Hunters Complete the Circle of Wildlife Conservation
“Want to take a ride with me to get my bow set up on Friday evening?” I said to my wife already anticipating an answer in the affirmative. When you have a toddler in the house that’s peaking in energy while also belligerently testing boundaries, a trip to the bow shop is about as close as it gets to a date, especially when you throw in stopping for pizza. I already felt bad that it was late June and I hadn’t yet shot the bow, so I knew if I didn’t get an appointment on the calendar it was going to cut deeper into my pre-season preparation.
The pro shop at which I made my appointment was about an hour and 15 minutes away, which is a distance I’m willing to drive for quality work. I know there are a few shops closer to me, but I thought it was important to patronize a reputable shop that carried my bow, in this case a Prime CT5. Prime Archery has been an NDA sponsor since we started in 2015, and I do my best to support all the companies that help us achieve our mission. It also helped that I got to know Allen Maher, an employee of Bucks and Bows Archery in Gibsonia, PA, who represents Prime Archery at various events, including the ATA Show where we met. Simply put, he knows how to make a bow hum, and I wanted him to do the work. You can view a list of our sponsors on our website, and I encourage you to patronize them.
On the drive to the shop, we passed at least five buildings that used to house archery shops, or larger sporting goods stores that carried archery equipment. None of them are in business anymore. While each closed due to their own unique set of circumstances, I’m willing to bet that the root cause was they weren’t making enough money. The loss of locally owned shops isn’t something that happened overnight, and it has become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to sell their products due to fewer retailers, and, in turn, for retailers to move products off their shelves due to fewer customers. In the end, our sport and ultimately wildlife suffers because there isn’t enough money to go around to support them.
In my testimony last week to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, I explained that 70 percent of all hunters pursue deer, and that deer hunting alone generates almost $40 billion to the U.S. economy each year. State wildlife agencies are primarily funded by the sale of hunting licenses and revenue generated from the Pittman-Robertson Act, which is the Federal excise tax we all pay on guns, ammunition, and some archery products, such as bows and anything that attaches to them, and arrows. Hunters pay for most of the costs associated with wildlife management, and, among all hunters, deer hunters like you and I are paying the bulk of the freight. In other words, all wildlife is depending on us to stay in the woods and purchase equipment, and that’s a burden that this hunter is happy to take on.
I’m not asking everyone reading this to run out and start buying gear that you don’t need. Although it might help you in your household negotiation when justifying the need for a cool piece of hunting equipment, the solution isn’t that simple. What I am asking you to do is stay in the woods, invite non-hunters to join you, and be cognizant of how you shop for the gear that you buy.
Staying in the woods might be the easiest solution for most of us, but even the most dedicated deer hunters are becoming stressed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and chronic wasting disease (CWD) outbreaks across the country, as well as other issues like access to quality land. I believe strongly that hunters will be the solution to these challenges which is why this is not the time to hang up the bow or rifle for the last time - it’s time to make it a priority to hunt more.
Speaking of hunting more, why not take a non-hunter along with you and carve out time that allows you to specifically cater to their needs as they get started? We can all do our part to stop the trend of a declining hunter numbers, and what you’ll probably find is that it won’t take a newbie long to figure it out and want to head out on their own. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll develop a new hunting buddy in the process. Take it from a guy who not only convinced my wife to shoot a bow and firearm for the first time but got her into a tree stand and turkey blind to hunt as well. She has killed several deer and a giant gobbler that I’m still trying to top, and while she may enjoy the company, she really doesn’t need me to accomplish those feats again should she so desire.
Finally, patronize your local archery and sporting goods stores and be sure that you’re purchasing products that are subject to the Pittman-Robertson Act or Federal excise tax, and not counterfeits. I was astonished to read a thread on the popular archery forum, Archery Talk, where hundreds of posters admitted to knowingly buying counterfeit products in order to “get a deal.” Worse yet, they were specifically seeking them out and pointing others to them. If you’re shopping online, be sure you know who you are buying from, and what you are buying. Knowingly buying counterfeit products is illegal, eliminates any financial support for deer and the wildlife you’ll be hunting, and it is also a safety concern as most fakes aren’t constructed with the same care and materials as the originals. Worse, making liability claims is useless when the company behind the product tells you it’s not theirs. Buying counterfeit products is not only chipping away at the foundation of deer and wildlife management in America, it’s playing Russian roulette with your health and the well-being of those around you not to mention the animals you try to kill.
Shopping locally and at trusted retailers supports businesses and ultimately wildlife conservation, while also offering hunters the best chance at a satisfying experience. I left Bucks and Bows Archery with a well-tuned bow and the comfort of knowing that the team there will be ready to help me should something go wrong or if I need additional work. I also had a belly full of pizza and a happy toddler that was entertained by the taxidermy and shiny packages at the shop. I’m guessing I’ll have company again the next time I make the trip, and that’s fine by me.