A century ago, the majority of our population was involved in agriculture. As a people, we grew up on the family farm, and were familiar with growing plants and animals for our livelihood. As we became a more urbanized society, most of our population moved to the cities and found work in factories and stores and office buildings. Our national consciousness began to change and we began to lose our connections to the rhythmic flow of nature. Planting time, harvest time, canning with Mason jars and root cellars began to fade from our collective memories. Many of us are no longer cognizant of the fact that if we eat meat, some creature had to die, be slaughtered, and be processed before it got to our table.

Many urbanites try to stay connected to nature by growing backyard gardens for part of their family food supply. It’s great therapy and fun. For as long as I can remember I’ve grown a vegetable garden. I’ve grown tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, corn beans, and almost every other vegetable you can think of. I’ve battled bugs, birds, and fungus that tried to eat my garden produce before I could. Some years I’ve been more successful than others. Gardening is great and I heartily recommend it.

I also fish and hunt to put meat on the table. Like the gardening, sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not. I’ve fished for almost every species that swims from saltwater to fresh and enjoyed it immensely. I’ve hunted everything from rabbits and squirrels to deer, bear, and wild pigs, and as often as not it’s a lesson in humility. It’s amazing how often I get out-smarted by a critter that I’m supposed to be superior to. It makes you appreciate the diversity and adaptability of God’s creation.

Even if you want to continue to participate in the circle of nature by hunting and putting meat on the table for your family that has no hormones, or antibiotics, or steroids, it’s increasingly difficult for the average city dweller to find a place to hunt. Even though I’m a city boy, I am fortunate enough to have grown up in farm country and went to school and grew up with farm kids. Finding a place to hunt is not a serious problem if you grow up in rural America. But for many city folks, finding a place to hunt is a real problem. Is it any wonder that modern legislators have no concern for continuing our centuries-old traditions of hunting and fishing?

Fortunately the old traditional rod and gun clubs have figured this out as well. Many clubs across the nation have started programs to provide their urban brethren with places to hunt and fish. A good example of this outreach to urbanites by traditional sportsmen’s clubs is the Stockton Sportsmen’s Club located in California’s Central Valley about 70 miles east of San Francisco. This year marks the 58th year that the Stockton Sportsmen’s Club has provided a place to hunt for unattached hunters. The club leases about 2,000 acres of farmland each year in the area south of Manteca for hunting by the public. Their HQ for the public pheasant hunting is located on McMullin Road and hunters check in and pick a field that’s available and stocked with birds. The daily limit is two roosters per hunter and shooting times are from 8:00 am til 4:00 pm on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesdays until December 1. Adult hunters make a donation of $35 per day and kids under 16 hunt free.

On Friday, November 23, kids and women hunt free if they’ve signed up in advance at the local Bass Pro Shop. On Sunday, December 2, there will be a special fundraising hunt at $100 per adult to raise money for scholarships for FFA kids who want to go on to college and study fish and wildlife management.

As I was growing up, my dad was a fanatical trout fisher, and we probably went fishing thousands of times over his lifetime. Hunting took a back seat to angling in dad’s book, but there was still time for hunting as long as it didn’t interfere with his fishing. Shortly after my son Donald got his first hunting license, I wanted him to have the opportunity to hunt with his grandfather. We drove out to the Stockton Sportsmen’s Club’s hunting area and checked in, three generations of hunters: grandfather, son, and grandson. We walked the fields together as we carried our shotguns, enjoying the warm fall sun. I honestly don’t recall how many birds we got, but that was irrelevant, we were enjoying a tradition that had been handed down from generation to generation for over a hundred years.

The next year dad suffered a massive stroke, and we never went hunting or fishing again. That fall afternoon of pheasant hunting was the last time we were afield together. No one knows what the future holds, but I know this: I’ll be forever grateful to the Stockton Sportsmen’s Club and its counterparts across the nation. The service they provide for the average working stiff is irreplaceable. If you ever wanted a place to hunt pheasants but didn’t know where, contact your local sportsmen’s club for assistance. They’ll be glad to help.

Image courtesy Stockton Sportsmen's Club

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