LAS VEGAS—The National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with several other organizations in the outdoor industry, announced at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) a number of initiatives designed to increase participation in hunting and target shooting both through reactivation of those who have lapsed who have ceased to participate or participate only sporadically, and through recruitment of people completely new to the pastime.
Hunter numbers have declined in recent decades due to a variety of reasons, including lack of mentorship, difficulty in accessing hunting lands and shifts in cultural norms. But there is cause for optimism. Research shows that, despite the decline in participating numbers, many Americans continue to have a strong interest in hunting, and the programs announced today are a clear indicator of progress being made in developing the solutions needed to connect those who are interested in hunting, but haven’t yet participated, with the resources they need to get started.
“There’s a strong, well-documented interest in this great American pastime by people from all walks of life, and one of the keys to taking that interest to active participation is through the support and encouragement of mentors,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director, Research and Market Development. “Programs that provide that connection, such as mentoring programs, are what’s sorely needed to move people from wanting to get involved to actually being involved.”
Curcuruto was joined in the press conference by representatives from the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, the Quality Deer Management Association, Georgia Wildlife Federation, all of which support programs specifically designed to increase participation numbers.
Curcuruto outlined several new NSSF participation initiatives, including its +ONE program, which encourages experienced hunters and target shooters to mentor youth and adults and recognizes the efforts of these mentors. This program and others are supported by three new major websites developed by NSSF.
LetsGoHunting.org is dedicated to all things hunting, everything from discussion of calibers to use for elk, treestand safety and how to perfect one’s wingshooting skills to working with Western big-game tag draws and a wealth of tasty field-to-table recipes. NSSF’s +ONE movement is a central component of the site, as are the “Where to Hunt” and “Apprenticeship” links.
LetsGoShooting.org, LetsGoHunting.org’s sister site, is dedicated to all things target sports, with a comprehensive library of video and reading resources, geo-locating services for firearms ranges and retailers, safety instruction, shooting sports organizations and more.
Finally, StepOutside.org focuses on cross-participation across a spectrum of outdoor activities. Using geo-locating services similar to that in the LetsGo websites, StepOutside.org acknowledges the mutual interests of, for example, hikers and kayakers with hunting, target shooting and angling pursuits, and encourages participation.
An innovative program in Georgia is underway to help college students give hunting a try. Charles Evans, the Georgia Wildlife Federation R3 coordinator, said this partnership program with NSSF addresses survey findings that suggest that many college students want to try hunting and target shooting, but have never had that opportunity. This program offers an avenue to get started and the tools to help students continue on their own. “We recognize that college students are curious about hunting, the nutritional benefits of game meat and the hunter’s role in conservation. Lifelong habits start in college, and hunting could be one of the better habits students form,” said Evans.
The sale of hunting licenses and tags, along with excise taxes on the purchase of firearms and ammunition, assist federal and state wildlife conservation efforts, with more than $1.67 billion contributed annually by sportsmen and -women. They provide the bulk of conservation funding, so maintaining hunter ranks and safeguarding this funding level is vitally important for the nation’s wildlife, the speakers said.
Another promising program called “Field to Fork” comes from the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). This modern approach to attracting new hunters works by connecting adults with an all-natural, local, renewable, healthy food source. Field to Fork spans the entire hunting process from hunter education to processing and preparing the harvest for a meal, and it was recently adapted to allow industry members to mentor and participate.
Hank Forester, Hunting Heritage Program Manager for QDMA, said, “Mentoring a new hunter can seem daunting at times, but experience shows that many people interested in hunting will welcome a personal invitation to try it. This is part of what Field to Fork does, provide that invitation that can really make a difference.”
Forester added that, “People in our own industry are interested in learning to hunt, and we’re working to make sure that those desires become a reality by having current participants teach newcomers the ropes.”
To learn more about opportunities to become involved in these programs and to join the national movement to recruit more hunters and target shooters, feel free to contact Jim Curcuruto at firstname.lastname@example.org, Hank Forester at email@example.com, Charles Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or Samantha Pedder at email@example.com.
About the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports
Purpose: Ensure support for and active participation in hunting and the shooting sports for future generations.
Vision: America where hunting and the shooting sports are an integral part of mainstream culture and where hunters and shooters are widely recognized as premiere conservation contributors.
Mission: Facilitate the promotion and growth of hunting and the shooting sports and the education of the public on the contributions that hunters and shooters make towards wildlife conservation.