Building this year’s conference agenda

By Pat Wray

November 7, 2019

If you were responsible for this year’s conference, how would you go about planning the agenda?

My approach was to gather together a group of interested people, ask for their ideas and then, before they got away, ask for their help in arranging speakers and seminars. Those people are hard at work, even as you read this.

Our primary theme essentially chose itself: “A Changing World; Challenges and Opportunities” reflects today’s national and global upheaval in multiple arenas: weather patterns, social conflict, unchecked pollution, precipitous decline of fish and wildlife species and more.

We’re incorporating two exceptional keynote speakers. Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, the trailblazing book on global warming and Doug Ladd, a well-known naturalist who will present a blueprint for creating a culture of stewardship of nature.

The general theme of change, challenge and opportunity will be reflected in several other newsmaker sessions, with subjects including; “Dam Removal, Pros and Cons,” “Are We Loving Nature to Death? If So, What Can We Do About It?” “Native Fish Restoration, Successes and Failures,” “Controlling Invasive Species…with Invasive Species.”

We’ve also incorporated a secondary newsmaker thread: “Disaster Preparation; How to Help Your Family and Your Audience Prepare for a: Hurricane, Wildfire, Tornado, Flood, Earthquake, Widespread Loss of Power or an EMP (electromagnetic pulse).”

This second theme is a little unusual, I know, but here’s my thinking. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent, and more intense, as climate change worsens. In 15 years as a volunteer Red Cross disaster responder, I’ve seen over and over again how much better prepared for disasters outdoors folk are than average citizens. While hundreds of people line up waiting for handouts from the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, hunters, hikers, fishermen and others with a similar mindset are calmly taking care of their families with tents, sleeping bags, propane stoves and heaters, water filters and other outdoor-related equipment. The longer the disaster continues, the more important that sort of gear—and knowledge—becomes.

No one, literally, no one, is better prepared and better able to educate their audience about preparing for disaster than you members of OWAA are. We want to provide you with tools to help you do so. These tools will include the Disaster Preparation presentation and shorter sessions on how to start a fire, overnight survival and wilderness medicine, building a Disaster Go-Bag, how to tie four knots that will save your life, how to respond to an attack by cougars, bears and mean humans (hint: all different responses).

We’ve got a great lineup of Craft Improvement sessions as well. These include: “Landscape Photography,” “Keeping the Journal in Journalism,” “How to be Somebody on the Web…and Make it Pay,” “The Artist in Residence Program; Is it Right for You?” “Working on Company Publications with Words and Photos,” “Taking Video and Editing it on Your Cell Phone,” “Mirrorless Cameras,” “4/3 Cameras,” and “Writing for Kids.”

A few of our sessions don’t easily fit into categories. One of the most important is “Guns in America.” This plenary session will feature Steve Sanetti, NSSF President and CEO and David Yamane, Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University. Steve will present a history of firearms in the United States from colonial times to the present day. David will focus on the corresponding evolution of American gun culture during that same period. There will be no axes ground in this presentation, just an exploration of one of the most profound and influential aspects of American life since our beginning.

Another unusual session is entitled “OWAA: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, Where We Want to Go.” Headlined by Tom Huggler, Glenn Sapir and Emily Stone. This session will probably end up as a wide-ranging discussion involving as many of the audience as want to participate. This will be your chance to help chart OWAA’s course into the future, because notes taken in this session will be used in the development of our next strategic plan. If you care about the future of OWAA, this will be the place to be.

In addition to Breakout Day, during which you’ll be able to shoot rifles, shotguns, pistols, longbows, recurves, compounds and crossbows, and test a whole lineup of products from Supporting Groups, we also have a series of outdoor skills sessions scheduled throughout the conference. These will include “How to Pack for an Extended Backpacking Trip,” “How to Improve Your Casting Technique (not just fly casting),” “How to Call Elk, Deer, Moose and Varmints,” and “How to Set Snares (and release your dog if he’s caught in one).”

Finally, we’ll have a demonstration of gutless field dressing and shortly thereafter we’ll have lunch. Sorry. Couldn’t help it.

Our conference at the Jay Peak Resort in Vermont this year will be one of the most diverse, hard hitting and exciting conferences ever. Make your plans now.

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