For those young people — the vast majority of America’s youth — who have never walked the woods during an early morning hunt, spotted the tracks of a white-tailed deer or heard the calls of a wild turkey, there is a hands-on, educational program known as Explore Bowhunting set to introduce outdoor experiences like these.
The curriculum will reach students early next year thanks in part to $267,000 recently awarded to the Archery Trade Association (ATA) by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Multi-State Grant program.
“We think natural history and animal behavior can be taught through hunting, which is what Explore Bowhunting is all about,” Jay McAninch, ATA CEO/president said. “We’re pleased that our friends in the state agencies have seen fit to support this joint effort and, because this is a true partnership, we plan to provide two to three times the amount of this grant to see that we accomplish our joint mission.”
As a next step for kids who complete introductory archery programs — any curriculum that primarily focuses on target archery — Explore Bowhunting was developed so existing educational and recreation channels could adopt the program, make it their own and build on this success.
“Without efforts like this, it’s very unlikely that young target archery shooters will take that next step to get into bowhunting,” said John Frampton, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies president. Frampton is also director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “It’s a known fact that hunters pay most of the cost of conservation in this country, so it’s imperative that we provide opportunities for youth to get involved in hunting. It provides a continuation of our American heritage.”
Explore Bowhunting was created for state wildlife agencies to use and it’s at this state level that the first phase of program implementation will occur. The ATA not only plans to give Explore Bowhunting to states, but also will provide the resources required to implement the program. The trade association expects the curriculum to have a broad reach through after-school programs, in-school programs or as part of any recreational program.
Scheduled to launch in January 2010, Explore Bowhunting will be available in six to eight states initially. It’s a flexible set of 22 lessons that can be taught weekly for a school semester, or as part of a weeklong summer program in camps or recreation programs. The ATA completed 24 pilot programs in five states during the 2008-09 school year to fine-tune lesson plans and test the effectiveness of its goals.
“A group of outstanding professionals teamed up to create Explore Bowhunting and the countless hours that we’ve all put into this project is more than I can measure,” said Emily Beach, the program’s coordinator and ATA’s education and research manager. “I could not be more proud of the end product and the contributions of so many. Now, we have an effective program that is adaptable to each setting, whether it’s urban kids who who have limited outdoor experience, to rural kids who have been around hunting most of their lives.”
While young people represent the group that will most directly benefit from the program, the archery and bowhunting industry also stands to benefit from Explore Bowhunting. Mark Copeland, a store director for Jay’s Sporting Goods and an Explore Bowhunting pilot instructor, depends on archery and bowhunting business to sustain his career and livelihood.
“Explore Bowhunting has benefited the shop financially,” said Copeland, “This is real-deal, right-now dollars. The key is the relationship archery shops build with the community and school groups. When you start offering instruction, you become the expert. You begin to build relationships with the community and potential customers.”
Explore Bowhunting is poised to benefit young people and, by doing so, indirectly benefit both the country’s future conservation efforts and the strength and sustainability of the archery and bowhunting industry. Through the Pittman Robertson program, conservation benefits from each sale of archery equipment, which transfers an 11 percent tax that’s paid by industry to the state wildlife agencies. In addition, those young people who experience Explore Bowhunting will gain an appreciation for the conservation legacy they have the opportunity to share.
“This program would not be a reality if not for the efforts of many, including more than 40 archery industry sponsors who provide equipment for Explore Bowhunting trunks used to teach the class,” said Beach.
The trunks include a bowhunting demo kit, a basic youth compound bow, recurve bow, youth crossbow, aluminum and carbon arrows, bow sights, stabilizers, arrow rests and other accessories. The trunks also include game calls, a game board, range-finder, scent-eliminators and camouflage clothes.
Explore Bowhunting Sponsors: AAE, Alpine Archery, American Broadhead, A-Way Hunting Products, Bear Archery, Bohning, BowTech, Boyt Harness Company/Bob Allen Sportswear, Cobra, Concept Archery, Cuddeback, Eastman, Easton, G5, Gateway Feathers, Gold Tip, Horton Mfg., Company LLC, Hoyt, Knight & Hale, Kwikee Kwiver, Leupold & Stevens, Leven Industries (Doinker), M2D CAMO, Midwest Cimmarron Archery, Mossy Oak, Muzzy, NEET, Non Typical/CuddeBack, NWTF, NXT Generation, Parker Compound Bows, Plano, Primos, PSE, QDMA, Quaker Boy, Robinson Outdoors, TRU Ball, Tru-Fire, Tru-GLO, Wildlife Research Center, Woods N’ Waters Press.
About the ATA: Since 1953 ATA has been the trade association for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, sales representatives and others working in the archery and bowhunting industry. ATA is dedicated to making the industry profitable by decreasing business overhead, and reducing taxes and government regulation while increasing participation in archery and bowhunting. ATA owns and manages the ATA Trade Show, the archery and bowhunting industry’s largest and longest running trade show worldwide.