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For me, outdoor recreation is important for health, well-being, and enjoyment.

It is something I simply must do to feel healthy — both mentally and physically.

I tend to stick to more traditional forms of outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, shooting, and boating.

Throw in a few morning walks between hunting and fishing seasons and I’m good to go.

Not only do I feel healthier when I’m active, I feel a connection to the natural world by being a hands-on participant in wildlife conservation.

I also feel a sense of pride or giving back when I purchase licenses to recreate.

Those of us who hunt, fish and shoot provide important sources of conservation funding through the sale of licenses as well as excise tax revenue allocated to conservation through the Sportfish and Wildlife Restoration Program.

We as a collective group, have helped to purchase many lands and public accesses that are for all to use, including those who choose recreation that does not require licenses and excise tax on their equipment.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, many state DNR or game and fish departments (as well as federal agencies, wildlife conservation groups, and other like-minded organizations) have been focusing their efforts on a new movement — Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation (R3).

The movement seek to create new participants or increase participation rates of current or lapsed outdoor recreationists.

The hunting and fishing industry is doing a wonderful job of supporting the R3 movement and there have been some wonderful activities and educational events for children and adults alike.

I applaud their efforts and by no means am I trying to discount their efforts.

However, I would like to offer a fine little suggestion that I know works to recruit, retain, and reactivate folks to the natural world — take a kid fishing.

It sounds too simple.

I get that.

But I am living proof and I’m betting many that are reading this would agree that our paths on an outdoor-lifestyle of hunting and fishing have to do greatly because of two things — someone was kind enough to let a kid tag along and we had fun.

I offer you these few tips on to successfully take a kid fishing.

1. Right bait, right species — go someplace where they can get a lot of bites.

Don’t worry about trophy-sized fish and don’t expect the kids to be happy after eight hours of trying to catch one.

Keep it simple with a farm pond full of bluegills, a hook and bobber, and a can full of redworms from the garden or nightcrawlers from the backyard. (sometimes catching the bait can be the most fun part of it)

2. Keep it short, sweet, and fun.

Catch a fish or two and take lots of pictures.

Bring a cooler with some drinks and cold snacks like watermelon (throw in a candy bar as a celebration). After a few fish are reeled in, it’s easy to relax and play like a kid.

After all, that’s what they are hoping for too — a fun day.

Giving back to the lifestyle we all as sportsmen and women have so thoroughly enjoyed is the right thing to do and can be as simple as a farm pond full of bluegills.

Plus, we get to spend an afternoon outdoors while recreating responsibly and if we do it just right, we can recruit, retain and reactivate more folks to wilds of West Virginia.

Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. He is a lifelong outdoorsman who has pursued his passion all over the world; however, he prefers to hunt on his hillside farm in West Virginia. Contact him at

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