The future of upland hunting is more important than our personal needs.
I hate to use the word I almost as much as I hate to generalize people. That starts this article out on the wrong foot, but it is something that needs to be said. Far too often, I hear upland hunters complain that there is not enough new blood getting into the tradition. The overly loud and angry folk ignore the fact that they are part of the problem. They also tend to have one response to the question I can never contain myself from asking:
“Why don’t you find some local young deer hunters or aspiring hunters? Why not bring them with you to your covers and show them the ropes?”
“I am not taking anyone to my covers,” is almost without exception the response.
Upland hunting is a breeding ground for some of the most important conservation fights in modern American environmental issues. And if we are serious about preserving it, we need to learn a bit about selfless acts.
I am far from being an upland expert. In fact, I spend far more time filming upland hunting than actually hunting. But I have made it a point to always offer up my help as well as my covers to aspiring upland hunters. I am not saying you should broadcast your covers to the world (I am sure plenty will comment asking where all my covers are). What I am saying is that we must all do our part.
If a miracle happened and we all decided to mentor two new upland hunters in our life, we could double our numbers within a generation. They might continue the tradition to the next generation after them. I think we all know where the math is going here. As role models and teachers, we should pass on the tradition instead of giving into the selfishness that so often rears its ugly head.
Teach a new hunter to respect coveted covers. Teach them to never command another hunter’s dog. Teach them safety in the field. Help them get their first bird, train their first dog, find their first cover. Deny a person the help to hunt and curse our future. Fail to recruit and we fail our most important mission yet—conservation.
The time to give up the secrets to our mysterious behavior is now. When it comes to this fight, the issue is not about the past but the present. I am a firm believer that each of “my” covers do not belong to me. They belong to the future. They belong to any hunter willing to put in an honest day of boots to the ground to continue the world of upland hunting.
A.J. DeRosa is an American filmmaker and the Founder and Creative Director of Northwoods Collective. While he is most widely known for the award-winning Project Upland series, he made his first mark in the hunting industry as the critically-acclaimed author of the cult classic The Urban Deer Complex and, more recently, The Urban Deer Complex 2.0. A.J. expanded his work toward the larger mission of recruiting and welcoming millennial hunters by conducting and applying cutting-edge market research across the Northwoods Collective brands. Now a passionate bird hunter, you can find A.J. following Grim, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, through the uplands with his wife, Sabrina, and oldest son, Marty McFly.