By: Ted Nugent
I remember it like it was just this morning. I couldn’t have been much more than six, maybe seven years old. We lived on Florence Street in Redford on the northwest edge of Detroit, and right across Hazelton Street was the winding wildgrounds of the mighty Rouge River that called my name loud and clear and all the time.
It may have well been the uncharted jungles of Mozambique for all I could have known or cared, for its big timber, towering forests, snag-nasty tanglezones of thick scrub and impenetrable bush, tall, steep hills and deep, dark valleys, all its magnificent wildness and mystifying critters lured me as powerfully as anything can lure a human being.
At first, pre-dating Whamo’s and WristRockets, I had my trusty old handmade slingshot, cleverly fabricated from a geometrically perfect forked hickory branch, powered by old bicycle innertube strips fastened by tight shoelaces with a sturdy patch of worn canvas for a projectile pouch.
Many a painstaking hour was dedicated to picking out the perfect sized, as round as possible pebbles and stones for my arsenal of ballistically coefficient ammo, and Lord knows the passion with which I relentlessly practiced my aim small miss small discipline to be the best marksman I could be.
And let me tell you, I was murder!
Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, quail, birds of every description and species, river rats, snakes, frogs, turtles, coons, possums, skunks, nothing was safe from the WhackMaster in the making.
A dove way out there on a powerline; no problem.
Squirrels scampering from limb to limb; Whack!
My cousin Mark and I took everyday afield as seriously and passionately as any high dollar safari guy I can assure you.
Much like James Audubon before me, I came to know every indigenous wildlife species, hands-on, able to study each and every critter up close and personal, learning valuable lessons in nature and science in the real-world way.
Within a few short years I graduated from handmade slingshots to handmade bows and arrows, eventually receiving a genuine Christmas bow and arrow set much to my hyper mystical flight of the intoxicating arrow delight.
No words could possible describe my developing runaway love affair with my bow and arrow and allthings wildlife and wildground.
I did mess around a little bit with Little League baseball, some Rouge River ice hockey, and I’m sure I played a few backyard games of football and basketball, and being skinny, wiry and rather athletic, I did pretty good and had fun with all of it.
But nothing other than my guitar could hold my interest like stalking the wild with my bow and arrows.
I was hooked!
By the time our annual October family bowhunts began in the early 1950s, my world revolved around bowhunting and guitar jamming.
Growing up in the ubiquitous Michigan shadow of the one and only Fred Bear simply magnified my archery obsession, and I lived and breathed it.
Hunting with Fred and corresponding with the great Howard Hill was a blessing beyond description, and my happiness memory bank overflows with visions and experiences that are cherished beyond words.
It’s really rather funny, how this morning, at the age of 70 in 2019, like every morning, I couldn’t wait to let the dogs out and head straight to my shop, grab my Mathews and let the arrows fly.
I literally hurry my morning tooth brushing, hygiene rituals and coffee grabbing like some hyper kid heading out for his favorite adventure.
If that’s not the ultimate life, liberty and pursuit of American Dream happiness, I don’t know what is.
In this crazy helter-skelter world of fast paced techno stress, I wish all kids could discover and fall in love with the timeless joys of archery and the always fascinating spirit of the wild outdoor lifestyle.
In fact, I don’t just wish it, I pray for it. It is extremely heartbreaking to witness the softening of America’s youth. I swear, I bet most kids nowadays wouldn’t know which end of a hammer to grab, and the mindless zombie inducing couch potato video game scourge provides nothing positive for the future of our species.
Thank God that our hunting families and brotherhood continue to educate and inspire millions of children to get out there and cultivate the ultimate independence and rugged individualism that the great outdoors provides better than any other pursuit.
Every sporting and conservation organization out there has some sort of youth program in all 50 states and all Canadian provinces.
Our own Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids non-profit charity is celebrating our 31st year in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and South Dakota.
The intensity with which these young Americans enjoy the shooting sports, trapping education, fishing fun and an overall exciting connection with God’s natural wonders leaves no doubt that nature heals, and participating in God’s miraculous creation does indeed cleanse the soul.
Inspiring the kids doesn’t have to be a major endeavor as part of an official organizational program. Believe me when I tell you how effective it can be when individual families reach out to nonhunting neighbors, friends, coworkers and others to simply invite them to try archery or air-rifles in the backyard.
I have personally introduced many inner-city kids, far, far removed from anything outdoors, to a simple day of shore fishing, mushroom hunting and planting trees. The smiles on their faces do not go away!
So as life grinds on, we work hard to play hard, taking care of our families and lives, looking forward to a summer of fishing, as much pre-season scouting as we can muster, and eagerly anticipating the best hunting season of our lives, it is always the right time to introduce a newcomer to our most thrilling, gratifying outdoor conservation lifestyle. The most important resource we can conserve is our spirit.