Q: The hunting industry helped persuade Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, and the archery/bowhunting industry persuaded Congress to add archery gear as taxable equipment in the early 1970s. With all those tax revenues getting redistributed to state wildlife agencies, why was there so little coordination and cooperation between the hunting industries and wildlife agencies during the late 1900s?
A: There was a clear lack of communication for decades, but with steady declines in hunter numbers the past 25 years, the agencies and industries realized they share many of the same challenges. More manufacturers started asking how and what state agencies were doing to help. What were they getting for their Pittman-Robertson investments?
The ATA has done a phenomenal job bridging that gulf and answering those questions the past dozen years or so. Agencies now realize the ATA is a strong supporter. They have a deeper, clearer understanding of the industry’s role and its contributions. Both sectors are overcoming historical communication challenges.
Q: Is the word “partners” a fair description for those joint efforts?
A: Definitely. We’ve been bridging that communications gap with forums, meetings and joint conferences. We’re working more like partners than silos. I’ve worked aggressively with industries in Georgia because I recognized that communication gap from these broader interactions. In my new role with the ATA, I plan to extend my own efforts from the state level to a much broader field.
Q: Which shared interests are these partnerships addressing?
A: The big one is the R3 initiative: recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters and bowhunters. We need as many hunters as possible. We need to examine regulations and programming state by state to increase participation. We’re addressing and discussing challenges and opportunities at our AFWA meetings and other special meetings. ATA is a steady presence at those gatherings. In fact, the ATA has been a key leader in many discussions and initiatives to increase hunting and participation. The ATA’s interests align well with my many personal and professional interests in those areas.
Dan Forster is a certified wildlife biologist, and directed the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division in recent years. The division is responsible for over 89 wildlife-management areas and 21 natural areas; as well as fishing, archery and hatchery facilities. Photo contributed by Dan Forster
Q: What’s on your agenda as you begin working with the ATA?
A: The ATA has been working on several things that need immediate attention. There’s a real need to modernize Pittman-Robertson funding to give state agencies more flexibility to build shooting ranges and to step up their marketing efforts to recruit hunters. But modernizing that federal act requires legislation in Washington. That’s where Jay, Mitch (King) and (ATA counsel) Pat Raffaniello have been working with lawmakers and state wildlife-agency directors to push those changes across the finish line. We want to increase funding for multi-state federal grants to support R3 and CASH efforts at the state and national levels. We’re trying to make those changes this year.
Q: How can your experience and your new ATA role address those issues?
A: Before retiring from the Georgia DNR and taking this job, I was chairman of the CAHSS, and we had just approved the first National R3 Plan. This document provides a real opportunity for our community to become more focused, strategic and successful in stimulating interest and participation in hunting. We’ll be working on step-down plans with individual states and other partners to increase hunting participation. This plan sparked a new commitment and interest among states to attack the problem aggressively. We’ll help however we can. All of these plans and collective efforts will pay dividends for us down the road.
Q: What parallels do you see between your agency work and your new ATA duties?
A: It’s rewarding to see the passion in the archery industry’s professionals. They’re motivated to do good work. It’s the same level of passion I saw in the agency. All of them are committed to ethics, sustainable resources, altruistic programs, and sound business practices. I admire that. It’s intriguing to learn more about the business aspects of hunting. In my role, I won’t be the detailed industry guy with 30 years in archery manufacturing or sales, but I look forward to working with these professionals to learn and understand their pressure points, and help them deal with the areas I know.
“It’s rewarding to see the passion in the archery industry’s professionals,” Forster said. “They’re motivated to do good work.” Photo contributed by Dan Forster
Q: So, your main interest isn’t just killing deer anymore?
A: (Laughs.) We all have our personal stories about our first deer and our first buck, but the greatest hunts I’ve experienced didn’t all involve harvesting animals. Satisfaction for me comes from sharing my passion with my kids, nephews and friends, and enjoying their successes. Lanier and Trent both have harvested deer at a much earlier age than I did. I’d rather sit in deer stand with one of them than by myself. Passing the torch and increasing their understanding about our sport and natural resources … those things are important to me and very important to the next generation. That’s going to be part of my ATA responsibility. We need to be a leader in facilitating others into the sport. I find that kind of work most rewarding.
Q: During its July meeting, you showed the ATA Board a photo of a placard that reads, “Daniel Forster, Wildlife Biologist.” You received that as a gift from a friend when you were about 14. How did your friend know your career aspirations back then?
A: My friend’s father did maintenance work at a hospital, and the hospital’s workshop had equipment for making “No Smoking” signs, nameplates for doors, and things like that. We had a class assignment to document what we aspired to be when we grew up. We had to write to or interview someone in that field, and ask some career questions. I contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. I said I loved the outdoors, that I’d love to be employed as a biologist one day, and what advice can you give me? A man named Carroll Allen wrote back and said I would need to attend college and get a master’s degree. Several years later Carroll became a colleague of mine. We shared many days afield together.
Anyway, my friend was working for his dad that summer, and learned how to use the hospital’s engraving machine. He remembered that assignment, and carved the sign for me. I’ve cherished and held onto it for many, many years. He made job placards like that for several of our friends, but I’d venture to guess mine is the only one that still applies. How many ninth-graders have career aspirations that come to fruition? That sign has stayed with me through moves, transfers and new jobs. When I read that nameplate now, I see it more as a reflection of “who I am” than “what I do.”