As of 2017 there are more bow hunters than ever before, and we’re hearing about them more than ever before. Through social media, hunting channels and shows, movies like Hunger Games, and organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Mule Deer Foundation, and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, there is a new generation increasingly interested in the outdoors, and specifically in bow hunting.
I have been bow hunting for more than 26 years, and for most of that time, bow hunting was a low-profile activity. But now, thanks largely to Facebook, Instagram and other social media, we’re seeing people who claim to be hunters and great conservationists in just one or two short years.
This growth is great for the sport and for the hunting industry – bows, arrows, hunting gear, clothing, camping and all that goes with it. I see some of these new hunters, who are members of these conservation and hunting organizations or claim to support them on social media, at the gatherings and events these groups put on. But where are they with the real fight against the attack on our public lands and access?
Where are these individuals and all the other sportsman on the problems here in New Mexico with the A-Plus and E-Plus systems? What about fighting for access to public lands, and the broader issue of public lands transfer outside of just showing support on a social media pages? It is good that we go to shooting events and attend banquets and buy raffle tickets or donate money to these organizations that help pay the salaries of their full time employees, but is that really helping the cause enough? I don’t see many of these new hunters doing anything on their own.
I don’t see them at the state capitol talking to our representatives or our governor. I don’t see or hear about the mass calls, letters, and emails supporting our public lands and fighting all the talk to transfer our public lands at the state or federal level. We have these new hunters and conservationists out there, and that is awesome. Large groups of people is what it takes to really make a difference. And when these conservation groups call for all to come out and support our public lands or other important issue at a rally or event, barely a hundred or so sportsman show up. That’s out of the tens of thousands of New Mexico hunters and sportsman, and the hundred or so who do show up are always the same few.
What difference is the growth of bowhunting making? Is this influx of archery hunters just a temporary fad? Can we as a group take advantage of this new, larger community? How can we get these new bow hunters more involved and making a difference for everyone, instead of simply enjoying individual, personal glory through social media – “See me, look at what I am doing because now I shoot a bow, go hiking, hunting and catch fish.”
Or can we actually do some of the hard work as individuals and communicate with, work with, and push the decision-makers who really affect us – the State Game Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and even county commissioners where we love to hunt?
Sure, all of the conservation groups need our help and support and they do good things, but the local, state, and federal entities know them, and are used to them. They see these organizations as a single entity. What they should see is dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of us hunters and anglers as individuals, not just as members of this organization or that. We need the sportsmen’s groups and we need to support them, but I think hunters and anglers are perhaps even more powerful acting as individuals. The politicians listen to large numbers of people speaking up for their rights.
My advice to the new generation of bow hunters is simple: Be that public figure out there on social media but honor our heritage, our sport with some real behind-the-scenes conservation work. Fight for our sport and fight for our public lands. Don’t be the fake conservationist with just pictures of you shooting, you prepping, you hunting, or socializing or volunteering at a sportsman event. Do what others don’t see for our sport. Building or closing a trail, adding a water catch, or removing an old fence is good stuff to do out in the field but real conservation is what protects the whole sport and the ecosystem and that’s protecting our public lands, the game animals and the science-based rules by which they are managed.
So I ask, what do you want to do? Don’t wait until it’s gone and ask what the hell happened!
Brian Thompson has been a hunter and angler for more than 33 years, all over New Mexico. He has joined all the conservation groups listed here, participated in their campaigns, helped with fundraising and conservation projects. He has also pursued his own conservation interests and issues by working with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Santa Fe National Forest, and with the BLM. In doing this, my passion for hunting. Because of his many years of hunting and fishing in the Jemez Mountains, he chose to get involved with the Santa Fe National Forest travel management plan, working to protect elk calving and the migration route between the San Pedro Parks Wilderness and the Valle Calderas National Preserve.
Brian has worked hard to improve the A-PLUS program, helping battle countless access and conservation issues around the state over the years. He has personally fought the public land transfer issue in New Mexico for the past six years, making countless calls, sending emails and letters to our state and federal decision-makers. He has spent more than 15 years as a Boy Scout leader, taking his own two boys and many other young men camping every month to pass on outdoor skills, fishing, shooting, archery, forestry, backpacking and teaching them to be self-sufficient and leaders. HIs passions are bow hunting big game and conservation in our awesome state, because he wants his children and grandchildren to have and experience what we all seem to take for granted. His request to the up-and-coming generations of bow hunters – get involved. It’s not easy, but isn’t that why we all chose to hunt with a bow?