Its hard to believe as we sit through the first really hot spell we’ve had this summer that its just a few weeks away from the opening days of two of the largest and most popular hunting seasons in the South. Its time to put on some cool clothing and head to the shooting ranges to make all the equipment is ready for the field and all the necessary hunter safety courses and licenses are in proper order.
Our first big hunting season will (as usual) open on Saturday, Sept. 1, as the season for mourning dove opens. It’s a hunting season that’s as much of a southern tradition as grits and collards and it’s the hunting season that brings many first-time hunters into the fields.
If you or someone you know is in the first-timer category, now is the time to be thinking about getting that all important hunter safety school behind you. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and a staff of dedicated hunter safety instructors is standing by and ready for the huge influx of new hinters who must successfully complete this safety course before they can purchase their hunting licenses. It’s a good time to be helping these “newbies” through their safe gun handling and marksmanship training.
The second hunting season that’s looming over the horizon is the archery season for whitetail deer. It opens throughout most of the State of North Carolina on Sept. 10. If the prospective bow hunters are, like new gun hunters, going to be waiting in line to buy their first hunting license, they too need the hunter safety training before they can buy that first hunting license and be legal when taking to the woods in search of that big buck.
Curiously this year is seeing a large number of young women entering into the sport of bow hunting. The trilogy of books (and subsequent hit movie) written by Suzanne Collins based on the theme of “Hunger Games” and starring a teenaged young woman who’s an expert archer, has inspired a lot of teenaged women to take up archery and bow (pun intended) hunting. This should result in a vast improvement in the scenery in our hunting woods this year.
Along with our own fish and wildlife agencies, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) takes a great deal of interest in seeing to it that our hunters are properly trained before they go to the woods. For this reason they have some good advice for the person who’s mentoring the new hunters.
Whether in a duck blind or on the firing line, the majority of hunters and target shooters share their activity with a companion, and, as an NSSF-funded study reveals, they are there for one overriding reason: to have fun.
Armed with these findings on what motivates people to participate, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reminds sportsmen and women (got to be politically correct these days) to keep it “fun and social” when introducing newcomers to the shooting sports.
“This is a great time of year to invite newcomers out to the range to learn about target shooting and to prepare for hunting season. Knowing to keep things ‘fun and social’ can help a mentor provide a great first-time experience—one that makes the newcomer eager to come back for more,” said Melissa Schilling, director of recruitment and retention for NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.The study,”Understanding Activities That Compete With Hunting and Target Shooting,” was conducted by Southwick Associates and Responsive Management, two respected research firms focusing on outdoor participation and identifying challenges to growing hunting and shooting.
The goal of the study is to better understand other outdoor activities that compete with hunting and target shooting so that the right promotional strategies can be used to reach newcomers and lapsed participants.
“Maintaining America’s hunting and recreational shooting traditions is important for many reasons, chief among them being that the hunting and sport shooting industries provide thousands of jobs annually,” the report says. “Also, hunters and target shooters are essential to species management and habitat conservation through the funds they donate to conservation, as well as the excise taxes they pay on hunting and shooting equipment. For this reason, it is essential that the American traditions of hunting and target shooting be continued.”
In addition to the “keep it fun and social” finding, the study also found the following:
Other nature-based outdoor activities are competing with hunting and target shooting, with fishing ranked as the No. 1 and hiking and camping in the second tier.
Electronic and indoor recreation are a threat to recruiting new hunters and target shooters, though using social media can be a powerful tool to recruit newcomers and keep current participants active, as a recent e-marketing program in Florida demonstrated by increasing hunting license renewals by 4.2 percent.
When promoting target shooting and hunting, think convenience and perception. “People will not always choose to participate in their favorite activity. Often, activities that offer greater convenience will be chosen over favored pastimes,” the report notes.
Access to places to hunt and target shoot remains a major issue but is one that industry, organizations and government can influence and improve.
NSSF encourages every individual, organization or company associated with the shooting sports to investigate their website and in particular the “Learn to shoot” section. It provides a number of resources to help individuals locate nearby shooting ranges, First Shots seminars, safety courses and firearms retailers.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation recently played a large role in the passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (H.R. 3065), which will ensure that shooters and hunters have high-quality public facilities at which to participate in recreational shooting sports and to learn about firearms safety.
The bill was included as Title XII of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act (H.R. 2578), which the House passed recently by a broad bipartisan margin.
Sponsored by Rep. Heath Schuler (D-N.C.), the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act amends the Pittman-Robertson Act to provide state game and fish agencies with more flexibility and discretion to be able to utilize Pittman-Robertson (Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund) funds for the creation, enhancement and maintenance of public shooting ranges. The bill is badly needed to respond to a significant decline in recent years of opportunities for recreational and competitive shooting on public lands.
“This is an important victory for all sportsmen, target shooters and firearms owners, as well as for future generations of participants who will need public facilities to enjoy the shooting sports,” said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel of the NSSF.