Due to health issues I watch more hunting shows on television than I should. Most aren’t very good, but that isn’t my point. As a bowhunter of many years, from watching these hunting shows, and from other things going, it is obvious that the world of bowhunting has changed.
Some of the young guys on television remind me of the bowhunters I grew up with. But some do not. In fact, the mental criterion I use to describe a ‘good’ hunting TV show centers on those that depict adventure, good ethics, using decent grammar (‘” seen three bucks this morning”, a pet peeve of mine) and proper reverence for the harvest (It is tiring to listen to “I put the hammer on him”).
I guess what I am saying is that there seems to be more ‘rah, rah for me’ bowhunters out there and fewer ‘let’s go bowhunting’ men and women. I know there are some benefits to what we see on hunting shows. For example, the ‘television couples’ hunters (Ralph and Vicki, Lee and Tiffany, and many others) are definitely leading more women into bowhunting. That is a very good thing. Why? Here is just one reason I like more women in bowhunting. Do you think the general public relates better to hearing a woman tell you how good hunting is for their spirit and soul, or hearing a man tell you the same things? When an antihunting news reporter interviews a hunter, who would disarm that news reporter better, a woman or a man? Defense rests.
But back to the changing bowhunting world. What triggered this column wasn’t the bad hunting shows on television. It was the last newsletter I got from the Bayou State Bowhunters Association. This organization has thrived for 20 years and has been a leading advocate for bowhunting in Louisiana. They’ve been major players in helping their DNR get things done for better bowhunting. They’ve been players in bowhunter education, in bowhunting in general. Their annual banquet was always top drawer. They put out a very nice newsletter. In essence this was a dedicated bunch of bowhunters working to improve bowhunting in Louisiana.
Over the years I’ve spoken at a number of state bowhunter banquets. In the past, in most states, these associations really did the job. They had dedicated leaders and lots of volunteers running their events, recruiting new members, lobbying for bowhunting, assisting their DNR’s when they needed help to defeat bills that were not good for hunting, etc.
Many still do all those things. But some are dying on the vine. There are 32,000 bowhunters in Louisiana, and around 1,000 belonged to their state association. Compared to other states, that number of members compared to the total number of bowhunters, isn’t too bad. The problem is that of those 800 only 50 or so are active members. From what I read in their January newsletter (their last newsletter), they have been unable to get the younger members to step up and do enough work to keep the association alive. So, as of today, there is no state bowhunting association in Louisiana, fighting to preserve bowhunting there. They had to fold up their tents and terminate that association. The Bayou Bowhunters, the older members who have worked and worked just can’t do it any more. The dedicated men and women who did the grunt work for twenty years are tired and can’t carry that banner any more.
I see that happening in other states as well. Younger bowhunters seem to have other priorities. They have not had to fight to obtain a bowhunting season, and don’t seem to understand that without organized campaigns, it can all go away. They don’t seem to understand that the bowhunting they have just didn’t happen. It was a product of lobbying, hard work, building bridges and maintaining them.
I don’t know why some state associations are stronger than others with younger men and women stepping up and getting the job done. But I know that is happening. My home state of West Virginia is a prime example of younger bowhunters mixed in with some of the old timers, getting it done. The West Virginia Bowhunters Association does the job for bowhunting in West Virginia. And make no mistake. It is younger bowhunters that are stepping up and doing the work. This association has history, a solid foundation, and a great awards program. My former wildlife students working in the DNR tell me that the WVBA is one of their strong allies in the state. Yes, the WVBA is an organization that the DNR can count on when legislation not good for wildlife management is introduced.
Having good rapport with your state wildlife agency may be the greatest asset a state bowhunting organization can have, other than having worker bees and good leaders. West Virginia has that. Always have. But some states who once had that, don’t any more.
The question then becomes, how do you fix it? There probably isn’t one answer that would work in every state. I don’t know. But I believe that putting younger bowhunters on every committee should be a priority. Even if they don’t work out, at least have them in there.
My purpose here is just to discuss the situation, to get you all thinking about what you might do in your state to keep the ball rolling. What has happened in Louisiana is sad, a loss for them, and a signal to all.