When I first started hunting and fishing as an adult, I didn't know may other outdoorspeople. To find others like me who enjoyed the pursuit of wildlife, I started looking into local and national conservation organizations near me that I could join. I did this to make new friends, sure—but also because it's a great way to put my money back towards conservation and donate my time to boots-on-the-ground efforts like fence removals, trash pickups, restoration projects, and more.
Funding tags only does so much. These sportsmen-based conservation organizations have rebuilt habitats, stabilized declining species, conducted important wildlife research, and enhanced access opportunities for the public through property purchases and conservation easements.
I'm a better hunter and angler now because of my involvement with my local conservation organizations.
Every hunter and angler should consider joining some kind of conservation non-profit organization that's active in your neck of the woods. Not only will you make some new friends in your local communities, but you'll spend your time giving back to the natural resources and the open spaces that you recreate upon.
After all, we all want to save these wild places and wildlife for our future generations to enjoy.
1. Artemis Sportswomen
Artemis is a group of bold, impassioned sportswomen dedicated to changing the face of conservation. Artemis sportswomen do more than hunt and fish; they also do outreach work towards creating inclusive communities within the hunting space. Their presence is largely in the Rocky Mountains, but they have ambassadors located all around the country. I recommend following them on Instagram and tuning into their podcast.
2. Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited is dedicated to protecting and restoring North America's most beautiful lakes and streams. Founded in Michigan in 1959, TU has a dedicated membership of over 300,000, and among these volunteers donate hundreds of thousands of hours of work managing and helping to restore natural streams every year.
Because clean waters are such a hot-button issue, they're heavily involved in mobilizing their members on environmental issues. Trout Unlimited encourages members to act and make public comment on governmental decisions that could affect favorite lakes or streams.
You can find local events, chapters, and volunteer opportunities on their website.
3. Hunters of Color
Hunters of Color is a new nonprofit based in Corvallis, Oregon. Their mission is to cultivate equitable opportunities for People of Color to participate in the outdoors through conservation and hunting. HOC just launched their ambassador program where each ambassador serves as a leader for the state they reside in. HOC ambassadors coordinate events, pair hunting mentors with mentees, and educate the public on both conservation and racial equity issues. You can donate to them, view upcoming events, and get more involved via their website.
4. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, or BHA, is the fastest-growing conservation organization in North America. They've been in the trenches in recent years fighting for public land hunters and anglers on things like stream and river access rights and defending preservation of federal hunting areas from being sold off to the highest bidder. ocused on prolonging our continent's hunting heritage, most of their events and volunteer efforts are focused on conservation education, skills development, and community building.
We especially like the simplicity of their "Keep it Public" campaign which advocates for just that. Like the NDA, BHA is very open about their financials on their website, so members can be certain those funds are going to a good cause. An international organization, BHA has chapters in 48 states and three Canadian provinces. Check out their website to get in touch with your local chapter, become a member, and find events happening near you.
5. National Wild Turkey Federation
Since its foundation in 1973, NWTF has put $488 million into wildlife conservation, improved more than 17 million acres of wild turkey habitat, and introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the outdoors. Today, they still mainly focus on habitat protection. Currently, they have a 10-year plan to preserve an additional four million acres. The NWTF is also big on hunter recruitment with plans to recruit 1.5 million new outdoorsmen and women in that same 10-year time period.
Additionally, NWTF funnels effort into the recruitment of new hunters to help protect our hunting heritage. They also continually promote the funding of conservation through hunters via excise taxes on firearms and ammunition. This national organization has a presence in every state and tons of volunteer opportunities.
6. Pope & Young
Named for legendary bowhunting pioneers Saxton Pope and Arthur Young, most hunters know Pope & Young as the record-keeping organization for bowhunters, but its more than that. Pope & Young advocates for fair chase hunting and invests in conservation and hunter education programs.
Pope & Young offers many conservation grants to help improve wildlife habitat and improve bowhunting in general. They've supported many North American causes like Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, the National Archery in the Schools Program and wildlife studies by many state agencies. Simply put, they do a lot for the betterment of hunting in general and not just archery enthusiasts.
7. Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited, which primarily focuses on waterfowl hunting and conservation of wetlands, is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US; they got their start during the Dust Bowl in 1937 when drought was prevalent and healthy waterfowl populations were not.
DU's mission is to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated wildlife habitats for North America's waterfowl. With over 700,000 members, they're located in all 50 states and host a variety of events and banquets. Ducks Unlimited generates millions of dollars in donations each year and it has helped preserve nearly 14 million acres of prime duck and geese habitat that may have otherwise been lost.
Ducks Unlimited has also worked to restore previously damaged grasslands, forests and other natural areas. It is a group that takes the conservation mission seriously.
8. Wild Salmon Center
If you spend time angling for steelhead, salmon, or just support dam removal for the sake of water quality and fish conservation, get acquainted with the Wild Salmon Center. Based in the Pacific Northwest, their main focus is preemptively protecting North America and Russia's salmon strongholds. WSC's definition of a stronghold is a watershed(s) where salmon populations are currently strong and the habitat is intact. By protecting these spaces, WSC believes that we can save the last remaining healthy salmon populations and conserve their genetic diversity, biological productivity, and high-quality habitat.
9. Boone & Crockett
The other big record-keeping organization most hunters are familiar with, the Boone & Crockett Club, is about more than measuring and keeping records of whitetail deer and other big game animals. It is also one of the leading hunting conservation organizations in the country.
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club has actively worked for wildlife management in its 136-year existence. One of its top successes was the elimination of market hunting that helped save many species, such as bison, from the brink of extinction.
B&C was also behind the scenes on movements, such as the Wildlife Restoration Act, that bring in millions in tax dollars for conservation purposes. B&C was also integral in the establishment of the National Park Service.
10. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Inspired by the bellowing sound of an elk bugle echoing through a rocky canyon on a frosty morning, the RMEF has worked tirelessly for 35 years to preserve and restore elk habitat.
RMEF has been instrumental in helping restore elk to locations that had previously been hunted out of existence, including Michigan. To date it has conserved or enhanced more than 8.6 million acres of North America's finest elk country. The organization also donates millions annually to elk conservation and research efforts. RMEF also helped save nearly seven million acres of prime elk habitat from destruction.
To achieve these goals, RMEF staff work closely with state and provincial wildlife agencies and Native American tribal organizations. Members also receive their popular quarterly publication, Bugle. Personally, my favorite thing about RMEF is that they put their money where their mouth is. They truly give back via large-scale land conservation and restoration projects.
11. The National Deer Association
The National Deer Association was formed from the merger of the Quality Deer Management Association and the National Deer Alliance. The foreword-thinking organization heralds wise stewardship of North America's most iconic wild game: deer. Forged from the combined strengths of two successful organizations, the NDA has a combined 38 years of action that has shaped deer conservation and changed the way deer are managed.
NDA advocates sustainable, science-based conservation of wild deer and works with elected officials to promote responsible solutions to protect fair chase deer hunting.
12. The International Game Fish Association
Basically the "B&C" of the fishing world, the IGFA is the world's best-known fishing organization. While most anglers know them for their extensive record keeping, the IGFA also does a great deal for conservation. It operates programs dedicated to helping preserve and restore parts of the Florida Everglades and to aid in the conservation of billfish like marlin and sailfish.
Established in 1939, the IGFA has received the prestigious UNEP accreditation, to globally represent recreational anglers and their conservation communities at the United Nations level. This represents the first time in history that recreational anglers had a voice and representative observer status at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The IGFA and UNEP currently are mapping out the framework for long-term cooperation on UNESCO's Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2020 to 2030) and the GEMS Ocean Project as well as other marine and fisheries conservation projects.
13. Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever together form one of the nation's largest and most successful conservation organizations.
If you hunt pheasant, quail, chukar, or other upland birds, PF and QF's values are likely aligned with yours. They're the leader in upland habitat conservation, continuously working to restore and improve wildlife habitat and to provide people with access to numerous outdoor recreational opportunities. This includes things like re-planting native grasses that quail and pheasants use and constructing food plots where the birds can forage.
They're also huge supporters of public lands, working closely with biologists and lawmakers to help preserve natural areas—an effort we need more of since most hunters cite a lack of land access as one of their biggest hurdles in hunting.
NEXT: WHO'S HAVING MORE FUN? HUNTERS, ANGLERS OR CAMPERS?