BENNINGTON--The ninth annual "Heroes of Conservation" awards by Field and Stream magazine and Toyota selects six people across the country to be recognized as finalists. Kevin Hoyt of Bennington was nominated by the National Youth Hunting Association, who like Hoyt, are involved in recruiting the next generation of hunters and conservationists.
The award honors the efforts of individuals involved in habitat restoration, protecting threatened species and inspiring a new generation of hunters.
Hoyt has worked as a hunter-education instructor, a Vermont state firearms safety trainer and an international bowhunting safety instructor for more than 25 years. In 1999, he started a conservation program known as "The Future of Hunting," which is multifaceted. The program includes a television broadcast on multiple cable access stations, seen locally on CAT-TV. The program also seeks to educate youth on hunting and conservation by publicizing awareness.
Hoyt decided to start the program after he heard of reports on license sales, and talk from conservationists of the sport of hunting being "doomed."
"Instantly, I wanted to do something about it," Hoyt said. "I don't think I'm the only passionate hunter that cares about the future. The problem is that we are a pretty hard-headed group; most hunters know what conservation is and they believe in it the reality is that (hunting) is privilege and we can lose it at any time.
Hoyt attributes loss of interest in the sport to poor land access, the cost involved and single-parent families among other reasons. "Rather than battle all of those individual causes, I thought I would jump right to the cure," Hoyt said. "It's just a matter of increasing awareness."
Hoyt publicizes his message with the help from his sponsors. Guides, outfitters and taxidermists donate thousands of dollars of free cross-world hunting trips to Hoyt every year. He gives 40 to 60 hunting trips away a year, to children chosen randomly from the website, http://pursuitchannel.com/kevin-hoyts-the-future-of-hunting/, and films them for his TV show.
"How do you get people to listen to you? I'm Kevin Hoyt from Bennington, Vermont," Hoyt said. "Nobody knows who I am. That's where the give away comes in."
Hoyt said his conservation program is not about him as a hunter or his personal gains. He said he couldn't imagine the country without hunting or wildlife.
"Hunting is a personal choice: not everyone can do it and not everyone has to," Hoyt said. "I think we owe it to wildlife to understand the science behind conservation, and what it does for the economy, ecology, the planet and that society really needs it."
Hoyt doesn't make much personal monetary gain from his television show. He does side work and does some freelance writing for outdoor magazines. He said he cares little about money, "I feel like this is literally my chance to change the world."
Hoyt said working with youth and the sense of accomplishment hunting gives kids is what is noteworthy. "I'm a father and all of my kids play sports," he said. "I can stand on the side of a soccer field and jump up and down just like any other dad, but that one-on-one quality time that you get with a kid and that experience in the outdoors is phenomenal. I don't think anything compares to it."
The public can support Hoyt's nomination by visiting fieldandstream.com/heroes. Hoyt said he was honored and surprised just to be nominated, and would be so again to bring home the award as a victory for BEnnington.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg