If you live in or represent a state where laws or regulations restrict young people from hunting, you can join the Families Afield effort and make a difference. Success depends on partners and volunteers!
If You're Interested...
Hunting is Important
Hunters pump more than $30 billion per year into the American economy, much of it directed at rural communities as hunters spend dollars on food, lodging, gas and more.
About a million jobs in America are supported by hunters.
In the last 40 years, hunters have spent $13.4 billion purchasing hunting licenses, tags and permits. This revenue supports wildlife conservation.
America's recreational hunters and shooters have paid more than $5 billion in excise taxes since 1937 to support wildlife conservation and education.
Hunter Numbers are Declining
For every 100 adult hunters today, only 69 youth hunters are coming up to take their place.
If allowed to continue, economic projections indicate funding for wildlife conservation could drop 25 percent by 2025. This decline could cause a 24 percent drop in revenue for the hunting industry.
Youngsters are Key
Hunting is one of the safest recreational activities enjoyed by families in the United States. Mentored youths have the fewest accidents of all hunters.
Nearly 80 percent of adult hunters started hunting as youths.
More youth restrictions equal less hunting by youths as well as their parents.
A Worthwhile Cause
Families Afield seeks to remove unnecessary legal barriers to youth hunting and create opportunities for adults to mentor young people into hunting.
Removing regulations, such as minimum age restrictions and coursework requirements that may have been in place for decades, is an unfamiliar concept. Some legislators, policymakers, hunter education volunteers and sportsmen will be naturally cautious, but facts and safety statistics support the Families Afield effort.
The following guidelines can help overcome common objections to change and make your efforts as fruitful as possible:
Don't Debate Age
Let parents decide when their sons and daughters are ready to hunt. While it might seem like a good strategy to propose reducing the minimum hunting age from, say, 10 to 8, the new rule still sidesteps parental decision-making. Families Afield urges the government to trust parental instinct.
Think Big Game
In the past, hunters typically started with small game such as rabbits and squirrels. Today, most sportsmen are big game hunters. There is no safety reason to exclude young people from the popularity, growth and excitement of big game hunting. In fact, research shows that the more we restrict youths from hunting big game, the more they don't bother hunting at all!
Apprentice Hunting Program
Studies have shown that effective introductions to hunting do not occur in a single outing. Rather than changing the rules to allow youngsters a single exposure to hunting, Families Afield suggests a new format that fosters an optimum-length (a one-year period has proved popular) opportunity for full mentoring and adult supervision. Some states require youths to purchase special limited-time apprentice hunting licenses, which help fund conservation programs.
One Gun, Or Two
Should the adult mentor carry a gun, or just the apprentice? This is another decision best left to parents. Families Afield encourages mentoring, and that's best accomplished by allowing parents to enjoy a complete hunting experience alongside their sons and daughters.
Before You Start
Four Key Principles of a Families Afield Bill
Parents know best when their sons and daughters are ready to begin hunting.
Permitting people to learn and experience hunting first hand from a mentor before taking hunter education results in better recruitment numbers and ultimately more hunter education graduates.
Access to big-game hunting is critical to improving hunting numbers. Big game hunting has the highest participation, therefore the largest number of potential mentors.
In general, restrictions on hunting result in lower participation. Restrictions should be implemented only if necessary or factually based.
Helping states welcome new hunters is a legislative or regulatory process that involves planning, collaboration and persistence. The following steps can help. For more details, contact National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Do Your Homework
Inform the Families Afield national sponsors NSSF , USSA , NWTF that you're interested in working to eliminate barriers to youth hunting. Getting these organizations involved at the earliest point greatly increases your chance for success. They'll be with you every step of the way, helping plan and implement your Families Afield campaign, providing guidance, coordinating efforts of other sportsmen's groups, state agencies and legislators as well as providing comprehensive support for media and public relations efforts.
Get all the facts with these Family Afield resources:
Talk to the Right People at the Right Time
Before new legislation is introduced, there is plenty to do behind the scenes. Plan to build a coalition consisting of:
Hold Your First Meeting with Stakeholders
Review in more detail:
The Last Step
Becoming involved in a Families Afield campaign is a great way to give something back to the future of conservation and hunting. If you're successful, your reward is seeing your state's governor sign a new Families Afield bill into law!