As we go through life most of us hope to be a positive influence on others we encounter along the way. These encounters may be only brief in duration or evolve over many years into lasting relationships, but every one has some sort of influence on the other person, as well as on ourselves.
When this path through life gets long - say 80 years or so - the number of people we influence grows long, as well, and we can only hope we've made a difference.
Well, one such influential person was recently honored for his contribution to enriching the lives of others, particularly youths who pursue hunting as a sport.
This outdoorsman is Earl Bevins of Big Bay, who earlier this month was presented with a Partner in Conservation Award from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Bevins, president of the Big Bay Sportsmen's Club, was honored for his dedication to teaching hunter education classes, which he has been doing for the past 54 years.
I was fortunate to catch Bevins at home the other day to have a telephone conversation about the award, although he didn't have long to talk as he was getting a new shelter ready for his tree stand - where he'll be sitting when the archery deer season opens.
"I've hunted deer in Michigan for 68 years, since I was 12 years old," the 80-year-old hunter said. "One of the things the kids (in the hunter safety classes) enjoy is I have 68 years of experience to answer their questions."
Earl started teaching the classes in 1956, four years before they became mandatory for new hunters.
"Game warden Rex Griddon, we used to call them game wardens back then, said he'd sit in on a class and see if it was OK," Bevins said. "He said it was fine and just keep doing what I was doing. I still have the first type-written (hunter safety instruction) manual he gave me."
Bevins taught those first classes, as well as ones over the next 39 years, as a member of the downstate Macomb County Sportsmen's Club, having serving as the club's president, vice president and board of directors member over the years.
After retiring, he moved to Big Bay in 1995 and has taught the classes ever since in conjunction with the Big Bay Sportsmen's Club, which he now serves as president.
He said the most important aspect of the classes he teaches has remained the same over the past 68 years - safety.
"I teach them to always control the muzzle of the gun, that's the big one," he said. "I do demonstrations also, like how smokeless powder burns and black powder explodes. The kids stay inside the clubhouse and look through the window ... and when I light the line of smokeless and it slowly burns to a pile of blackpowder - BOOM, they see what I mean.
"I also take a 12-gauge with three-inch magnums, bury a 2x4 in the ground and shoot it in two. Then the kids know how powerful a shotgun is."
Instilling the proper safety and hunting techniques in young hunters is satisfying to Bevins, and he said he gets the biggest kick "when I sign that (hunter education) permit - I can't believe the look on the boys' and girls' faces."
In addition to his more than half a century of work in the hunter safety program, the DNRE also recognized Earl for all the work the Big Bay club does to improve the lake Independence fishery.
For example, Bevins said a few years back the club planted $5,000 worth of walleye, crappie and bluegills in the popular fishing lake near Big Bay and every spring club volunteers trap suckers out of tributaries to the lake. During a seven-hour effort this spring, he said they removed about 1,800 mature suckers from those small creeks flowing into Independence.
"Also, Lake Independence has the highest priority for removal of trash fish (by the DNRE) and removal is set for 2012 and the sportsmen's club will volunteer the labor," Bevins said. "After that, the next season and two or three after the perch fishing will be like you won't believe."
The sportsmen and women of the area certainly owe Earl, as well as the Big Bay Sportsmen's Club, a big thanks for making the sport of hunting safer for our youngsters and working to enhance the fishery of a wonderful lake nestled into the great northwoods of the Upper Peninsula.
Editor's note: City Editor David Schneider can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270-. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.