The North American Frontiersmen



Smoke Signals

Mar/Apr 2011

Captain - Staff Writer



March - April 2011

As outdoors men we had ought to be concerned with the future of our abiding interests. Let me give an example. I have a man-cave in a large area above the garage. There is an expansive window in the south end that provides a magnificent view of the San Juan mountains and of a pasture of over 300 acres. Behind a screen of willow and juniper trees there is, in the spring, a lovely lake that flourishes every year. It is fed by the run-off of melted snow that rushes down a grand arroyo and tumbles into the impounded waters with a roar heard all over the valley. But the lake is flawed. The soil and rock of its bottom was left there by long-ago glaciers. As a result the lake leaks water and within a month of the end of run-ff, is dry, hence its name: Dry Lake.

Every day through the last half of winter fifty to seventy five elk can be seen in the pasture, grazing and socializing. They come from the arroyo that feeds the lake and at the end of the day return there. Come the first spring warm-up they leave for higher country (the pasture is only at 6300 feet elevation). I have watched over the years as the herd has produced fewer elk overall, and fewer large bulls. Even the larger cows, the spikes, and the two pointers have had smaller representation.

It was a puzzle to me as to why the elk's numbers of larger animals was decreasing. There is plenty of food, adequate water, lots of shelter from nasty weather and intruders. The population of hunters has actually decreased (more on this in a moment). Predators such as bears and mountain lions are not as much in evidence as they once were. But. . . even though the number of guides here has decreased, the ones remaining have managed to lead their clients to trophy or near trophy animals. The herd can only take so much of that before the best genes are gone and the lesser animals are the only ones left to breed, thus degrading the offspring and upsetting the notions of nature.

Having figured that out, a recently expressed concern of sporting goods stores and the state department of wildlife (DOW), begins to make total sense. The DOW is complaining that there are not enough out-of-state hunters coming in. Elk tags are left over-more and more each year. Hunter's dollars are not being spent in Colorado's communities in the amounts the state has become used to. In this time of financial crises in the nation, the state is prepared to spend $300,000.00 on a campaign to attract the historical numbers of hunters. They have several reasons why the hunters do not come, three of which seem to me to be the most important: the reduced numbers of trophy class elk, the cost of travel, and the lack of younger hunters.
Probably the second issue is specious. If someone wants something bad enough, the cost of gas isn't going to deter them. The DOW seems to overlook that they have allowed the hunters to shoot out most of the trophies. And perhaps the most important, many of the older hunters have died off or are physically unable to make the effort and the number of younger hunters to replace them has become alarmingly few. The reasons for that, the DOW says, is mostly because youngsters have not been tutored or encouraged to have an interest in hunting (parental malfeasance) and societal disapprobation (notice how smoking has become a societal bug-a-boo. Now transfer that to hunting).
Now we come to how all that relates to us as buckskinners. Take a look at any national (and often local) rendezvous. Once, the bright yellow or orange leathers, sometimes with the smooth side out, was a dead giveaway of a newcomer, the majority of whom were young. Today it is easy to pick out the younger set because there are so few of them. The most telling evidence is that they don't have gray or white hair. One has to wonder why this lifestyle no longer catches on with young people the way it once did. Is it because they have not been home-tutored properly, or educated in the exciting history of the fur trade, or perhaps too inculcated in the addiction of electronic toys like cell phones, iPads, Facebook, and interactive games of destruction? The answer is undoubtedly complex. But what are you doing to get a more even rendezvous balance between white hair and dark, to restore the vitality and wide-eyed interest and fun the rendezvous once had? It can be a difficult thing to get graybeards to volunteer. Youngsters jump in where experienced oldsters fail to tread. Who, it should be asked every day by every member, who is going to carry on when the few white heads are gone? What will be our legacy?
In problem solving, the collective thought of many brains outperforms the individual. Letters to the editor can result in more interest, more useable ideas and solutions. Discussions wherever buckskinners congregate can reveal more questions and answers than the absence at camps or of attitudes of indifference. I leave it to you.




 YHS  Bill Cunningham



Treasurer - Secretary

Our balance for the NAF account stands $xxx.xx. I have taken back the Secretary - Treasurer duties for the time being, which will entail updating the roster, receiving funds, making reimbursements etc.
NAF Secretary-Treasurer
Patrick Quilter
639 Thalia St
Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

 Y'r Sv't  Pat Quilter




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