The NSSF keeps pressing for more participation, which is exactly what hunting and shooting sports need.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), alongside several other organizations in the outdoor industry, used the 2019 SHOT Show in Las Vegas to declare the establishment of a number of initiatives designed to increase participation in hunting and target shooting.
The efforts will help with reactivation of those who have lapsed, who have ceased to participate, or participate less frequently. Of course, intentions to recruit completely new hunters have been announced as well.
I've always been a believer that the information on hunting has never been in a simple, focused place for the curious to find. On the surface, these programs appear to be doing exactly that; bridging a gap with the answers to the questions so many folks have, but for whatever reason are afraid to or can't ask. Hunter education courses, in all honesty, only cover so much.
"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 of and encouragement by 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."
At the forefront is the +ONE program, an encouraging PSA that highlights the idea of a hunting and shooting sports mentor. Kids are targeted, but also newcomers of all ages, and a series of websites and resources are offered up to support the program.
LetsGoHunting.org covers all things hunting, including access tips, gear and skill tutorials, and even wild game recipes. NSSF's +ONE movement will directly address questions about where the public can go hunting, how to acquire a hunting license, and how to share the appropriate values and best practices with an apprentice. LetsGoShooting.org is essentially LetsGoHunting.org's sister site, and it focuses on target sports, with a big emphasis on geo-locations of shooting ranges.
The third resource is StepOutside.org which is dedicated to cross-participation with other outdoor pursuits. Using mapping and location services, the site looks to connect and highlight the mutual interests of hikers and mountain bikers with hunters, or anglers with target shooters.
The NSSF along with the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the Georgia Wildlife Federation, are all behind the participation initiatives that were announced.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation is working with college students to establish a love for the outdoors and the lifelong habits that typically cement in the early adult years. The QDMA is working on a program called "Field to Fork" which focuses on the fascination of wild food and how to procure and prepare it.
Together, these programs are doing exactly what the greater hunting and shooting sports community should, albeit on a larger, more formal scale. It's proof that it doesn't take much to be or find a mentor, and that there are realistic, practical ways to make it happen.
The firearms industry and the public lands conservation effort will only be boosted if our numbers stay strong. In a lot of ways, you can consider hunting participation on the decline, plain and simple. In other ways, it's likely a matter of curiosity that can hopefully be overcome.
Cooking game meat you harvested yourself, going to the shooting range with your college buddies, or helping a youngster who'd never even seen a deer put his first antler rack on his wall are all fantastic ways to further the heritage and tradition of these things we hold dear.
When state wildlife agencies, colleges, firearms retailers, and the overall shooting sports industry join forces in programs like these, it's a promising thing to see.
You can find out more regarding the programs at NSSF.org or their respective links above.
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