembly whose concept of a 14-year-old with a gun is a shade different than the average Adirondacker.
Our way of life and theirs rarely coincide, which is why this legislation has for years stalled. Its the reason that New York with its 6 million acre Adirondack Forest Preserve and 700,000 hunters remains the only state in the country that does not allow a 14-year-old to hunt big game with a rifle.
The only one.
And its sad, because we are losing our youth to less desirable pastimes computers, video games, telephones, television and yes, even drugs and crime.