Lots of hunters think the National Rifle Association does a lot for them. And it does. As the chief defender of the Second Amendment, no gun rights organization is as large, or as effective. But the Second Amendment is not about hunting. It's a statement of one of the civil rights recognized by our national founders, and it belongs to all of us. Freedom requires its defense.
But there is an organization supports hunting more forcefully than the NRA. You may not have heard of it. It's the National Shooting Sports Foundation. For 50 years, the NSSF has been promoting, protecting and preserving the shooting sports. And not just the sport of hunting, but all shooting-related sports.
The NSSF promotes competitive shooting in high schools, collegiate programs and Olympic events. That includes rifle, handgun and shotgun sports. It includes biathlon, steel silhouette shooting, trap shooting and sporting clays.
How many people benefit from target shooting? More than 19 million Americans safely participate in some form of it. And the NSSF helps by promoting safety, supporting shooting ranges, providing educational videos, sponsoring seminars, and introducing new people to the shooting sports.
But the shooting sports are much larger than target shooting. They include hunting. The NSSF knows that hunters are the largest contributors to conservation, and pay the lion's share for programs that benefit all Americans and all wildlife not just game species. The American model of game management is by far the most successful in the world. It makes wildlife accessible to everyone, not just the rich. Recognizing that, the NSSF is part of a great network of wildlife conservation organizations.
The NSSF supports virtually every wildlife conservation group, from Ducks Unlimited to the National Wild Turkey Federation to the Izaak Walton League to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. It supports hunter safety through the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), an organization that meets the needs and represents the interests of 70,000 hunter education instructors who teach hunter safety, ethics, and conservation to about 750,000 students annually across North America.
Through grant funding to state fish and wildlife agencies, the NSSF helps states expand hunting opportunities, keeps current hunters active and recruits new hunters with the goal of preserving the future of America's hunting heritage.
Beyond that, the NSSSF serves as a trade organization for the shooting sports industry. Its biggest event is the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show). The SHOT Show is not only the place where industry professionals gather to talk shop; it's where everything new to the hunting and shooting world is introduced: firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping, and related products and services. The show attracts buyers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, and has a beneficial impact on every sporting goods retailer large and small.
The NSSF keeps hunters abreast of wildlife and hunting-related issues in every state, tracks legislation, and provides a wealth of research and information. It doesn't compete with any organization or agency that helps hunters; it complements all of them.
This space permits me only to scratch the surface of what the NSSF does. A quick glance at the website (www.NSSF.org) shows a wealth of information that would take weeks to digest. Check it out. Every hunter and shooter should be familiar with the work that the NSSF does because in the long run, we are its beneficiaries.
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 him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.EverydayHunter.com.