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April 19, 2006

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Yet One More Reason Why There’s No Hope for the Future

I’ve been an NRA-Certified Rifle Instructor for (I think) 20 years now, and I’ve arrived at two conclusions about the people I’ve coached: The best pupils are women. God bless them, they listen. The worst are young boys, followed by teenage boys. There are some good kids, but many of the ones I’ve run across have attention spans of 15 seconds, no manners, and--thanks to the tens of thousands of hours they’ve spent watching television, movies, and video games where people get shot in carload batches--no fear of guns whatsoever.

They inhabit a curious world that exists largely on screens and is powered by batteries. The rules of behavior that governed my generation are largely unknown to them. (“If you ever want to be a man, kid, you better…”)

They apparently grow up according to form. A Montana outfitter I know, who runs challenging horseback hunts into elk country, says that the people who flat-out quit are not geezers in their 50s and 60s but men in their 20s who have never been Up Against It, and when challenged, fold.

After a day or two of long hours in the saddle and hiking of foot, rising at 3 a.m., constant cold, and no guarantee of success, they take to their tents and don’t come out. The older folks have it just as hard, but they learned as kids that when faced with adversity, you shut your mouth and did your job. Like a man.


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I spent 5 days last Nov. in West Virginia hunting deer. Did I get one, no. But the most satisfaction I gained from the hunt was I was able to withstand the snow,ice,rain and cold and not run back to the truck. I am 40, my 7 year old daughter will probably never see or understand how life was for me growing up, and how can she, the world has changed. If the world is full of girly men and pansies, then we as parents have to take some of the blame. We let our children veg in front the tv or computor monitor, some never get a breath of fresh air and we wonder what is wrong with them.

Yes, the world has changed in some parts of the US, at least from how I grew up. I work with a bunch of engineers, and most or all of the younger ones have never, literally, turned a wrench in their lives. Something goes wrong with their car that's easily fixed, they take it to the shop. Something needs done in the yard, and they won't touch a shovel. Just the other day I was in a Starbucks with my daughter, and I observed an otherwise strong and healthy young man in his early twenties, dressed sort of un-manly, and acting, well, slightly effeminate. I understand the extremely effeminate, but I don't understand that in-between type of girly-man. It used to freak me out but now I find it sadly entertaining. I wonder what they will do when their girlfriends' cars break down on the highway ? Call their Mommies ???


I'm glad I don't live in the parts of the world you are talking about. I'm 25, and my wife and I are putting in a new house. This weekend I dug in the sewer system with a borrowed backhoe and a shovel. This week I'm building the forms and next week pouring the concrete. Good old North Dakota. I wasn't raised to watch other people work. I have a college degree, but still know what a blister is.

Mark Spisak

I have been an NRA & NAA instructor for years myself.
Most of my instruction is with the local Boy Scout Council;and I would have to say you are both right and wrong. The kids that have grown up with a TV as their babysitter are just as you describe,careless with firearms and archery equipment and these same ones are usually lazy and have no manners. But just when I get the glass is half empty attitude I get a group usually rural scouts who have manners, listen to instruction and can be safe with guns. It doesn't seem to matter if their parents own or use guns as much as their overall upbringing? Maybe their upbringing isn't all TV shows,cable movies and living on the web. It has more to do with attending church, doing chores and showing and giving respect to others.

Joe Loxterkamp

I concur with your observations between boys and girls. When I was a 4-H Shooting Sports instructor, my best students were the girls. Shooting was new to the girls, so they listened to what I was teaching, paid attention, and shot better than the boys did. All were under 12 years old.


to Mark Spisak, I couldn't have put it better! Good thoughts.

Adam Poore

As part of the "hopeless" Y generation, I take offense when those much older than I make cracks at our "lacking" work ethic, courtesy, and all of our other faults. Not that any of it doesn't apply(as matter of fact MR. Petzel, your right about most of it), it's just that there are some of us who are exceptions (which you acknowledged,under your breath), and it hurts to hear the truth about the rest of our generation who is busy giving us a bad name. I personally have found it hard to interact with older hunters when in the field because so many of them assume that you are irresponsible, lazy, and whatever else. Though some elders are merely impressed by your presence in the woods, it's a challenge in itself to overcome their presumptions and truly earn their respect. It took waking up at 3 am and being the first to arrive at a local WMA during opening weekend of turkey season for me and my best friend to raise the eyebrows of some 40 something year olds. And maybe that's what it should take, but its sad (on behalf of my own age group) that older hunters treat such a situation as if they have just seen an albino squirrel. In the end, I know that my generation is lacking in many facets of life, but I try my best, especially when it comes to hunting. I've done my share of hiking, wading, crawling, freezing, waiting, etc., and I am damn proud of it. So next time, Mr. Petzel, when you or any of your buddies come across a 20 something year old in the woods or at the shooting range, please don't let the faults of so many ruin a chance to teach or encourage a young outdoorsman. That being said, I want to say that you are my favorite writer at F&S. Keep doing what your doing. And by the way, whats the name of that outfitter in Montana? I'm game.

Mike Diehl

Nothing says "bullsh.." more than a clusterf... of broken-down whiners tossing off about the inadequacy of their progeny. Every generation says the same thing, and every generation's been wrong every time so far.

And that's lucky for the Boomers. Because Gen X and Y... they're carrying the load in Iraq now. And they're putting the money in that will support most Boomers' retirements and Medicare, because most Boomers were too self-indulgent to plan for self sufficiency all these years.

Mike Diehl

Let me clarify by adding that you can take your examples of bad behavior from any generation you want. Here's three groups of older hunters I saw last fall (I'm an early X or late boomer... wherever you want to put 1963):

A couple of reeking, bourbon-high 60-year olds hopelessly lost in their truck, asking me where the "salt mines" were (they'd been directed there by the USFS) because they didn't bother to get a map of the area they were hunting.

Four 60+ year olds road hunting from a slow-moving blazer, rifles leveled and out the windows.

One rather portly looking bald guy, making remarkable speed across the landscape. He wasn't seeing anything but everything else was seeing him.

Two youngster's in their 30s or 40s led by their 60-something dad, also looking for said "salt mines" (there is in fact a salt mine nearby, not that it makes it less funny to hear them ask about it) and also without a map. (I gave them my spare map.)

So if you don't like some Gen Xers or Gen Ys, remember that they were trained by their Boomer parents.


I mostly agree Mr. Petzal. Most of my generation is made up of dumba!*&@'. Their are exceptions, the last blogger is right. Hats off to our all volunteer troops. As for kids, yes tv and computers are screwing them up. I work blue collar and do most work on my home and cars myself. I also have a two month old son whom I plan to raise like my dad raised me, old school. Hell say yes sir and yes mam, he will be expected to work and help out and most of all he will be loved and paid attention to. I vow to do everything in my power to teach him to be responsible, work hard and at least appreciate the outdoors. I guess raising our kids right is all we can do to save the world.

Larry Cheseney

Well, you all have realy tossed this around and I think you have your points both Pro and Con. As the grandfather of two grandsons, with a father that is working his butt off to provide for them, I have taken the task of teaching them the world of the outdoors. I have taught them to shoot ,track ,hunt and don't know if I will ever teach them patience. I think that comes with age. As others have pointed out it takes an act of congress to drag them from infront of their gameboys and other instant gratification electronics. Like it or not, it is the generation that thrives on instant gratification. All any of us can do is to offer them the oppertunity to explore the great outdors and all it has to offer. It doesn' matter what the generation designation is, it is, that we must allow them the exposure and let them decide where their futures will take them. I'll always have room in my hunting camps for my grand kids and their father when he has time to join us.However, it is strange to watch the kids around the campfire after a hard days hunt playing their gameboys!


I agree with Larry C. about trying to teach kids patience. My youngest who is 14 finally learned a little patience last year when I put him in a deer stand by himself. He didn't come down until he had anchored a nice 6 point buck. It was his first time by himself and I was a little proud of him for sticking to the stand.
Now if I could just get him to clean the deer all by himself without my help....he did help quit a bit on a couple of nice hogs I shot a few weeks ago so I guess he is coming along nicely.

Matt Oursbourn

Dave -

Your statements about the younger generation are true for the most part, but, as you said, there are exceptions. And I am one of them. I owe this fact completely to my dad and grandpa. They raised me right and taught me responsibility, work ethic, and how to hunt and fish. I don't take offense to your statements, but I am disgusted with the lazy, pampered whiners that comprise most of my generation. But please, as Adam Poore said, give us a chance. You never know when you'll run across an exception. I can't count the times I've been the object of scorn by strangers on hunting and fishing trips. Although, the fact that I am considerably undersized for 16 does nothing to help. In 2004, my dad, brother, uncle, and grandpa went to the Flattops in Colorado to bow hunt for elk. We had to backpack all our gear over 5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation. Before we began the trek, a man at the trailhead hefted my pack, laughed, and asked me if I thought I could make it up the trail. I strapped the pack on and said "I know I can." The backpack weighed 60 lbs, as much as 75% of my body weight, but I made it up the mountain, and never considered quitting an option. I simply heeded my father's advice, "Just bull up and get to work" and plowed into the pack straps.


Unfortunately, if the "new" generation is vulgar and boorish it's because we all taught them to be such. I wish I could deny that responsibility, but being in the Generation of the Radical I can't escape the fact I spawned and aided less than desirable behavior. I can only hope I installed some sort of social responsibility, taste and a good value system to rise nobly when its greatly needed.

As far as every young person figuring they must be an instant expert. It takes a long time to lose that pride and vanity. I think it's part of the 35,000 year Human Condition.

I try not to be a habitual "denouncer". All that does is turn off the youngsters as they label me an out-of-it member of the Old Guard and I'll never get them into the shooting sports.

I have to admit watching my young 17-21+ kids is like watching toddlers learning to walk.....only now they have mouths and attitudes. I actually called my parents and apologized if I was that much of a pain at that age. They of course reply I was a good boy, but I could hear the glee over the phone, "He's finally getting his."

Like or not, we're burning off Karma.



adam poore put it the best i agree. I am a young south dakota hunter and old people think im lazy or stupid because iam young but i bet i can out hike and out walk crawl or any other thing the you old guys can

K Welch

2005. 40 years old and my first elk hunt. I was guided by my 23 year old nephew (who is a logger by the way), and we hunted hard for the entire season. Seven days, sun up till sun down. There were no breaks. Some kids got it, some don't. I believe it's all about how you raise a kid and the values you teach them. My daughter just turned 18 and has never been on a hunt but is interested. I've been taking her camping (tents, find yer own firewood, no campgrounds, pack it out, etc.) since she was about two. The principles and values add up over the years. She has completed her third year of the local Firefighter Explorers program with full certifications and was recently inducted to the volunteer firefighter staff. She graduates from High School in June.
The point is, education is the key. Education isn't just what happens in school classrooms (that's a scary place these days), it's a 24 hour a day, lifelong process.
It starts with being a responsible PARENT from day one!

K Welch

To Phil: Learn a little punctuation, grammar, respect, and couth, and you will go far! Improve yourself and us old farts won't think you're stupid or lazy...


ee cummings never used punctuation... look where it got him :)


You older guys had better stop whining about the younger dudes and just pray you took your responsibilities as parents seriously, because as Mike Diehl pointed out, it's the Gen X'ers and Y'ers who are going to be footing the high bill for your SS checks and Medicare checks and paying for all the other entitlements the older generation has voted into place. I mean talk about lazy, the older crowd has never met an entitlement they wouldn't vote for or a hand out they wouldn't take, and yet, they say the youngsters are bad. Huh. Everytime I look at my paycheck I'm appaulled at the money siphoned off to support these programs. Thank God 401K's are pre-tax because our older friends have their hands in our wallets so often there's little left for us to save by the time we pay the bills.


As an early Gen Xer (born in 1965) and raised by depression era parents, it all comes down to the parenting. Most Boomer parents don't take the time to actually be parents!!!!! Of course their kids are idiots!.

Girls and shooting...I have instructed shooting for the GS troop my wife was assistant leader of as well as with Boy Scouts. I'll take the girls any day of the week. Both of my daughters are better shots than their "outdoor" uncles and nephews because they LISTEN!


Re; K. Welch's comments about punctuation and ee cummings.

ee cummings is dead.....grammar isn't

Jodan Spitler

Easy Mr. Mike, not all are lazy bums you see walking downtown wearing tight pants. I am 14 and i have been hunting with my uncle the last 5 years. I hunt in ohio where you cant use rifles, so i have a 90 dollar muzzleloader. My coveralls were 40 on sale at dicks. The cabin, if you can call it that, has no heat so we bring a space heater. To wash dishes, it is required to go to the spring to get water. Not all young people have the money or time to make money to purchase all of the comforts that the seniors and other older people are able to afford. Does this mean we are 'un-manly'? No. You cant base your reasoning on someone you saw at a starbucks, nor at a fancy hunting lodge in northern Texas. The real troopers are on their own farms or land actually working to take game, not having somone take them strait to a trophy to put a par of 700 leupold crosshairs on the chest of an animal and squeeze a trigger. You have to look at the conditions that are actually rough, not a couple of city kids going out with their dad on their first hunt not knowing anything about the game they are seeking or the guns they are handling.


To Rob: You hit the nail on the head with this one! I was born in 1973 to two great parents (father of the deperssion era and served in WWII , mother of the early 1950's generation). However the so called "Greatest Generation" is the first in our country's history to have what is called RETIREMENT. It's likely that my generation will be working till we're in our 70s and 80s, with no retirment, even when we save money now and have 401K's. While I am very disturbed by how irresponsible, lazy, ill mannered most of my generation has become. Even greater disturbed by how feminine guys from my generation are. I think that if the babyboomer generation had done it's job properly, they'd have nothing to complain about. I plan on raising my boy to appreciate the benefits of his hard work, to shoot, be safe, and respect firearms, to realize the consequences of every action. Better yet, I hope to give a good enough example of what a man is supposed to be, so he can grow into one himself some day.

Ted Strong

There are still some O.K. kids out there, but it's true that most of modern America is raising its kids in suburbia.

Then the kids are shocked when they leave their cul-de-sac and discover that the world doesn't have a reset button and that results matter infinitely more than effort.

There are other Americans that are getting it right. Thank God, our country is big enough that we can screw up en masse and still have enough folks get it right to pull our collective ass out of the fire.

As far as social programs go, since Roosevelt (the second one) our country has lost its natural aversion to charity and government intervention. Sure, technology affects attention span, but if you really want to root out the problem, get people to stop expecting the government to fix things for them.

At any rate, population dynamics should scrap large parts of the problematic systems soon enough, with aging boomers depriving me of my social security.

Thanks guys. Mandatory Ponzi schemes are fun.


I think that the proof is in the responses posted here. My generation is bombarded and forced worse case scenarios instantly from every angle. Everything immediately gets reduced down to money and then justified with personal credentials. "I'll have to pay for you" and "I work hard." It's what we've been taught, and we will pay for it, but not just with our pocketbooks. We will have to work hard and not on carrying stuff around or doing things ourselves but on the real things that we are missing out on by narrowing everything down to the lowest possible denominator. My generation doesn't have the tools to see the forest through the trees. Some of us have a head start by seeing what we're missing, others will learn- but you older guys already knew that. By the way sorry about the grammar and or punctuation, it's four in the morning and I can't get to sleep- now that I've solved all the problems of the world ;) ha ha I'll work on mine tommorow.

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