Many are quite familiar with the fun fundraisers held by local chapters of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, National Rifle Association, Wild Turkey Federation and other nationally based organizations as well as our own homegrown Black Swamp Bucks Unlimited.

There are also local clubs offering a variety of opportunities to develop your outdoor skills and make new friendships. Maybe it’s time to get more engaged in what they’re doing and to share in their conservation ideals.

Outdoor activities at these clubs slow a bit during the winter months, but it’s a great time to begin your own involvement. Monthly meetings, officer elections and the review of new membership applications fill this period while the upcoming year’s events are planned.

Some clubs will host speakers and learning events that can help supply the information and skills to help you during the more temperate months. What a great time to become an active conservationist.

Not so long ago, I was fishing with my then preteen nephew Andrew when he landed a very nice salmon during a trip on Lake Michigan, his first. I still smile when I see the picture. He’s now a teacher in the Wooster area — okay, so it might have been longer ago than I’d like to think — and he was recently telling me how much he’s once again enjoying angling.

He especially mentioned that fly-fishing seemed intriguing. As a fly fisherman and also having spent a lifetime in the conservation field, this was my opportunity to help perpetuate the sport and to guide him into how best to learn and enjoy the activity.

Knowing where to search for information is important and the nationally acclaimed Trout Unlimited was my first stop at That directed me to the Clearfork River Chapter’s website at, where I discovered that their meetings are held near his home in Wooster. The real bonus was that one of my longtime colleagues from the Division of Wildlife was presenting a lecture during the January meeting.

Andrew and I made plans to attend, and a quick call to Wayne County wildlife officer Aaron Brown — also an ardent fly caster — brought him on board. As luck would have it, students aren’t the only ones that get sick and a game warden’s workload can be unpredictable. Both had to cancel at the last minute. Of course, that wasn’t going to stop me.

Trout Unlimited is an organization primarily concerned with preserving cold-water fisheries, though their members also avidly explore any fishing opportunities available. Kevin’s talk was centered upon the preparation and techniques for landing striped bass off his beloved Cape Cod.

His discussion came from decades of fly-fishing, tying and developing fly patterns, and catching fish. Kevin’s work as a wildlife officer and his involvement as the law enforcement advisory specialist for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission only adds to that knowledge base and his ability to share it. His presentation was excellent, as I expected.

While it’s impossible for me to go into all the details of his experiences, if I could share one concept it would be this: “Observe and draw good conclusions.” I’ve often referred to this skill as the art of seeing and understanding. It dictates that we broaden our focus to see the entirety of our surroundings and how actions relate to other actions and to subsequent reactions.

In his example, birds circling and feeding at his angling location indicates a food source. The species and size of the birds help identify the size of the prey. The location hints at the type of quarry. The reaction of the targeted animal helps to draw the predatory striped bass to feed leading to the conclusion that this is a good place to start fishing.

These same observation skills of “seeing” rather than “looking” are the same skills that allow you to second guess what is going on around you every day, whether hunting, fishing, driving or walking down the street.

The rest of the meeting revolved around updating the other activities being planned by the Clearfork River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. These include fly tying classes in March through April, developing demonstrations for the Kirtland Fly Fishing Expo, youth and beginner events, trout and habitat work along Apple Creek near Wooster, and a special project called “Trout in the Classroom” (TIC).

TIC now includes a half-dozen area schools where the chapter works with teachers to tailor the program to fit curricular needs. Therefore, each program is unique. TIC has interdisciplinary applications in science, social studies, mathematics, language arts, fine arts and physical education, with the fish being in a state-approved stream near the school. For information, visit

After the meeting, I spoke to several members and mentioned my missing partners. This prompted a brief discussion about involvement. “You know, there’s a lot of gray hair in the room,” one member lamented. “We need to reach that younger crowd, but it can be difficult. I’m afraid they picture me as old, but inside I’m not.” This issue haunts many conservation organizations.

That made me think a bit about that age-old generational divide. There’s a lot of earned knowledge under that gray hair and a lot of eagerness to learn from the not so experienced. One man summed it up by saying, “I would love for some young man or woman to take something from my experience and to deliver it somewhere that I wish I’d taken the time to go.”

There’s no doubt that any organization needs a transfusion of new blood to continue to exist.

My advice? When that younger person decides to come to the next function and you’re each studying the other with evaluating eyes, are you just looking or are you seeing? Are you observing and drawing good conclusions?

“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” — Ben Stein

Along the way:

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), agency botanists found four plant species that haven’t been seen in Ohio for decades and, in one case, more than a century. The following four species had been presumed extirpated in Ohio, meaning a naturally occurring population had not been observed in more than 20 years:

• Black-stemmed spleenwort, last seen in Ohio in 1900, found in Adams County.

• American cuckoo-flower, last seen in Ohio in the early 1990s, found in Summit County.

• Vasey’s pondweed, last seen in Ohio in 1935, found in Lorain County.

• Water marigold, last seen in Ohio in the 1930s, found in Portage County.

“We are fortunate to have such knowledgeable botanists in our state finding these rare gems, and I look forward to seeing more great work in 2020,” said ODNR director Mary Mertz.

These surprising finds show that there are still important discoveries to be made throughout Ohio’s natural landscapes. For more information, visit

Step outside:

•The United Conservation and Outdoor Association (UCOA) is seeking new members. The club offers trap, skeet, rifle, pistol, IDPA, sporting clays and archery shooting; a pond for fishing; and regular club and conservation events. Visit their website at Family dues are $75 per year. For membership information call 419-889-9930.

• Today: New member safety training, required to use ranges, 10 a.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243. Visit

• Today through Monday: Cleveland Boat Show and Fishing Expo, International Exposition (I-X) Center, 1 I-X Center Drive, Cleveland. Ohio’s oldest and largest boat show is even bigger with the addition of the new Fishing Expo. You’ll find more than 400 new power and sailboats from basic paddleboards to million-dollar motor yachts that are all ready to welcome you aboard. Visit

• Feb. 13: Officer and trustee elections, 8 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243. All members are encouraged to attend.

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at