By Dwight Schuh, Editor
ON APRIL 17 AND 18, representatives from 32 national, state, and provincial bowhunting groups met in Springfield, Missouri, in a Bowhunting Summit to discuss strategies to protect and promote bowhunting. Hosted by the Pope and Young Club, following the Club's 24th Biennium Convention, participants identified concerns and planned solutions.
Antihunting threats. Rick Story, senior vice president of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA), said there are 3,100 animal-rights organizations with a combined annual income of $300 million. On January 1, 2005, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Fund for Animals merged to create an organization with an annual income of nearly $100 million to carry out its animal-rights agenda -- which includes the elimination of bowhunting.
Declining hunter numbers. Story noted that in 1981, 17.4 million people, or 8 percent of the U.S. population, hunted; in 2001, the numbers had dropped to 13.2 million and 5 percent. Urbanization explains part of the drop, but rising license costs, leasing of lands, and other trends that restrict access to hunting lands also contribute.
Declining public image. With urbanization, fewer people understand hunting. Some hunters' actions, hunting videos and TV programs, and other media often portray hunting badly.
Crossbows in bow seasons. A press release following the Summit stated: "The organizational representatives at the Bowhunting Summit were unanimous in their opposition to crossbows...in bow seasons...crossbows are not bows and therefore they should not be allowed in bowhunting-only seasons, except...for qualified physical disabilities."
Lawsuits. A recent lawsuit filed by United States Outfitters (USO) forced Arizona to alter its allocation of nonresident licenses. Some hunters believe such legal action will adversely affect big game licensing throughout the West -- and perhaps the entire U.S.
Lack of organization. Hunters generally are isolated and poorly organized. Thus, they are ineffectual in addressing the above concerns.
Bowhunter Rights Coalition (BRC). Rick Story emphasized that a major goal of the BRC is to mobilize bowhunters in order to defeat antihunters at the ballot box and in the courts. This will be done by providing information and generating a national, rapid-response grassroots network. Bowhunter Magazine signed on with the BRC from the beginning, and we urge all bowhunters to do the same. Go to www.bowhuntercoalition.org.
National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses (NASC). The NASC gives hunters muscle in the political arena. Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation spokesman Jeff Crane, and Maryland State Senator John Astle, president of the NASC, said state legislatures dealt with 3,000 wildlife-related bills in 2005, but, in many states, hunters had scant voice regarding these bills. State caucuses give hunters the needed voice. Right now 23 state legislatures have sportsmen's caucuses, and the goal of the NASC is to expand that to all 50 states. As Senator Astle said, "The HSUS wants to take hunting away, species by species, state by state. State caucuses can defeat this." Make sure your state legislature has a sportsmen's caucus, and support legislators who belong. Go to www.sportsmenslink.org.
Bowhunting Summit. "Our organization has long wanted a forum such as the National Bowhunting Summit to share ideas and strategies," stated Mike Foust, president of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania. Riding impetus from the initial Bowhunting Summit, state and provincial bowhunting groups will have that opportunity as the Summit grows. The next meeting will be held August 6-7 in Chatfield, Minnesota, and Summit groups will then meet every year, alternating national meetings at P&Y Biennium Conventions with regional meetings during off years. The Summit will develop a strong network of bowhunters to rally anywhere, anytime that any issue threatens bowhunting. This will be a powerful mechanism to protect bowhunting. Support it. Go to www.bowsite.com, www.pope-young.org, or call the P&Y Club at (507) 867-4144.
National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). For details, see C.J. Winand's report in Bowhunter's Journal (page 18). The goal is to establish NASP programs in all 50 states, with a minimum of 100 schools in every state. Because this program does not preach just to the choir, but to many nonhunters, it could be one of the strongest archery/bowhunting recruiting tools ever conceived. State wildlife agencies are partnering with NASP to expand the program. Go to www.nasparchery.com.
Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH). Venison feeding programs not only help thousands of needy people but bolster public image of hunting. FHFH is now working in nearly half the states and plans to establish venison-donation programs in all states. In six years, FHFH has served some 1,400 tons of game meat to needy folks. Go to www.fhfh.org.