From time to time readers recognize me on the hunting trail. There’s a moment, usually on an airplane, at a range or at a trade show but sometimes at the home of a friend, when someone says, “Hey, you’re Mr. Says Me.” I am always humbled by the recognition. It’s acknowledgement that indeed some Americans still read, that at least some things I have created, some words I have written, matter at least a little. It makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, some journalism still stands a chance.
Make no mistake American Hunter is journalism. It’s what may be called “advocacy journalism” as ours is the kind that pushes from one perspective. To that end, American Hunter informs, entertains and opines on hunting and gun ownership. Period. Once upon a time it may have been viewed as mainstream, but we can’t say that anymore. Therein lies our problem.
Once upon a time, hunters made up a significant portion of America’s population. Hunters never outnumbered any particular constituency, mind you, but hunting had always been such a huge part of our national character that our pastime enjoyed widespread acceptance and understanding. Such is no longer the case. Despite the rise within the shooting and outdoor community of the “R3” movement to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, the fact is, today hunters account for less than 5 percent of our nation’s population. In many minds we are irrelevant anachronisms.
Some Americans may be just fine with that, but you and I know that if we lose hunting America will lose a vital part of its collective psyche. Modern Americans may not appreciate where humans’ big brains came from, why hunting has always been a vital partner of gathering or why self-defense with a firearm is a birthright of every law-abiding member of our species, but I think it’s fairly well acknowledged that these are vital tenets of civilization. We should never forget amid an increasingly bitter culture war that our culture as gun owners and hunters matters, for they are vital tenets of the American experience.
That’s why it is important at the end of a year celebrating the NRA’s 150th anniversary to pause and reflect on the creation of another vital voice in this publication: Join the Hunt. The regular department was created in December 2018 as American Hunter’s contribution to the R3 movement. More than any page of letters to the editor could ever evoke, Join the Hunt can be the clarion call to us all.
This trumpet sounds from the high ground, for NRA hunter members may lay claim to any number of accomplishments built across the generations.
Thanks to NRA hunter members, game (and by default wildlife in general) is thriving across our great land today. That is so because at the turn of the 20th century, visionary conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt, our nation’s 26thpresident, and A.C. Gould, NRA magazine publisher at the time, became leading voices for conservation through regulated hunting. Both men were NRA members, incidentally. They and others rallied hunters to stand up for wildlife and wild places. The system hunters created, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, became a model for the world. NRA organs have always been thought leaders among hunters and gun owners; Stewart Edward White’s “How My Guns Worked in Africa,” published by our NRA in 1911, proves that. American hunters today are safer thanks to the NRA because it was our organization that created hunter education after World War II then revamped the curriculum for the 21st century. Today, free NRA Hunter Education Online is used by a dozen states nationwide, and we stand ready to tailor it specifically for any state that asks us for help. The NRA was the first in 1973 to publish a 12-month-a-year magazine devoted solely to hunting; you are holding it. The NRA, through important efforts by our Institute for Legislative Action, lobbies on behalf of gun owners and hunters. It is the NRA-ILA that fights onerous gun laws in state houses and the halls of Congress. It is the NRA-ILA that has opened Sunday hunting. And it is the NRA that in recent years formed the Hunters’ Leadership Forum to raise funds and cement schools of thought on behalf of hunting.
To this lengthy list of credits let future generations add Join the Hunt.
The column appeared again in the December issue of American Hunter. It expanded four pages, the better for our guest writer Mark Damian Duda to make his point. Of course I believe it is important reading. Nowhere else in journalism will you find such a tool. But beyond that I believe it’s important to understand I coined Join the Hunt as a double entendre. That’s a fancy way of saying I hope the phrase can be understood from any number of angles.
American Hunter readers are by and large an experienced lot: we own more guns, buy more guns, spend more money on hunting, spend more days hunting and spend more days learning about hunting than any other collection of hunters in the country. Period. So who better than us to carry the torch of the R3 movement? With that as backdrop, I believe it’s important for us all to join the hunt as often as possible—for a day afield is a tonic if it is nothing else. I believe it’s important for hunters to explain why others should join us. I believe it’s important to retain or reactivate friends and family who consider dropping from our ranks. Above all I believe the last time I checked hunting is a legal activity, and I can’t see anything wrong with that.
So let these three words become whatever siren you need them to be just heed them. Go forth and tell the world: “Join the hunt. Ask me how.”