Friends and families travel great distances each year to enjoy each other’s company for a delicious Thanksgiving meal. After the food coma sets in and the ball games end, people relax during time away from work over the extended holiday weekend. For bowhunters, this means more time in the woods and a perfect opportunity to share the experience with friends or family.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 80% of Americans approve of legal hunting. Despite the endorsement of a majority of our population, the agency says only 5% of Americans 16 years old and older hunt. That means there are likely people gathered around your Thanksgiving table who are eager to give hunting a try, but not comfortable asking for advice.
Another critical explanation for new hunters is addressing how the hunting community funds conservation. The Pittman-Robertson Act provides federal aid to states for wildlife management and restoration efforts by sourcing funds from an 11% excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and other hunting gear. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pittman-Robertson provides about 60% of funding to state wildlife agencies that manage the majority of our country’s wildlife population. Between hunting license dollars and the excise tax on the required gear, hunters have a direct impact on the sustainability of wildlife populations in the U.S. for years to come.
Food is another factor that motivates new folks to give hunting a try, so consider sharing your harvest with anyone interested in trying it. Anyone who plants a garden will appreciate the sustainability of hunting for your own meat. Rather than showing antlers on the wall, a backstrap on the grill can be all it takes to encourage someone who might be on the fence with hunting to try it for themselves.
Introducing new folks to bowhunting starts with a conversation. Generally speaking, people love to be immersed in nature and experience wildlife in the natural world. After you’ve initiated the conversation, acknowledge the fact that bowhunting is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in a safe, quiet, low-pressure environment. Discuss your favorite parts of bowhunting like watching the sunrise, seeing wildlife interact with each other, or the smell of fall leaves after a light rain passes through. While harvesting a deer and enjoying delicious venison is certainly an added bonus, don’t lead with that. Killing an animal can be a sensitive topic for people, so it’s important to take baby steps.
Your initial goal should be simple: to encourage your friend or family member to tag along on a bowhunt during the long weekend. Do everything in your power to control the situation and keep the pressure low. This isn’t the hunt to sneak into your best treestand or blind with hopes of shooting the big buck you’ve been watching on your trail camera. Instead, this is all about immersing yourselves in the bowhunting experience. Consider an observation sit in an area where you’re confident you’ll see wildlife, and if all else fails, you’ll at least enjoy beautiful scenery. This hunt is all about answering questions, sharing the experience, and keeping it fun — and don’t forget the snacks.
Lastly, hunting is all about sharing camaraderie with those who matter most. Time spent in the woods or at deer camp produces memories that last a lifetime. When you create a new hunter, you’re doing much more than having a positive impact on the future of hunting — you’re cultivating lifelong hunting partners with whom you’ll share all bowhunting has to offer for many years to come.