With hundreds of thousands of youths shooting bows in public schools, their enthusiasm is spreading to friends and families. They are all learning what many of us have known for years -- shooting bows is fun. With the rapidly growing interest in archery, and with state wildlife agencies now using some excise tax funds to build ranges, we are seeing archery parks and centers springing up all over. Here are just a few examples.
The John and Marnie Demmer Shooting Sports Education and Training Center at Michigan State University (MSU) is a 23,000-square-foot facility opening next spring. It will have 28 indoor archery shooting lanes and three outdoor archery ranges. All will be open to University students and to the public as well. The ATA had a major hand in making this $3.5 million Shooting Sports Center happen by pledging $500,000 to its development via the ArrowSport Foundation. The ATA also has pledged $50,000 for each of the next two years to implement NASP and after-school programs in schools and recreation centers near the new shooting center so kids will be ready to shoot and enjoy the center the day it opens.
Easton Archery's Sports Development Foundation has a goal of helping to build as many as 10 Archery "Centers of Excel-lence." Easton also wants to help more universities field competitive archery teams. Easton has pledged major support to the MSU Center, as well as a major archery facility to be built near Gainesville, Florida, and another facility in conjunction with the National Field Archery Association in Yankton, South Dakota.
The Illinois Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is upgrading its 15-acre Blackwell Forest Preserve archery park, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Division is developing an archery range in Lincoln. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has 13 new archery range projects planned, including the Sweetwater County Archery Park under construction on city land and the Montgomery County Shooting Complex costing $3 million. The ATA is helping with financial aid for a number of these centers.
Minnesota is building eight new archery ranges around the state. Georgia is building ranges, too. South Carolina is starting a community archery program in Charleston with aid from the County Parks folks. Arizona has new archery ranges and community archery programs as well. Alabama has a goal of building 10 archery centers around the state.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is helping Des Moines build
a 40-acre community archery park. Though not officially approved yet, it appears that this archery park will be built only five minutes from the state capitol. How neat is that?
New Jersey hopes to have a huge archery complex within two years, built within a few miles of Newark, and within 25 miles of more than two million people.
This gives you some idea of the recent growth of archery parks, centers, and ranges around the country. Any growth in archery automatically translates to a growth of the interest in bowhunting.
The neat thing about all these ranges is that they involve so many stakeholders: state wildlife agencies, local bowhunting and archery clubs, city parks people, the archery manufacturers via the ATA, universities, public schools, and others working together to promote archery. For many of us, shooting targets has been great fun, but we love bowhunting even more. Will those shooting archery at these new ranges discover bowhunting? Some will. Are these ranges good for bowhunting? Incredibly so.
States Try to Get the Lead Out
On another front, a Bismarck, North Dakota, physician X-rayed 95 packages of ground venison donated to food pantries and found some amount of lead in 53. He contacted the state Health Department, which advised against distributing venison from food pantries. Minnesota then tested 238 deer samples and found lead fragments in 76, resulting in an immediate recall of 12,000 pounds of ground venison.
Hunter groups that donate hundreds of thousands of pounds of deer meat to help feed the homeless immediately reacted. They noted that thousands of people have eaten donated deer meat for many years without a problem. No scientific data show that lead levels in humans who consume deer meat are above safe standards. However, lead in any amount is a serious toxin for humans and this "scare" precipitated North Dakota to request the federal Communicable Disease Center to test for lead in the blood of people who eat venison. Data from 738 North Dakota citizens have been collected and are being analyzed.
The wildlife and health officials in Minnesota have taken the lead in studying this issue. In June 2008, they hosted a seven-state wildlife agency meeting to develop consistent programs and recommendations for hunters and meat processors.
Even though no data show that humans have been affected by fragments of lead bullets in venison, the Humane Society of the United States has jumped on this, calling for the end to any lead ammunition. Of course, their real agenda is to stop all hunting, and they'll magnify any tiny issue to achieve their goal. The end result will be that the gun industry and hunters will continue to be pressured to move away from lead shot and lead in bullets.
What, you might ask, does this have to do with bowhunting? After all, broadheads don't leave a lot of lead fragments in deer. Well, it might not have anything to do directly with bowhunting, but, by association, it could affect venison donations by bowhunters. And it's just a chink in the hunting armor that the antis will exploit.