The Moral Call of the Wild

A study suggests that spending time in nature changes our values-

The Moral Call of the Wild. By P. Wesley Schultz. Scientific American.

Being outside almost always improves my mood, and a lot of my best ideas have come in the wide open spaces, not sitting at a desk or computer.  The outdoors seems more real and time passes more slowly because events are not so repetitive that one days blurs into the next. I can tell what I did each day during my February and March trip to Arizona, Nevada, and California. I can’t remember what I did last Wednesday here at home.

Too many people don’t have a real life. They watch reality TV hoping that someone does 🙁






  1. vickif Avatar

    I have seen first hand the healing that can take place, the change, the growth. I am a huge fan of taking kids to nature. I think it transforming for so many of them.
    I have seen it change adults also, both by them going, and by them taking others. Taking someone outdoors is ‘paying it forward’ in uncountable measures.
    My uncle passed away a few weeks ago. He was responsible for a number of youngsters being able to experience the outdoors. I got to witness how it helped him be a better person by sharing nature and outdoor skills with kids. He really got great reward from doing it.
    I am starting a non-profit in his honor. The organization will provide outdoor experiences to at-risk, or shut in youth. Given that we all win in this process, I encourage others to do this in their community also. You will gain a friend for the environment, and perhaps save someone from a sad fate. Win-win I think!

  2. Cobra Avatar

    Sorry to hear about your uncle Vicki. I have three boys and I’ve introduced everyone of them to the outdoors, living were we live makes it easier for us than most. The oldest boys got bored with hunting, hiking, fishing etc., but the times they spent in the outdoors were still treasured and now that they’re older and have jobs and starting families they wish they could spend more time in the outdoors. My youngest however eats it up, he spends every spare minute he has outdoors and although he’s only 16 I think it instills a confidence and self reliance in him that his friends that don’t like the outdoors are missing. There are a lot of lost souls out there that spend hours and hours in front of the t.v. playing video games or just watching the boob tube that could really use the experiences obtained by being in the woods or on the water. I’ve always wished I could start some type of program that could introduce kids to the outdoors and get them into a more relaxed atmosphere if even for a little while. I’ve taken quite a few kids fishing and hunting and I think I enjoy it as much as they do. Once you break that barrier it’s amazing how relaxed they become and simple things like watching chipmunks or squirrels or even bugs can spark their interest. Several years ago I took a young archery hunter elk hunting. We we’re sitting at an elk wallow and the sun was poking through the pines in spots hitting the forest floor. Where ever the sun was hitting the blowflies were landing and warming up, then the bald faced hornets came out on patrol and would fly down and get the blow flys and carry them off after a brief wrestling match. We were so involved with the show we were watching we forgot aout the elk and sure enough the big old bull came down to the wallow and we didn’t even notice until it was to late. I saw that young hunter (not so young anymore) just this season in the sporting goods store and that was the first thing he brought up, watching the bugs, I had to remind him of the bull that got away. He’s hooked and knows the real reasons for being out there.

  3. Salle Avatar

    As a young child, in rural New England ~ though we were always moving around the country due to my dad’s military service ~ I used to go out into the woods or down to the shore as soon as my mom had me dressed and fed. I would spend the whole day climbing trees, watching everything hat moved, the sky, the bugs, everything. I wouldn’t go back into the house until dark, my mom would freak.

    It seems that I learned more from that than anything in my life. I was a terrible student in school because I was always looking out the window wishing I could just go outside and be with my “friends” out there. I’ve never been that fond of people, it’s taken some serious adjustments to live among humans.

    The outdoors is where most of us could learn the really important things in life, the things that really sustain us, and that those things aren’t money, manufactured items and the control of all other living things… Life isn’t some prettied up made-for-TV series of events. It’s the loss of this connection to the real world that makes people short-sighted and willing to destroy ourselves in pursuit of the TV image and the continued production of that image… and for what?

  4. vickif Avatar

    Thank you Cobra. He was an amazing guy. My parents raised hiim really, so he was my big brother. He may be gone, but the impressions he made will last throughout generations.
    I take kids, all colors, ages and sizes to the great outdoors pretty regularly. THe laughter and smiles when they spot their first moose, catch their first fish, make that first mountain top, those are truly priceless memories.
    Once my paperwork is finalized, I am happy to enlist you, or send you a copy. Start a chapter where you live! There is never a shortage of kids you can help.
    The kids who don’t have a parent, or are raised by elderly grandparents, or can’t make the football team, who have been in trouble, who are shy…those kids can fit in outdoors. They have renewed sense of belonging, because we all belong outdoors.
    I took a girl with me to YNP once, she had an auto-immune desease. She had never really done much outside. I just heard the other day she is finishing a degree in biology and wants to work with wildlife.
    I took a hispanic teen fishing last year, when he caught his first fish, we could hardly get him out of the waders! He came by the other day asking when we were going again. He told his dad in Compton, CA (seriously at-risk kid) that he wanted to stay in Colorado. I listened in awe when this kid told me about the bars they bolted on his house, and how he slept on the floor so he wouldn’t get hit by drive by shooters. He told me when he camped, he felt safe.
    I can give Ralph the info, or I will post an email once done. (Pre-mature for right now.)
    But basically, all you need to have funding for is equipment, gas, and extra food. (I already have tons, but I am getting some extra stuff donated from local retailers. Walmart is usually great about helping too.)
    I have a doctor who is excited to volunteer. He can do physical clearances, emergencies, and he is an avid outdoorsman who eagerly wants to pass it on.
    I have already got about 6 people to help out. I am now checking into a couple of teachers too! I plan to call it all HAYLO (in honor of my uncle)…Help American Youth Love Outdoors.
    I also know that there are other groups that do this. There are also designated days to take kids fishing, outdoors etc.
    Perhaps you could contact BIG BROTHERS/SISTERS. I am sure there is a child that would love to be taken along with you and your son!

  5. JimT Avatar

    First, let me wish all of you a happy and peaceful holiday season, however you celebrate this time of the return of the light (too slowly for my taste, but there you are), or don’t celebrate it.

    Salle, I was born in Vermont and raised in a small town with Calhoun’s Farm less than a half mile up the road. My childhood..and my friends..were filled with free form opportunities to explore woods and fields unencumbered except for the mandatory “be home by dinner time” rule. It wasn’t contrived, or part of any program; it simply was what you did, who you were, and the culture of the times for childhood then. I am thankful we did not have inside electronic succubi that are availlable now.

    I am also thankful I didn’t grow up in the era of the after school childcare. My mom did work, but I had older siblings whose duty was to mind me, and then mine to mind my younger brother when he came along. That meant taking him on the meanderings to the creek, or to the pond where the train engine disappeared and was never found (true story). We grew up with frogs and snakes and mud.
    We learned to make our own fun, to be comfortable without having some adult say it was time for hockey or gymnastics, or any number of things that are the RULE for the kids of parents these days. I don’t think kids today are capable of being disconnected. It is the exception, even here in oh so fit Boulder, to see someone out on one of the trails who isn’t trailing white wires from their ears. I just shake my head, thinking of what they are missing. It is as if they are addicted, maybe even hard wired by now, to this panoply of devices of constant input, and without it, they would be simply lost, unable to generate energy on their own. Email and groups like this is the one concession I have made.

    There is also strong evidence..even some books written about it…that deal with the healing capacities of the outdoors for kids with all sorts of behavioral or perception issues. I know of one book that deals specifically with ADHD, the latest label for kids who don’t fit the mold.

    I think the change has to come from within the generation affected for it to truly be transforming. Until some next generation really accepts the beauty and the transformative nature of simply listening to the echoes of Mesa Verda, or Canyonlands instead of iPhoning or iTuning…it won’t happen as a general matter. Doesn’t mean we don’t make the effort, so cudos to all of you who are working with youth, trying to open their ears and minds.

  6. Si'vet Avatar

    If you can, and have the time, share the outdoors with the elderly, and disabled. Be prepared for tears of joy, and lots of hugs.

  7. mikepost Avatar

    The US military just did a study on why some soldiers are better at detecting roadside bombs then their peers. The end result, the IED “experts” had measurably better peripheral vision and depth perception (not their actual eyes, but in how they mentally processed the visual inputs). The next question was why? The predominate common denominator was an outdoor life style (not the only). Activities like hunting, wildlife/bird watching and other investigative outdoor activities helped to hone these sensory skills to a higher level then their city bound peers. It involved having 360 degree situational awareness in conditions full of varied stimuli and being able to pick out pieces of an image like a flash of early sun on a small patch of fur, just the flicker of movement or the snapping of a twig and then being able to extrapolate the presence of a critter. Many hunting families refer to this as the development of “deer eyes”. The worst bomb detectors; soldiers with a preoccupation with computor gaming. (No surprise there.) We may not want any more kids to go to war, but it seems to me that the development of these skills has many other life enhancing applications even in peaceful life. Yet another reason to get the kids out there…

  8. Si'vet Avatar

    Cobra, your story made me take that quick breath. I could hear the hornets and smell the wallow. I to have 3 sons, all grown. Since the late eighties we have hunted unit 1 for late season mule deer, crazy I know. My sons fondest memoiries are eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Clark Fork cafe, and 2 slices of Huckleberry pie. The year my second oldest turned 16 he was 6’2″ – 175 with ok speed and awesome hands, he had already been approached by several scouts off the record. That late fall, he and I found a buck 2 hrs on snow shoes away. A shot that was a little south made it a grueling 4 hr. trip back. I had one of those little box camera’s and took his picture, rack on his pack, hair straight up from sweat, Bee Top in the background. That next summer he was in a diving accident and is C-5 quad. Even though he still has all his baseball trophies and gear, that old poor quality photo, takes center stage, along with the stories of North Idaho hunting trips. You just never know when it’s going to be the last trip. I’ve listened while he tells people of the challenges of hunting in deep snow, and steep mountains, those challenges motivated him thru 2 bachelor degrees and a recent masters degree, the power of the mountain, hence my passion. Give a boy a fish, feed him for a day, teach a boy to fish, feed him for life

  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I took my nine year old daughter out elk hunting for her first time this year. She held my hand for the first hour climbing the hill, out of sheer excitement. We spent all day on that mountain, came up with code words for different spots on the mountain, showed her how to tell the difference between fresh and old sign, got in some instruction on proper sight picture for a weapon, some basic compass reading, took quite a few pictures, shared other outdoor knowledge as it occurred, and then that evening went and sit in a hot springs and just discussed stuff.

    One of the best day’s I have ever had.

  10. Si'vet Avatar

    Jeff that’s what I’m talking about, time spent with my daughter outdoors, maybe even better than the boys, please keep that a secret. I have some very young grand children that only live 50 miles away. “I’m startin over”, it’s almost more exciting, hope I make fewer mistakes.. Jeff, it just doesn’t get any better.

  11. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E


  12. Layton Avatar

    Hey Jeffy,

    Merry Christmas.

  13. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    thanks Layton’
    you too, and happy New year

  14. izabelam Avatar

    Si’vet and all who just now showed some emotions! happy new year to you. I hope we can find some solutions and be on the same side of the fence. Life is great and we all should be happy for what we have share the love instead of hatred.
    Talking about nature and how it changes or can change people is great. I loved the forest and nature since I was a little one following my mother, picking up mushrooms and watching animals. Now, being an older…:) lady, I try to share with people the love of nature..inlcuding wolves and other predators. Inlcuding elk,bison and sheep…
    I am not against hunting elk, deer or boar. Have any of you tasted a wild boar? We have them in Europe.
    But..I want all of us get along inlcuding ranchers who have kids. What are they teaching their kids, grandkids?
    I worry that we bicker about things instead of finding solutions. We are mean and cruel and this is not right in Christmas spirit, this is not we want our chlidern to be, right?
    Someone sent an e-mail to my friend with a message merry christmas and a picture of a dead wolf pup….let’t us stop being mean and cruel…I hope the 2010 will bring us solutions and peace. An maybe we can all get along….

  15. vickif Avatar

    Even in the smallest imaginable sence, there is something good in most tragedies. If you can find that good, you can develope a greater knowledge of what matters in life. I am sorry for your son’s struggles, but it is darn impressive that he has accomplished such great things since then. I would hope in the new year (and in the half of my heart that is liberal) research provides hope and answers for him.

    As for taking girls to the outdoors…well, I was one of those girls. I can recall my daddy (still call him that to this day) teaching me the rules of hunting, and taking me out to shoot. “Aim just slightly above your center mark, allow for how much the bullet will drop when it travels.” I have so many memories of being outside.
    We were out by Bloody Basin in Arizona the first time I ever fired a shotgun. We had hiked the desert all day, looking for quail and rabbits. We had to be quiet, so we wouldn’t spook anything, and so we could hear rattlesnakes if need be.
    After a few hours we came to a cave at the top of a ridge, and when we went inside we could see petroglyphs and old broke pottery. My dad made the whole day into a history lesson, talking about the battle that had occured in the basin. I was fascinated and hung on every word.
    On the way back, the sun was setting. There is no place on earth with a more beautiful sunset. The tangerine and red that rolls across the Arizona sky is like watching peace, literally. It is uncomparable.
    We could smell the cactus blooms and the drying stream beds, and we finally saw quail. They were bunched under a bush, silhouetted by the red glow of the setting sun. We kept walking. My dad said, “I say it’s dusk. Too late to shoot them now.”
    I was hooked. Not on bird hunting, just on being out there. Now, I am outside when ever I can be. And, I passed that on to my kids.
    So often, when daughters begin to ‘change’, their dad’s lose touch. They run out of common interests and forget to communicate. My dad and I had our share of arguements, but we are closer because of the time we share outside. He inspired me, by giving me something I could always find inspiration in…nature.
    But I got more than that, I gained confidence and inner-strength. I grew up knowing I could do whatever a boy could, and I never thought there was anything I couldn’t do just because I was a girl.
    I think that helped me, to not tollerate abuse or settle for a man because I was dependant on one. It helped me be a better person, a better mother, a better daughter.
    There is no better way to grow up, than by learning to value the intangible.

  16. Si'vet Avatar

    Vickif, Iz, thanks we’re all good, never been the why me type folks. I know alot of emotions on both sides gets poured out here. I really believe that if we can start getting a few key people together and “communicate” better things will happen. As you know I’ve asked Ralph to help me put a group together in a forum we can sit around the table to discuss issues. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but just like the cliche’ question, “how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time. Ralph is buried on the FCW issue at the moment, but I promise i will get him to help me with some type of forum. Vickif let me rephrase, give a child a fish.

  17. vickif Avatar

    That discussion should happen. I am up for it.
    I would hope to see Layton there. And a few others that have historical knowledge and real life experience, from both sides. Have you considered who you would send an invite to?
    What would be the primary topic(s)?
    I honestly have little formal education in the areas discussed here. I am just a middle of the road person. I hunt and fish, but also enjoy wildlife watching. I see the value in have a predator/prey balance. I am also concerned about energy, conservation and human preservation.
    But my real area of know-how is medical-management, healthcare, and business recycling (closure, sales, and up-start).
    Let me know what I can do.

  18. Nathan Hobbs Avatar
    Nathan Hobbs

    The sad thing is when many enter the outdoors they approach it in a humanistic adrenaline seeking way. Often the woods are a video game that can be reset. And not the fragile gift that it is.

    It really takes a lot often to shake off that attitude and wander the woods in a way that connects you to the outdoors rather than further distances you in understanding from it.

  19. izabelam Avatar

    Let’s us not forget..there are people on this blog who will never sit and talk. They are the one who will never compromise and negotiate and never meet in the middle. For them is all or nothing. They hate wolves and any other predator. What we need to do is not convince them that thier way is wrong way…we need to gather more people who sit on the fence or dont’ even realize of what’s going on. The less people go to meetings of Gilette and likes..the better for wolves..more ranchers need to get educated that they can live in peace withg predators. More kids at school need learn about our wildlife and maybe more fathers need to teach their daughters and sons that healthy nature includes all species.
    Give a child a fish…give a child a fishing rod…how about give a child of gift of loving all species…
    What bothers me with all the groups who support wildlife and endangered species is that they focus so much on other continents and other species about our own…bears, wolverines, wolves…how about our own bison….
    we get upset when Japaneese slaugher about gettin guspes when we slaughter our own coyotes and bison….
    just my 3 cents….

  20. Cobra Avatar

    I really don’t think there are very many what you call wolf haters on Ralphs board. I think the real issue is,what is middle of the road to some may not be middle of the road for others. We all seem to have a difference on where exactly that middle is. To some the middle is wolves can only be shot under the most extreme circumstances. To others the wolf hunt itself was alright until W.S. got involved with their control. Some say under no circumstances should wolves be shot. Who’s right or who’s wrong? we all like to think we are right. We all come from different backgrounds and live in different places which gives us all different ideas. The main issue is to introduce people to the outdoors, especially kids because their the ones that can keep things going and make sure there are always wild places and wild game. I cannot imagine a world without it and don’t really want to.

  21. vickif Avatar

    That was very insightful. I would have to agree.

  22. Vaati Avatar

    I’ve sadly never had the chance to go in the great outdoors. My family would probably find the trip boring,except my mom who loves wildlife but just thinks people should stay out of it. I have to disagree with her,people should stop HARMING the wildlife but we are apart of it,we should always be apart of it.

    Nature still effects me though,watching the clouds in the evening,looking at the moon and starts out my window,seeing the gulls,squirrels and stray cats go about their lives,the trees swaying in the wind. I get the best inspiration for my writing and drawing from just thinking and looking at the sky. Heck I’ve cut TV from my life besides the occasional video game session,the window is the only “TV” I need.

    I wish I could say more,but I feel like I’m just blabbing now lol


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan