The rumblings that hunters’ and fishermen’s numbers are dropping reverberates across the nation. The repeated quote says that America is urbanized and each generation is farther removed from the outdoors. This social evolution is a threat to America’s heritage and the integrity of wildlife conservation. State game agencies, manufacturers, and media members are mopping sweaty brows and wringing their hands. Others, mostly conservation groups and churches are scrambling to get kids out camping, hunting, and fishing. Meanwhile here in Texas, a collection of stakeholders are pow-wowing – discerning the labyrinth of actions and avenues that would deliver a wildlife conservation message and engage the mainstream public. Those same stakeholders also believe we must mentor the next generation of outdoor communicators.
In one such strategic effort the Texas Outdoor Writers Association (TOWA) board of directors gave the nod and a new event was birthed. The TOWA Fall Stampede is now the second annually held gathering for the association. This new idea is free to the public, is held the third weekend in October, and is dedicated to fun! It includes an International Barbecue Cookers Assn. wild game and barbecue cook off, the Texas Challenge shooting matches with long range, pistol, sporting clays, and a walk-through archery course, a ride and drive of manufacturers’ newest off-road vehicles, kayaks on the Colorado River, two days of rodeo, and three days of live music. This is TOWA’s informal annual party and is designed to entertain the public, attract new members, provide storylines for existing members, fundraise for scholarships, and satisfy supporting members.
TOWA’s Annual Conference is the organization’s formal event. Excellence in Craft Awards are presented, scholarships are awarded, craft improvement seminars are held, manufacturers showcase their wares, and it’s another fundraising and membership drive opportunity.
Student TOWA members are the lifeline to the future. Their expertise in managing social media puts them at the front of the line when manufacturers and agencies are hiring. As per their initial TOWA student experience, they may find themselves giving five to 10 minute presentations at the Annual Conference, or being sponsored on a shooting team during the Texas Challenge. They also have access to free pre-event activities such as hog hunts, coyote hunts, kayak trips, and tours of hunting ranch resorts. At either event, TOWA students are offered opportunities to network with editors, visit with older experienced members, and learn the ropes of the industry. The breadth of contacts and information are limited only by an individual’s imagination.
Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi boasts a TOWA student chapter and the TOWA directors are reaching out to more universities. Academic advisors are helping by constructing lead lists of more related departments and student-based conservation groups.
The Texas State Rifle Association is also helping by bringing its youth shooting program to the Fall Stampede, aiding with advertising the Texas Challenge, helping to locate and invite student-based shooting organizations in universities, and bringing in more 4-H competitive shooters.
With all this focus on attracting and raising the next generation of outdoor journalists, and trying to inspire the mainstream public to understand the fundamentals that prescribe hunting and fishing as the basis of wildlife conservation – the biggest booger-bear to sustaining our inherited American legacy may be the uninspired members of our own media and industry! It is unacceptable to numbly blink at the mega media giants that at times inaccurately interpret outdoor messaging. It is likewise wrong to forget the significance of passing on the tools for success to the new kids.
So, TOWA invites all professional communicators with an understanding of the North American Model of Conservation to join us and our plight. On the same note, TOWA is visiting with other statewide, regional, and national writing organizations to form a loose-knit coalition to share ideas, and to discuss standards, policies, business, and to grow the respective organizations.
Rural culture, American traditions, and accurate renditions of history must be held divine and conveyed – otherwise, it will be more than the wildlife that suffers.
We offer special thanks to the supporting members that believe in and provide sponsorship to TOWA’s efforts. Coming aboard with the annual TOWA Fall Stampede, as well as, the Annual Conference are RAM TRUCKS, NISSAN, TOYOTA, CAN AM, SELLMARK, The National Shooting Sports Foundation, HENRY Rifles, Mossberg, F1 Firearms, Jackson Kayaks, Hunter’s Outdoor Communications, Howard Communications, Burnham Bros. Predator Calls, L3 Wildlife Management, The Texas Historical Shootist Society, The Lone Star Bow Hunters Assn., The Ranch TX Private Shooting Club, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The Texas State Rifle Assn., State Farm agent Matt Gaby, Dallas Safari Club, Coastal Conservation Assn., Ducks Unlimited, Shaw’s Bend Social Club Mgr. Janet Arnold, and the invaluable labor of the TOWA board of directors.
For more information about TOWA please contact: Herman W. Brune, (979) 732-4707, [email protected]