ATA, Kentucky Craft Strategies to Grow Archery, Bowhunting
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) met recently with ATA staff to create a strategic plan to grow shooting and bowhunting opportunities in the Bluegrass State.
The KDFWR - which launched the National Archery in the Schools Program by installing NASP in 21 Kentucky middle schools in 2002 - met ATA representatives Aug. 29 at the agency's headquarters in Frankfort. Jay McAninch, ATA's CEO and president, said the meeting was likely the first effort by a state agency and industry group to work together on a specific long-range plan to increase shooting and hunting participation.
"This was a major step forward," McAninch said. "With so many schools now offering NASP, it's more important than ever for our industry and individual states to keep students shooting arrows once NASP teaches them basic archery skills."
Jon Gassett, commissioner of the KDFWR, and key agency representatives devoted their entire day to working on the strategic plan with four ATA staffers, led by Mitch King, ATA's director of government relations. King was joined by Michelle Doerr, ATA director of archery and bowhunting programs; Emily Beach, education and research manager; and Jennifer Mazur, coordinator of archery and bowhunting programs.
This isn't the first time ATA and the KDFWR have worked together to boost recruitment and retention of hunters and shooters. During the past year, for example, ATA and KDFWR co-funded and launched the ATA's "Explore Bowhunting" program, which introduces participants to skills useful for hunting, wildlife viewing and nature photography. ATA will provide matching funds for two years to support the implementation of the program.
King said the new strategic plan will focus its efforts on Kentucky's metropolitan areas, where young people and families have few opportunities to shoot archery. By getting families engaged in archery for the first time, the ATA and KDFWR hope to steer them toward hunting opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have considered.
"We're comparing notes to see where Kentucky wants to be with bowhunting numbers in the next four to five years," King said. "Once that vision takes shape in a joint strategy, we'll work with Kentucky to see how we can help achieve it. Our help will probably include more funding, staff expertise and partnering with other organizations that share Kentucky's vision."
The first five Kentucky communities to receive this added attention will be Louisville, Ashland, Lexington, Somerset and Bowling Green. As part of the ATA's community archery strategy, the ATA and KDFWR will host Archery Academy training sessions for beginner archery instructors from the agency, community schools, and park-and-recreation departments.
The Archery Academy is a joint program provided by the ATA and its members and made possible by a generous grant from the Easton Foundations. The ATA and Easton Foundations work together on a number of projects designed to grow archery and bowhunting participation. These growth projects would not be possible without the support of ATA members and the Easton Foundations. Besides training archery instructors, the academies develop archery and bowhunting programs, and help communities learn how to build archery facilities. The ATA's Explore Bowhunting curriculum is part of each Academy.
In addition to the academies, the ATA is working with USA Archery to develop more Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs in Kentucky. "Our goal is to figure out how to get various clubs, pro shops and archery organizations working with the agency to help kids take the next step after NASP," King said. "We'll try to saturate those communities with well-run archery programs to get the most bang for our buck. We're targeting cities with large urban populations, families who simply don't have access to archery. Families in rural communities are more likely to have that access. Typically, they know something about archery already, and they'll more likely pursue it on their own."
King said it's important to view recruitment and retention as a long pathway, not a one-stop destination. "Recruiting requires constant exposure to a variety of opportunities," King continued. "You start with teaching basic skills, and then you put new archers on a pathway that introduces them to parks programs, camp programs, mentored hunts, local tournaments, JOAD, bowhunting, bowfishing, field archery, you name it. To stay engaged, they need continuity in the sport."
Other States Lining Up
While Kentucky might be the first state to have its state wildlife agency work with the ATA to craft a strategic shooting and hunting plan, it won't be the last. The ATA Team intends to visit Texas Parks & Wildlife officials in November to begin work on a similar plan, and then visit agency representatives in Michigan, Virginia, Arizona, Nebraska and maybe Florida.
"Whenever possible, we want to focus our efforts where state agencies share the ATA's commitment to long, steady growth for archery, hunting, shooting and bowhunting," King said. "In some ways, we're doubling-down on our investments to make sure we give this our best possible shot. States like Kentucky are all-in with that approach."
Did You Know?
The ATA estimates that 20 percent of all independent archery-only retailers account for 80 percent of all retail sales.