Fred Bear and I believed that one of the major things I was able to do at the NRA was to write a resolution that was later introduced to the NRA Board of Directors. It passed unanimously in support of “Two-Season Hunting,” whereby a hunter could harvest a deer with both a bow and firearm during the same hunting season. The resolution passed 75-0 by the NRA Board of Directors at the 1979 San Antonio NRA annual meeting.
Basically, it encouraged the state fish and game departments to permit the taking of a deer with the bow and arrow and another with a firearm in the same season when consistent with good wildlife management practices. This resolution was submitted in response to the “either-or” controversy raging at that time, where a hunter had to make a choice between hunting with a bow or a firearm in some states.
I felt that this was a very significant step for bowhunting since it put the full weight of the NRA on record as supporting the growth of our sport. I consider it to have been one of the major, but quiet, accomplishments of all of our committee duty in Washington, D.C. during about an eight-year period. As I said, I wrote the resolution, got Fred’s approval on it, and it was then gone over and tweaked by the NRA Resolution Committee. Here it is:
- Whereas, the primary purpose of hunting in America today is recreation; and
- Whereas, over 80 percent of America’s bowhunters also hunt with firearms; and
- Whereas, nearly 10 percent of American firearms hunters also hunt with bow and arrow, and
- Whereas, the concept of permitting a hunter to take big game with both firearms and bow and arrow within a given year has been tested and proven to be a viable recreational alternative; and
- Whereas, multiple hunting recreational use of available lands is both economically and ecologically sound, and
- Whereas, the license fee funds and Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax funds generated by multiple big game seasons will greatly aid wildlife and habitat maintenance, as well as hunter education programs, and the management and procurement programs of the states, and
- Whereas, there is an expanding population and ever-growing amount of leisure time available to Americans; now, therefore,
- Be it resolved, that the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association of America, in session assembled at San Antonio, Texas this 22nd day of May, 1979, endorses the principle of allowing the pursuit and taking of game, in accordance with accepted wildlife management practices and applicable state laws and regulations, under a system that will allow the hunter during any one season and with the appropriate licenses or permits to use conventional modern firearms, the bow, the muzzleloader, or other primitive firearms, without requiring that person to make an exclusive choice between them, thereby providing the maximum in recreational opportunity.
This whole “either-or” thing was highly controversial in those days and had begun when Colorado adopted this concept starting in the 1974 season. Our old friend, Glenn St. Charles, a former Bear Archery sales rep, the founder of the Pope & Young Club, and an old hunting companion of both Fred’s and mine wrote about this for us in the Spring 1976 issue of our publication, “The Big Sky.”
It is not quite clear where the idea originated in Colorado. They had reportedly been overrun with nonresident hunters and needed a quick way to cut down on this outside hunting pressure. Apparently nonresident hunters were taking more elk than the resident hunters were. It would appear that the game department initiated the ‘either-or’ concept, probably as a temporary solution until something else could be worked out.
The Colorado Bowhunters evidently saw it as a way to have their own private hunting preserve. The guides looked upon it as a way to better guarantee a kill for the out-of-state hunters—there would be less competition. Landowner-hunter relationships improved. Violations were down. However, the latter had not been much of a problem.
Now Colorado has additionally and permanently taken care of the situation by raising the nonresident license fee high enough to eliminate many out-of-state hunters.
The ‘either-or’ concept remains, however, and in the meantime there is concern everywhere. It has resulted in considerable loss of bowhunters because they eliminated the ‘two-season hunter,’ who hunts with both a gun and a bow and makes maximum use of our public lands.
‘Either-or’ hunting has carried on through the 1975 season in Colorado, and now the question arises, will they ever be rid of it? The ranks of bowhunters are now greatly reduced and so are the state’s fees and the recreation dollars spent.
Under this ‘either-or’ concept, a truly regressive situation exists. Bowhunters in this situation find themselves more concerned about the attitude of game commissioners who in the past have always set seasons based on numbers of bowhunters. This could lead to complete deterioration of the entire bowhunting picture in any other state that decides to go this way. The implications are many, especially to those bowhunters who have spent many years building bowhunting in their states.
Some businesses in Colorado alone have experienced a 60 to 70 percent drop in archery sales.
Those are just a few of the things that Glenn St. Charles had to say. We also carried an article in that same issue on the subject by the highly respected outdoor writer, Judd Cooney, who lived in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Judd gave all the rationale for the “either-or” concept and what the state was trying to accomplish with it. It was a very thoughtful piece.
Cooney quoted some data to show that prior to the “either-or” seasons there had been in 1973 some 3,691 nonresident deer bowhunters in Colorado compared to 11,183 resident deer bowhunters—14,874 in total. In 1974, the first year of “either-or,” the numbers of resident deer bowhunters dropped to 6,343 while the nonresident bowhunters climbed to 3,788—10,131 in total. In 1975 the nonresidents climbed to 4,381 while the residents declined further to 5,585—9,966 in total. Judd went on to state:
By reducing the number of resident and nonresidents bowhunting your state, you are going to reduce the total number of bowhunters whose voices are badly needed to fight the onslaught of the anti-hunters, who would end all of our hunting privileges. The ‘one and only’ (either-or) concept did not accomplish what the Colorado commission hoped it would in that it did not reduce the pressure during the regular deer and elk seasons.
Actually, this type of hunt took the ‘two-season hunter’ out of the field during the archery season and shoved him into the field with the regular rifle hunters, exactly what the commission was trying NOT to do. At the same time, it cost the Colorado Division of Wildlife a considerable amount of revenue by elimination of the recreation type of bowhunter who bought his license, but very seldom managed to harvest an animal. The type of hunter contributed to the Division of Wildlife with his license money, but was no drain on the resource.
I think you can see from the above why Fred, Kelly and I were so worried about this “either-or” idea spreading across the country. Fred spent most of his adult life trying to build bowhunting in order to bring this fresh, healthy recreational alternative to the American hunter. He saw “either-or” as a way to dramatically reduce, and possibly even ultimately gut and end the bowhunting seasons as we knew them at the time.
In the spring of 1978 Fred and Kelly asked me to put together some resolutions addressing some of these concerns and take them to our American Archery Council for consideration. That I did, and they were all passed by the AAC so that there would be no doubt about how we felt about these concepts.
Here are the three resolutions I wrote with Fred and Kelly’s urging and input. These were then passed by the AAC. Remember that these were written in 1978 and reflected the statistics of the day, not today’s numbers, which would be greatly higher. For example, as I write this, we have around 3 million bowhunters in America.
Resolution on “Either-Or”
- Whereas, over 1,250,000 Americans regularly pursue the sport of bowhunting; and
- Whereas, they spend 8,800,000 man-days bowhunting each year; and
- Whereas, they spend over $355,000,000 each year on hunting-related expenses such as food, lodging, transportation and equipment; and
- Whereas, the sale of bowhunting equipment contributes over $4,000,000 each year to Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax funds that are used in state wildlife management programs; and
- Whereas, the sale of separate bowhunting licenses in the majority of states represents a significant income for the support of state fish & game department programs and personnel; and
- Whereas, bowhunting is a healthy, recreational pursuit; and
- Whereas, bowhunting seasons increase multiple use of available hunting lands at a national bowhunter success ratio of about 5 percent; and
- Whereas, over 80 percent of America’s bowhunters also hunt with a firearm and utilize the separate bow seasons to increase their enjoyment of the great outdoors; now therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the Board of Directors of the American Archery Council, assembled in Detroit, Michigan, this 7th day of April, 1978 fully endorses the concept of “The Two-Season Hunter,” whereby America’s hunters are permitted to hunt with both bow and rifle and need not make an “either-or” choice between the two.
Gordon Bentley, President
In addition to passing this resolution, first at the American Archery Council level in 1978, and later by the NRA Board of Directors the next year, Fred and Kelly, at my request, agreed to let the entire archery industry use our registered “Two-Season Hunter” marketing slogan and strategy in their own advertising and sales efforts for the benefit of our entire industry and sport. I informed the manufacturers and American Archery Council of this at a meeting in Las Vegas at the time with Fred and Kelly’s blessing.
While some took advantage of this offer, like our friend Pete Shepley at Precision Shooting Equipment (PSE), others never did and that was sad. It is such a proven business marketing strategy, and I’ve never been able to figure out why more companies do not go after the current firearms hunter instead of insisting on continuing to target existing bowhunters with most of their advertising budgets. Very short-sighted.
As a member of the NRA Hunting & Conservation Committee, I was asked to go through all of the research that the NRA had done on its Life Members at the time and report back on it to the full committee. I analyzed this for several days and wrote up a report that I then presented at the next committee meeting in Washington, D.C.
The most significant thing I stumbled upon in my study was that 54 percent of all NRA Life Members at that time said that they would like to try bowhunting! What an untapped market! And that same market potential still exists today! At the time, 32 percent of all NRA members already owned a hunting bow, and one-third of all of America’s bowhunters were NRA members.
In 1980 the NRA started awarding its new Silver Broadhead Plaque for Pope & Young Club record-size trophies. Naturally, Fred supplied the Bear Razorheads for use on those plaques. And in our 1980 Bear catalog we also prominently featured the new NRA bowhunting awards. These were in the form of lapel pins and featured a broadhead on them along with the head of the animals. They covered basically the same critters our Fred Bear Sports Club program did. Bowhunting had finally arrived as an integral part of the NRA’s programs and mission.
Ethics & Environment
Another noteworthy area in which Fred Bear and I got involved was that of outdoor ethics. In the spring of 1982 I worked with Jack Lorenz, the executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America, to set up a linkage between America’s bowhunters and this important area.
We in the Fred Bear Sports Club put up $5,000 to help start the “Outdoor Ethics Newsletter”—an offshoot of the IWLA’s Outdoor Ethics Education Fund Program. The idea was to help outdoor writers, fish and wildlife professionals and others throughout the country exchange ideas on how to improve the conduct of people who hunt and fish and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors. Our goal was to increase editorial coverage in the nation’s press on this sensitive issue; thereby increasing awareness among America’s hunters, anglers, hikers, campers, birdwatchers and nature lovers. Dorothy Deer was the editor of the newsletter.
In announcing the program Fred had this to say, “Ethics has been defined by some people as ‘my idea of what you should act like.’ We hope that this joint effort will help us all realize that each of us must constantly be on guard that we not get sloppy in our behavior in the outdoors. All of us can improve.”
Fred and I provided a column for each issue titled “A Visit With Fred Bear.” He and I worked together on writing it.
Then in 1983 Fred and I arranged another linkage, this time between our FBSC, The Izaak Walton League and the Association for Conservation Information. A.C.I. is the organization of the 50 state fish and wildlife department communicators—film, print and broadcast, and included additional members in other government and private groups.
I invited Mike O’Malley, then the A.C.I. president to meet with Jack Lorenz and me in Washington to finalize plans for a National Outdoor Ethics Writers Award Program among North America’s fish and wildlife professionals. We at the FBSC judged the television and radio entries, Jack Lorenz and his folks judged print and graphics. In our first year we had 47 broadcast entries from 11 states and the Canadian provinces. Awards were given for television & radio spots, film, slide presentations, news writing, feature writing, publicity campaigns and graphics.
Then there was the Florida Defenders of the Environment. An anti-hunting group? A bunch of bunny huggers? Fred Bear did not see it that way. Fred believed that hunters and fishermen could always be a part of the movement to defend our environment, habitat and wildlife populations—game and non-game species. He believed strongly in reaching out to people and working together. And this never was more evident than in our FBSC work with the FDE. Fred reached out to Marjorie Carr, the founder and head of the FDE. Marjorie had been disgusted with the Cross Florida Barge Canal that had raped the Florida environment when it was decided to build a waterway across the northern part of the state, from the Gulf of Mexico over to the Atlantic Ocean, for commercial freight travel. Great swaths of land had been destroyed, and several large portions of the canal had been torn out of the landscape when Marjorie and her friends said “enough!” The effect on our wildlife and environment was devastating. Finally, the Cross Florida Barge Canal was stopped.
Marjorie was an eclectic environmentalist, and she and I became very good friends over a period of years, and worked very closely together, sometimes meeting in her FDE office in Gainesville, but just as often in my office at Bear Archery. She and Fred hit it off immediately. Both were accommodating people who would rather understand and work with the other’s point of view than end up in countless court battles and discord. If only PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, and the other discordant anti-hunting groups felt the same way!
The Florida Defenders of the Environment office acted as an advocate for state environmental issues. Its staff attended government hearings and meetings, studied issues and made recommendations with input from FDE’s volunteer scientific support members to present its case to legislators. Fred considered it a model program for other states to follow. Fred became a leader in the state of Florida to fund this environmental effort, and I became an associate chairman at Fred’s urging, and eventually a member of the board of directors of FDE’s Environmental Service Center in the state capitol of Tallahassee.
At Fred’s direction, I wrote and produced a brochure for FDE to use in its fundraising efforts. It was titled “FLORIDA: Your Environment at the Crossroads.” At the time Fred made this statement that was reported in the press, “the donation ($5,000 from the FBSC) comes from America’s bowhunters because of our concern for the environment and the wildlife in that environment. We’re vitally concerned that the fragile balance of nature be maintained. This is truly a long-range environmental educational effort.” We also made additional donations to FDE later to aid in its important work.
FDE included 500 specialists—scientists, land-planners, engineers, economists, attorneys, and others, who contributed their professional expertise on environmental issues wherever needed in the state. In 1981 Fred served as the regional chairman of FDE in helping to raise funds for the full-time Environmental Service Center in Tallahassee. Two prominent former Florida governors, LeRoy Collins and Reuben Askew, were among the fundraising campaign’s sponsors.
Marjorie Carr’s husband, Archie Carr, was a world-renowned zoologist and naturalist. And it was my honor, at Fred’s urging, to also produce a fundraising brochure for his Caribbean Conservation Corporation group in support of their efforts to save the huge threatened Atlantic green turtle.
Since 1954 the CCC had maintained a modest research station at Tortuguero, a remote black beach on the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica. Some 20,982 turtles had been tagged there for research purposes. Fred felt deeply that we needed to support research, not only on hunted species, but also on other non-hunted species of wildlife on land, sea and in the air. And it was my distinct pleasure to represent him and America’s hunters and fishermen in this important work.
There is another important aspect of our Fred Bear Sports Club work on the national level, especially in Washington, D.C., that I’ll cover in the next chapter. It is the work we did with the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA).
watch for chapter 7.