Families Afield is a joint program launched in 2004 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, US Sportsmen’s Alliance and National Wild Turkey Federation to reduce regulatory barriers to youth hunting. Now established in 29 states that have passed legislation intended to increase youth hunting, the program has realized increases in new hunters. Families Afield has reported that in their first five years nearly 400,000 apprentice hunting licenses have been sold. An increase of 100,000 apprentice hunting licenses occurred in 2009 alone.
Chris Dolnack, senior vice president of NSSF, reported, “A lot of research went into making sure Families Afield was planned properly before its launch, and now because of that preparation Families Afield is really starting to pay dividends for youth hunters and for hunting in general.”
States with the most apprentice hunting license sales are Pennsylvania with 102,663, Michigan with 59,929 and Ohio at 51,416.
Families Afield is based on the simple premises that parents, not politicians, should decide at what age a child is mature enough to try hunting and that when introducing a youngster to hunting, earlier is better. The need for this program became apparent when a study revealed that hunting regulations in many states did not allow youth to hunt with an adult mentor until sometimes 12 years old or later. The age restriction plus stringent coursework and certification requirements were deterrents to getting started, making it much easier for children to channel their enthusiasms into video games and organized youth sports.
These barriers were reducing the number of youngsters participating in hunting. Researchers found that for every 100 hunters lost, only 69 were taking their place. If this “hunter replacement ratio” was not improved hunting itself could be compromised, along with its critical ties to wildlife conservation and America’s economy. Families Afield’s answer was to allow licensed adult mentors to introduce youngsters to hunting at younger ages, instilling the passion for hunting in children early and safely, thereby bonding families together and increasing attendance in hunter education classes.
According to an NSSF-funded study carried out by Southwick Associates, the pool of hunters in America is much larger than previously thought. The study estimated that 21.8 million people purchased a hunting license at least once in the last five years. Hunters are the backbone of conservation funding in America, contributing more than $1 billion each year through the purchase of licenses, tags, permits and stamps and through excise taxes paid on firearms and ammunition. According to a 12-state hunting license sales index, NSSF anticipates a national increase in paid hunting license holders based on an already-realized 3.5 percent increase in license sales.
Families Afield is predicted to have a long-term, positive effect on hunting by creating millions of new hunters. While the program’s numbers are impressive it is still in the early stages. To learn more about Families Afield and about your state’s hunting regulations, visit familiesafield.org.
Read more in our February 2012 issue. Back issues are available.
Don’t miss a single issue. Subscribe today!