The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 principally as an organization that could train a civilian populace in the use of arms to defend the homeland. It has been called on to do so during conflict and in times of peace ever since.
Today, the NRA operates with five purposes and objectives. No. 5 is: To promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth and conservation, and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.
If you didn’t know that you’re not alone. Before I came to work at HQ, I thought of the NRA as the publisher of American Rifleman and American Hunter and of course as an association where one could find firearm training and competition. But believe it or not, promoting and defending hunting has long been a part of the NRA’s mission.
Trouble is, not enough folks know it.
Such ignorance concerned founders of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum, and so men and women from across your Association set out to change hearts and minds—and to save hunting for future generations of Americans. Such effort benefits hunters across America—and it’s high time every hunter knew it.
… And that got us thinking: Why, exactly, do we hunt? And what is it about our pastime the uninformed, politically correct anti-hunting crowd considers so bad? Not only should we be prepared to defend our right and privilege to hunt against those who would take it from us, but we should have good answers when non-hunting friends, neighbors and nieces question us out of honest curiosity about why we go afield. Here are our thoughts in black-and-white. Feel free to use them the next time somebody asks why you’re an American Hunter.
I Value the Environment
Hunting is a scientifically proven, cost-effective means of managing habitat and wildlife populations. Left unchecked, burgeoning populations of game would negatively affect the landscape everyone calls home—humans, deer, hogs, geese … even songbirds and the insects on which they feed. Hunters willingly pay for the right and privilege to pursue America’s game.
They do so via license fees and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act for its sponsors, Sen. Key Pittman of Nevada and Rep. Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia. The act collects excise taxes on the purchase of hunting gear. Funds are kept in trust by the Secretary of the Interior and distributed to states based on a formula that accounts for the size of the state and its number of licensed hunters.
By 2010, more than $2 billion had been raised for conservation through this program.
Since 1937 P-R has been amended many times, most recently in 2000 when it was discovered that the sportsman’s conservation trust fund was being mismanaged—money set aside for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administration of P-R not spent in a fiscal year actually was funding projects of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA). In spite of the merit of AFWA projects, use of P-R funds in this manner was not allowed by law, so your NRA was a catalyst for reform.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act of 2000, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), an NRA Board member, amended P-R by defining in what manner the money may be spent, thereby reducing the percentage of funds spent for administrative purposes.
I Value My Health
Hunters know where their food comes from—not from a supermarket cooler but from nature. Our sustenance comes from game, pure, unadulterated meat on the hoof.
Hipsters may think they invented the organic farm-to-table movement. But hunters know there is nothing more organic, more pure and righteous and in tune with the environment than the bucks or bulls or bag limits of ducks we take home from the field.
There’s an added bonus: While participating in the ultimate field-to-table experience, you also just may enrich your physical fitness. After all, you can’t get views like this in a gym.
I Value Friends and Family
Fellowship is the stuff of cherished memories. Hunters value memories gathered afield with friends and family. A trophy photo, whether it be of a limit of ducks or a buck of a lifetime, is always taken because hunters know such moments don’t fall off turnip trucks. Same goes for taxidermy: Hunters mount 10-point bucks because they’re proud of them, of course, but also to remember special times. Long after the day has passed, that picture and that shoulder mount endures, reminding us of fellowship.
The NRA is made up of 5 million gun owners and hunters who value friends and family. Its Official Journal, American Hunter, is a community of 1 million readers that makes up the greatest hunting club in the world—folks who understand the value of hunting to the environment, their health, fellowship and heritage.
I Value My Heritage
For eons before agriculture and animal husbandry were developed, hunter-gatherers roamed the earth to feed their families. Our colonial forbears and pioneers who pushed westward depended on their connection to nature to feed their families, a burgeoning nation and their souls.
Modern hunters carry on this tradition. Today, hunters everywhere often are unable to articulate exactly why they hunt: “I don’t know,” they say … “hunting’s just something I have to do. I don’t feel whole unless I hunt opening day of deer season. I love it. I don’t even care if I bag a buck—I just have to get out in the woods and hunt.” Such inability to articulate our visceral need to enter the woods is proof that today, hunters understand better than most that the desire to connect with nature on a level unfathomable to non-hunters is driven by DNA as old as humankind itself.
What’s more, next to self-defense hunting is the primary method by which Americans exercise their Second Amendment right. In any given year, more than 20 million hunters may pursue game.
The vast majority of them carry firearms. If you’re a hunter, you can thank the NRA for protecting the Second Amendment, along with your right and privilege to hunt with whatever tool you choose to use: shotgun, rifle, pistol, compound bow, crossbow. Heck, you can use an atlatl if you like—if you can find a season for its use—and we’ll defend your right to do so. We protect the rights of all hunters because we’re all part of the same community.
I Value Adventure
Hunting—not video games or organized sports or even literature—is the original portal to a world of adventure. We need only enter the woods to make a connection with the natural world most folks today cannot possibly understand. Whether it’s our lil’ pard’s first squirrel hunt or an elk hunt of a lifetime, there is adventure to be had in our connection with nature that beats the daylights out of cerebral connections made via video games or anything on television.
It is said that if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. Well, hunting is the ultimate challenge, and together we can all effect change for the better of our sport.