Since I was a kid, I’ve known about threats to hunting. Overt threats include gun control proposals, anti-hunting legislation, and animal rights advocacy.
Other threats are covert—fostering social mistrust and marginalization by depicting hunters as bad guys. Still other threats are demographic—smaller families, broken homes where young people have no one to take them hunting, and the ever-present shift from rural to urban living.
Hunting in America faces ongoing challenges. From 2010 to 2022, annual hunting license sales in Pennsylvania declined from 925,029 to 844,826. In that same period New York restructured license categories and prices in hopes of avoiding losses of revenue. Although license sales increased from 562,527 to 579,817, license revenue declined from $49,749,695 to $44,929,782.
License revenue is only half the story. For more than 80 years hunters have been funding wildlife conservation through the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 under which firearms, ammunition, archery gear and some other hunting equipment have a built-in excise tax of 11%. That money is distributed to the states for wildlife conservation based on a formula that includes the number of hunting licenses sold. Declining license sales result in a loss of federal dollars committed to wildlife conservation. That means any attack on hunting reduces wildlife conservation funding.
This space usually isn’t a political space. Hunters are weary of politics and when politics raises its ugly head some of us feel like burying our heads in the sand. But that doesn’t mean the eyes in that ugly head can’t see us, or won’t get what they’re fixated on. This is one of those times we can’t afford to ignore the problem. Here’s what’s happening.
The Biden Administration is using the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), signed in 2022, as a cudgel against rural schools that teach hunter safety education or archery instruction. That means these dollar-starved schools will be denied federal funding for education unless they abandon these programs. Why? Because the bill includes language that prohibits schools from “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” and the Biden Administration is using those words to prohibit hunter safety education and archery instruction.
Never mind that no one ever has previously viewed hunter safety education or archery instruction as “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” Never mind that neither hunter safety education nor archery instruction has ever been identified as a cause of a weapons crime, or any crime. Never mind that in rural areas where these programs exist, young people grow up to be more responsible with firearms than people in areas that lack hunter education.
To spin hunter education and archery instruction as “training in the use of a dangerous weapon” will only affect schools where these programs exist—virtually all rural. And it will deprive America of new hunters who are the key to wildlife conservation. If kids are denied hunter safety education, they cannot become hunters and wildlife conservation will lose funding.
Archery is a rapidly growing method of hunting, so if kids are denied instruction in archery, they are much less likely to become hunting archers. Elimination of these programs will accelerate the decline in hunting licenses sold, fewer young people will enter the ranks of hunters, and fewer people will buy the products that are taxed to fund wildlife conservation in America. This amounts to a backdoor effort to gut successful wildlife conservation funding every hunter alive today has contributed to.
The Department of Education under the Biden Administration plans to withhold federal funding from these schools unless and until they eliminate these beneficial youth programs. Senator John Cornyn (Texas) and Senator Thom Tillis (North Carolina) have written Education Secretary Miquel Cardona to protest this decision and register their opposition to this misuse of the BSCA.
Hunters should write their U.S. Senators and ask them to join Senators Cornyn and Tillis in protesting this decision within the Department of Education. We should also write the White House and ask the Biden Administration to reverse this decision, which puts wildlife conservation—and children—in its crosshairs.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.