Hunters’ Are Good Citizens

Bowhunters are a close-knit group, and they help their communities in many ways. As I cruised through the many booths at this year’s Archery Trade Show I bumped into an old friend, Bob Easterbrook from Michigan. I first met him through volunteer work for Safari Club International. Bob is a bowhunter, but he is not your average guy. He comes up with great ideas that enhance the future of hunting. For example, Bob came up with the concept about hunters donating venison to the needy. Today there are hundreds of such ‘Hunters Help Feed the Hungry’ programs and you find them in every deer state. You know the program. They are t he ones where hunters taking deer they harvest and donating venison to needy people and organizations such as the Salvation Army, and homeless kitchens. As I said, there are hundreds of organizations that use Bob’s concept. For example, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry based in Maryland fed 1.48 million meals of venison last year. Add it up and these organizations donate thousands of tons of meat to the needy nationwide, every year, and it was a bowhunter who came up with the idea. This guy is special.

Apparently Bob does some heavy thinking when he sits in a treestand because he also developed a concept called ‘Sensory Safaris,’ where blind people (especially children) come to a location where members of the Safari Club bring mounted animals for the attendees to ‘see.’ Each year more than 70,000 kids attend these events all over the country. Google ‘sensory safari’ and look at the photos of kids touching, petting, hugging taxidermy animals. The smiles are real.

Sensory safari’s are wonderful. When they first came out the antis criticized the use of taxidermy mounts for these safaris. You know the jibberish . . . hunters are just killers and use these activities to justify that killing. Yet, when the press covered these sensory safaris, and interviewed blind children talking about these animals, the antis went away. They spouted the same junk about feeding the hungry programs. They’ve lost on both counts. Why? Hunters do the right thing.

Fifteen years ago, bowhunting friend Rob Evans started a program to raise money for Dr. A. S. Leonard, a cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota. One of the ways we do that is to hold a ‘Baldy Award’ event every year at the Archery Trade show. The Baldy Awards attract a huge crowd because we shave heads of bowhunting celebrities to raise money to fight cancer. This January was our 14th Award program and we shaved several celebrities including Jon Brunson and Nick Mundt, the Bone Collector. We did ‘T-bone’ Turner last year, and Michael Waddell the year before, and although I don’t have a final figure, I’m sure the money raised was more than $75,000 in 30 minutes. Over the past 14 years, this group of bowhunters has raised around $850,000. Hunters do these kinds of things all the time. For Rob Evans Interview.

Then there is the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Bowhunters volunteer their time and money for this huge program. Kids love to shoot bows, and this program has grown to the point where it is in almost every state and many international countries. Their World Tournament in Florida drew more than 900 shooters and 64 teams from all over the country. One of the spinoffs of this program is that many states are now developing archery as a scholastic sport.

The list goes on and on. Hunters are heavily involved in habitat development and protection. They donate to state wildlife agencies, conservation officer programs, local water projects, etc. Are there some bad apples in the hunting basket? Of course. Name any constituency and you’ll find some who don’t belong; takers and not givers, thieves and not friends. Bad apples make the front page headlines, and they come from all walks of life. But from the above it is very evident that, as a whole, hunters are good citizens. I’m proud to be one.