ATA Board Launches Bowhunting Initiative

ATA Board members and staff toured historic parts of Washington, D.C., during the three-day session. Seen here in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building are, from left, Jimmy Primos, Ben Summers, Ted Houser, Darren Hogan, Jay Scholes, Dan Ellyson, Sean Streff, David Fleming, Kelly Kelly, Mark Copeland, Todd Bahnub and Mitch King.
Photo Credit: Pat Durkin/ATA

Author: Patrick Durkin

The ATA Board of Directors launched a comprehensive review of bowhunting and bowhunter participation during its annual July meeting, which convened in Washington, D.C., and included a visit with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a longtime bowhunter and industry supporter.

The Board convened July 11-13 for the three-day session, which also generated a major initiative to update and reactivate its Retail Council to help the industry’s pro shops and archery stores. This effort is led by Mark Copeland, ATA vice chair and store director of Jay’s Sporting Goods, Gaylord, Michigan; and Randy Phillips, owner of Archery Headquarters in Chandler, Arizona.

Copeland and Phillips will work with ATA staff to create and implement a business education and services program. The program’s goal is to help the nation’s archery retailers thrive in today’s increasingly diverse and difficult archery and bowhunting markets.

The Board also took time during its Washington visit to hear from several leaders of national conservation and hunting organizations to explore ways the archery industry can ensure long-term access to public lands, and better promote and defend hunting programs nationwide. The Board’s two evening sessions featured U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a longtime bowhunter and industry backer; and former U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, (R-California) an ardent bowhunter and historian who guided Board members and guests on an exclusive tour of the U.S. Capitol.

Here are some highlights of the Board’s trip to the nation’s capital:

Boosting Bowhunting

The Board agreed the ATA must be proactive about strengthening its vital bowhunting sector, long the industry’s backbone. Board members reported a widespread downturn this year in bowhunting-based business, and they’re seeking ways to re-energize this market.

To that end, the Board identified a three-tiered initiative that starts with a six-prong plan this year, followed by a longer tactical effort for the next three to five years, and a strategic long-term effort that will continue indefinitely.

Those strategic efforts include an immediate effort to boost long-term funding by working with Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act, which would let states use PR funds to build shooting facilities and promote programs that increase participation. Current PR rules do not let states use those federal excise tax revenues to fund recruitment and retention programs for hunting.

The Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports (CAHSS) CEO John Frampton said CAHSS is working with state wildlife agencies nationwide to help fund and promote the R3 program, which works to recruit new hunters, retain existing hunters and reactivate former hunters. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

The ATA is also working with the National Deer Alliance (NDA) to aggressively work with states on chronic wasting disease (CWD), predation concerns, and deer-population problems. It also plans to launch a comprehensive study of bowhunting participation, while expanding marketing and implementation of recruitment programs like Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing.

Those efforts include the launch of Bowhunting 360 as an internet and social-media tool to build awareness, reach prospective bowhunters, and motivate people to take up bowhunting.

Relaunching the Retail Council

The “reactivation” of the Retail Council reflects the increased presence of retailers on the ATA Board. When Jay McAninch took over as the ATA’s president/CEO in August 2000, the Board had one retail member. Today, five of the Board’s 18 members run or manage archery stores.

“The Council has been meeting regularly since the July Board meeting to develop best business practice policies and support services that promote profitable business operations, capitalize on the digital world, and tap into ATA programs to grow archery and bowhunting participation,” McAninch said. “Many retailers are already taking advantage of these opportunities, but the Retail Council thinks the ATA can help even more stores and pro shops capitalize and improve these programs and expand their reach.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, understands the importance of updating the Pittman-Robertson Act to expand the ways state agencies can use PR funds to help hunting. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

20 Minutes with House Speaker Paul Ryan

Congressman Ryan, R-Wisconsin, met privately with the ATA Board when the contingent visited his Capitol office July 13. Ryan took time to talk bowhunting and discussed issues relevant to the industry, including:

Counterfeiting: “We reviewed our country’s custom laws last December, and I wrote the bill and got it through, so changes are taking place. This will improve our customs-enforcement laws to make it easier to go after those who steal intellectual property. I hope you’ll take advantage of these changes. Counterfeiters basically go sector by sector by sector, using reverse-engineering to build their products. They even use your product photos and then put their names on everything.”

The Republican tax bill: “We released our new tax plan in June, and I encourage you to look at it carefully. It includes regulatory reforms that will benefit manufacturers and help them grow their businesses.”

Health care reform: “After six years of work, we now have consensus among Republicans on how to replace Obamacare. We have cases in your industry where companies can’t expand their business without being penalized by Obamacare if they increase their workforce. They’re not hiring people, and they’re turning away business because of Obamacare’s regulations. Our Republican agenda addresses those issues.”

Whit Fosburgh, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said the TRCP is working to ensure continued access to public lands while fighting efforts in Congress to transfer federally owned public lands to states. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act: Speaker Ryan understands the importance of updating the act, which would expand the ways state agencies can use the funds to help hunting. “Things are so different now compared to when I grew up,” Ryan said. “Back then, everyone went to deer camp. We need to expand recruitment efforts and hunting opportunities. I get that.”

Prospects for the fall’s hunting seasons: “My buddy puts out our trail cameras every August and sends me photos. We have a 165- to 170-inch buck where I hunt. I had that buck at 65 yards last year, but he was in a thicket and I couldn’t get him to come closer. He was also scraping about 55 yards from my friend, but never got close enough for a shot.”

Promoting the Deer Protection Program

Mitch King, the ATA’s director of government relations, said the ATA’s Deer Protection Program is in place for this year’s hunting season. Scent manufacturers enrolled in the program go beyond what’s required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure they do everything possible to ensure their products are disease-free. Products from participating companies will carry a Deer Protection Program label so customers know the scents meet disease-prevention protocols.

Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, pledged the CSF’s help in ensuring the archery industry gets its fair share of Pittman-Robertson funds. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

A Word from Our Conservation Partners

The afternoon of July 12 featured presentations from four organizations actively working to protect and promote hunting and conservation efforts nationwide. This included …

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP): CEO Whit Fosburgh said his group is fighting to protect funding for the nation’s Conservation Reserve Program, which has been steadily cut in recent years, resulting in widespread losses of wildlife habitat. The TRCP is also working to ensure continued access to public lands while fighting efforts in Congress to transfer federally owned public lands to states.

The Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports (CAHSS): CEO John Frampton said CAHSS is working with state wildlife agencies nationwide to help fund and promote the R3 program, which works to recruit new hunters, retain existing hunters and reactivate former hunters. Those efforts would receive a big boost if Congress can be persuaded to let state agencies use some of the current $815 million in Pittman-Robertson funds to promote R3 initiatives.

Nick Pinizzotto, CEO/president of the National Deer Alliance, said it’s important for the NDA to focus on concentrated areas rather than spreading resources thin over so many areas that the organization’s impact can’t be felt. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF): President Jeff Crane assured the ATA Board that his group continues to track legislation in Washington that affects hunting and bowhunting interests. For instance, Pittman-Robertson funding has reached historical records in recent years because of booming firearms sales. Crane pledged the CSF’s help in ensuring the archery industry gets its fair share. Crane, too, stressed that lawmakers must pass the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act so agencies can promote R3 and other programs to boost hunting participation. He encouraged the Board to visit to monitor the CSF’s efforts on Capitol Hill and nationwide.

The National Deer Alliance (NDA): CEO/President Nick Pinizzotto said the NDA is working on five key initiatives the next three years to guide the organization: deer diseases, wild deer conservation, hunter access, predators and other competitors, and state and federal land management. Pinizzotto encouraged the Board to visit the NDA’s website,, to learn why it’s focusing much of its efforts on CWD. “It’s important for the NDA to focus on concentrated areas rather than spreading ourselves thin over so many areas that our impact can’t be felt,” he said.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association: President Frank Hugelmeyer said he looks forward to working with the ATA whenever possible because the RV industry overlaps with the archery industry in several areas, such as customer demographics and places to recreate. McAninch said the ATA must expand its efforts to work with other industries that “play in shared areas of interest.” Doing so will increase the archery industry’s influence in Washington and individual states.

Ben Summers of T.R.U. Ball, and chair of the ATA Board of Directors, met with Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. Young discussed his efforts to pass the comprehensive Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which focuses on protecting and enhancing opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting nationwide. Photo: Pat Durkin/ATA

An Evening with Congressman Young

Rep. Young has served in Congress since 1973. Young and his wife, Anne, joined the Board for dinner July 11, and then the congressman entertained them with a 45-minute talk and question/answer session.

Young said his job is always interesting. For instance, he recalled testifying during the 1970s to defeat anti-trapping legislation that targeted Alaska. He recalled how he combatted accusations that trapping is cruel by setting off a No. 1½ dual-jaw, single-sprung trap as he began testifying, and declining to remove the trap from his fingers until he finished speaking and answering questions. “It hurt like hell and bruised my fingers, but I will always defend my people from outsiders who don’t know what they’re talking about,” Young said.

Young also discussed his efforts to pass the comprehensive Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which passed the House in February, 242-161, but hasn’t yet passed the Senate. The bill focuses on protecting and enhancing opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting nationwide.

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