From the National Shooting Sports Foundation
-- As states across the country search for dollars to jumpstart the economy, sportsmen have found a solution that works for all involved: more hunters, as part of a groundbreaking program that sends hundreds of thousands of newcomers into the field.
Concerned about the impact of too many restrictions on the ability of sportsmen and sportswomen to pass on their hunting traditions to the next generation, a trio of national organizations launched a program designed to remove the red tape and bolster hunting recruitment.
The Families Afield program was kicked off in 2004 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the US Sportsmen's Alliance. Those efforts have been joined by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and the National Rifle Association.
The program promotes passage of Apprentice Hunting License legislation. Under this new license, an experienced hunter can take a newcomer into the field to hunt under close supervision prior to the completion of a hunter education course.
To date, 30 states have passed Families Afield-style laws, and new data shows that more than 598,532 apprentice licenses have been sold since the program began. The safety rate of the supervised apprentices has exceeded that of the average hunter.
Even more encouraging was data from a study on the first class of apprentices from the state of Ohio that began in 2006. Over the three year period, roughly half of the purchasers of apprentice licenses continued hunting.
In today's economic environment, it is notable to see the economic impact the Families Afield program has built in such a short time.
According to Today's Hunter, published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation in 2008, the average hunter spends just under $2,000 per year on expenses related to hunting. This includes food, lodging, equipment, travel costs, licenses and more.
When the two pieces of research are combined, it is easy to see the impact of Families Afield. By retaining half of the 598,532 apprentice hunters, with an average expenditure of $2,000, Families Afield has had an estimated impact of nearly $600 million dollars.
Families Afield is a proven program that helps increase hunting numbers, while promoting a safe experience and provides much needed fuel to a slowly recovering economy. That's why the organizations and hundreds of state and local sportsmen's groups are supporting passage of apprentice hunting licenses in all 50 states.
More information can be found online at Families Afield www.familiesafield.org; US Sportsmen's Alliance at www.ussportsmen.org ; Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation at www.sportsmenslink.org ; and the National Rifle Association of America at www.nra.org.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports, online at www.nssf.org.