The 2013 legislative sessions throughout the country have begun, and your NRA-ILA is once again ready to aggressively protect and advance our hunting rights and opportunities. The future of our hunting heritage depends on it, as does the future of wildlife conservation.
Over the years, we can be proud of all that has been accomplished. NRA-ILA has constructed and passed Right to Hunt and Fish state constitutional amendments that provide meaningful protections against attacks by the illogical and emotional animal “rights” zealots for generations to come. Along with our partner organizations, we have helped to adopt youth and mentored hunting legislation in 33 states. Mentored hunter license sales are nearing the 1 million mark; and mentored hunting is proving what we’ve said all along—that it is the safest form of what is already one of the safest activities in the country.
Other policy efforts include eliminating Sunday hunting bans in the few states that still have them on the books; allowing for the expanded use of crossbows during archery season; enacting legislation that helps protect against net loss of public hunting lands; authorizing bow hunters to carry firearms for self-defense in the field; and encouraging the active management of recovered wolf populations through regulated hunting.
These are some of our finest accomplishments in the past but there are some newer subjects that will share our attention in the near future. Some of these include the following:
Hunter Safety Education Exemption for Servicemen and Women
I hear too many stories of military personnel returning from combat overseas just before or during hunting seasons and being prohibited from participating because they have not completed hunter education training. Some of my friends in one of the military’s most elite special operations units have been the most recent victims. Their training and deployment schedule is brutal by every measure. As a fellow American, it’s embarrassing to try to explain to them that they are assigned some of the most dynamic, complicated and dangerous combat action the world has witnessed, but states don’t trust them enough to allow them to sit in a duck blind with an over/under.
Many states have appropriately exempted citizens with military experience from training requirements associated with obtaining concealed handgun licenses. These policies have not caused problems. It’s time that states offer the same consideration to those seeking hunting licenses. As always, there will be those who claim that policies such as this will increase the number of hunting accidents. But I hope there will be fewer doubters than normal in light of the trained, experienced heroes who stand to benefit. If we can exempt older hunters from hunter education requirements (as virtually all states do), we should be able to exempt our military personnel.
Resident Status for College Students
Policy makers must pay special attention to opportunities to enhance hunter recruitment and retention. One easy way to do this is to treat out-of-state college students as residents for the purpose of obtaining hunting licenses. Of course, because of limited opportunities, big game tags may be a more complicated factor in some western states, but this can be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Most college students have very limited financial resources available for discretionary spending. Kids who have hunted all of their lives with a license they obtain for $10 or $20 a year experience sticker shock when they move to another state to attend college and are faced with a 10- to 20-fold increase in license prices as non-residents. Treating them as residents will help to ensure that they continue to hunt. If high costs discourage them, we might permanently lose them and their future children from the hunting ranks. Resident status in this realm also makes sense due to the fact that the students live in the state where they attend school for the vast majority of the year and pay many local and state taxes as a result.
Use of Tracking Dogs
I’ve dedicated an entire article in this magazine to this subject in the past but now it is time to press forward and help to right wrongs in state statute and game regulations. Incredibly, many states prohibit hunters from fulfilling their ethical obligation to recover wounded game animals by using the best resource they have at their disposal—a dog’s nose. When policy prevents hunters from doing the right thing, the system is clearly broken.
Those who think it is always best to disadvantage good, honest hunters in order to make it easier to apprehend the few lawbreakers will defend the status quo but there are ways to address concerns even if those concerns are illegitimate. The supposed concern here is that hunters everywhere will begin to hunt deer with dogs and claim that they are pursuing wounded animals if questioned by law enforcement officials. That’s not going to happen but paranoid policy makers could simply establish a system that allows hunters to call a number to report that an animal is wounded and that they are going to use tracking dogs in a recovery effort. If the same person calls every other day, it might be worthy of investigation.
Acceptance of Technological Advancements
Statutes and hunting regulations should be more flexible to allow hunters to try new technology. One good example is Leupold’s bow-mounted rangefinder. It allows a bow hunter to use the rangefinder while at full draw; something that should enhance the probability of a more accurate shot by providing the hunter real-time data.
It boggles my mind that many states prohibit the use of this product for hunting. Why? What could possibly be the justification? Does it provide an “unfair advantage” as is so often claimed when increased choice is denied? Of course it doesn’t. It is no different than having a friend standing next to the hunter and reading real-time distances using his own hand-held rangefinder. This is just one of many examples but new technology should be embraced more often than it is prohibited.
Many of you will hear from NRA-ILA asking you to contact your policy makers in support of our agenda and possibly to oppose restrictive, anti-hunting legislation where it arises. Please be ready to help, because the effectiveness and significance of individual citizen contacts with policy makers simply cannot be overstated.
This article was reprinted from the December 2012 issue of American Hunter magazine.