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Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2022

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2022

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2022

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2022

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
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CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore Introduces Important Bill to Enhance Recreational Shooting Opportunities

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2022

  • On Friday, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Rep. Blake Moore (UT) introduced the Range Access Act, an important bill to improve recreational shooting opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women.
  • Specifically, the Range Access Act would require both the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ensure that each of their respective districts has a minimum of one recreational shooting range that is open to the public.
  • This bill will bolster the Pittman-Robertson Act, the lifeblood of state fish and wildlife agencies, which is largely funded by the contributions of recreational target shooters.

Why It Matters: The Range Access Act is an essential piece of legislation to increase access opportunities for America’s hunters and recreational shooters. As recreational shooting continues to grow in popularity, this legislation will help increase opportunities for hunters and target shooters to participate in this time-honored tradition. At a time when lack of access if often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in hunting or shooting, the Range Access Act represents an important piece of legislation to continue bolstering the increase in target shooting popularity.

On Friday, October 14, CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore of Utah introduced the Range Access Act – an effort to enhance recreational shooting opportunities for sportsmen and women, and a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

The Range Access Act requires the USFS and BLM to have at least one designated shooting range in each of their respective districts. The target ranges established under this bill shall be free and open to the public to provide a safe and accessible site for sportsmen and women to participate in recreational shooting.

Not only is the Range Access Act important in terms of providing access opportunities for hunters and recreational shooters, it is also critical to bolstering the Pittman-Robertson Act – the largest and most important program for hunters and recreational shooters in the country. Enacted in 1937 at the request of hunters and the manufacturers of firearms and ammunition, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs industry level excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. Last year alone, the Pittman-Robertson Act generated $1.1 billion in funding to support state-level wildlife conservation, shooting range construction, hunter education, and other critical programs to our hunting and shooting heritage.

Roughly 80% of the funding generated under the Pittman-Robertson Act comes from recreational shooters, who often spend even more money on firearms and ammunition than hunters. Given their contributions to the Pittman-Robertson Act, it is critical to increase access opportunities for recreational shooters to participate in our time-honored tradition of target shooting. The Pittman-Robertson Act represents a unique and unmatched partnership in support of conservation, our sporting traditions, and enhanced opportunities to exercise our firearms rights, and the Range Access Act bolsters this partnership. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore for leading the Range Access Act. CSF looks forward to working with the Congressman to advance this legislation.

 

Public Comment Period Open for Two U.S. Forest Service Habitat Projects in Virginia

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Director

  • On October 7, the U.S. Forest Service released the draft environmental assessment for the Archer Knob Project and announced the Currin Glade Vegetation Project on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia.
  • Both projects are supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) for their conservation benefits for game and non-game species alike.
  • The projects would help both National Forests move closer to the desired conditions set forth in the 2014 Revised Forest Plan for the George Washington National Forest and the 2004 Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the Jefferson National Forest, respectively, by creating more early successional habitat.

Why It Matters: Early successional habitats are lacking on George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and the scarcity of these critical habitats for wildlife negatively impacts hunting traditions as game populations have declined because of reduced active forest management treatments. Supporting these projects is important for creating habitat that supports game and nongame wildlife and improves forest health.

Located on the North River Ranger District in Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, the Archer Knob Project would increase forest resilience and restore proper ecological function by creating and enhancing early successional habitat and open woodlands throughout the 25,860 acres of National Forest System land in the project area. More than 75% of the area is comprised of closed canopy stands over 80 years of age that inhibit understory growth, which is needed to provide important forage and cover for wildlife. Specifically, the project proposes to use regeneration harvests to create young forests on 2,142 acres and commercial thinning to open the canopy on 2,883 acres, in addition to creating 44 acres of early successional habitat by expanding existing wildlife openings. Prescribed fire will also be used to improve habitat by returning nutrients to the soil, increasing vegetation, and reducing the threat of wildfire.

Located on the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Smyth County, the Currin Glade Vegetation Project would utilize regeneration harvests, commercial thinning, uneven-aged harvests, and prescribed fire to increase the amount of early successional habitat on the landscape, improve forest stand structural diversity, support oak regeneration, and address nonnative invasive species.

The deadline to submit comments on both projects is November 7, 2022. Comments can be submitted online through the project websites linked above.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports both projects and appreciates the U.S. Forest Service’s recognition of the need to establish and maintain more early successional habitats to support wildlife. Similarly, CSF recently commented in support of a wildlife habitat improvement project on the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont and looks forward to commenting on these projects as well.

 

Senate Committee Considers Important CSF Supported Forestry Measure

Posted on Monday, October 03, 2022

  • On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on a number of bills including the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022 (S. 4904), a bill strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
  • S. 4904 is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice Chair Senator Joe Manchin and CSC Member Senator John Barrasso, who respectively serve as the Chair and Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  • This bipartisan bill includes many provisions that have been longstanding CSF priorities in our efforts to promote forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on National Forests and other public lands.

Why It Matters: Currently, the U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers such as the Bureau of Land Management are unable to make significant headway in efforts to address forest restoration needs and to improve fish and wildlife habitat. This legislation takes a pragmatic approach to addressing wildfire threat and improving wildlife habitat. CSF is excited to see Chair Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso continue to prioritize efforts to improve the health of our nation’s forests and public lands.

Last Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a top CSF priority that seeks to improve the health of our forests and federal public lands known as the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022.

This bipartisan bill, led by CSC Members Senators Manchin and Barrasso, seeks to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risks, and bolster fish and wildlife habitat by setting specific requirements for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service land management agencies. Prior to the hearing, CSF submitted a letter in strong support of this bill. In the letter, CSF highlighted the need for this legislation and the benefits it would have on fish and wildlife habitat and the health of our forests.

Specifically, this legislation sets pragmatic and reasonable forest management goals by establishing annual mechanical thinning targets, incrementally increasing acreage targets over time, requiring annual reporting of the status of meeting thinning goals, and increasing transparency for reporting fire migration work. Collectively, these requirements will significantly improve the health of our nation’s forests by leveraging authorities already in place. Presently underutilized authorities include categorical exclusions for collaborative restoration projects, wildfire resilience projects, and greater sage-grouse and mule deer habitat projects provided by the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003; emergency action to mitigate against wildfire threat and a categorical exclusion for fuel breaks provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; and stewardship end-resulting contracts provided by the Wildfire Suppression Funding and Forest Management Activities Act.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the continued efforts of CSC Members Chair Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso to improve the health of forests and to improve fish and wildlife habitat. CSF looks forward to working with these offices to further advance this important legislation.

 

Pheasant Season Opening in Several Northeastern States – How Non-Native Species Can Benefit Ecosystems and the Economy

Posted on Monday, October 03, 2022

Contact: Joe Bachar, Coordinator, New England States

  • Over the past week, the 2022-2023 pheasant season has opened in several states, including Maine (September 24) and New Hampshire/New York (October 1), with numerous others within the region soon following suit (Massachusetts on October 15; Rhode Island on October 16; and Pennsylvania on October 22).
  • In each of these states, the respective fish and wildlife agencies have been, and will often continue to, stock wildlife management areas with pheasants for sportsmen and women to pursue.
  • Small game hunting (inclusive of upland game), which is experiencing an increasing trajectory in engagement, provides a multitude of economic and social benefits.

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies are instrumental in setting the frameworks that result in the successful conservation and management of a state’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Sportsmen and women (including hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. In the northeast, state agencies have been able to finance and facilitate stocked pheasant hunting opportunities as a result of the ASCF’s success, providing further credence to the effectiveness of this System.

On September 24, Maine opened its 2022 pheasant hunting season, while last Friday marked the start of this year’s pheasant season in New Hampshire and certain regions of New York. Several other northeastern states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, will be in the same camp in the coming weeks. Pheasant hunting has been a popular pastime in America ever since the species was originally introduced to the continent in the late 1700s. Today, over 2 million sportsmen and women – most of which alongside their four-legged partners – pursue pheasant each year. In the northeast, state fish and wildlife agencies stock certain state-managed lands to provide opportunities for sportsmen and women to pursue pheasants.

For new sportsmen and women, upland hunting offers a variety of benefits and presents the engaging opportunity to experience time afield in an ideal learning environment. It is unique in that it is one of the few hunting pursuits in which you are encouraged to speak loudly and move freely, which in turn allows for increased communication and overall enhanced comradery. Likewise, upland hunting positions are often coordinated in a targeted approach that allows beginning hunters to quickly grasp the tactics involved in the pursuit. Therefore, upland hunting can be the ultimate opportunity for new sportsmen and women to learn alongside mentors in a more controlled, safe environment. Factor in the element of including hunting dogs, such as flushers, pointers, and/or setters, and it’s easy to see the benefits that upland hunting has on recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts. Project Upland – an award-winning hunting media brand – conducted a survey of its readership to determine the members’ reasons for getting involved with hunting, and a resounding 75% answered “Yes” to the question “Would you say that dogs played a critical role in you becoming a hunter?” If there’s a way to get prospective hunters active and engaged, pheasant hunting is a great starting point.

In 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supported the creation of a pheasant and quail permit and the removal of seasonal bag limits in Massachusetts. This will generate increased funding for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s conservation efforts, as well as increase opportunities for new hunters to learn and improve through hands-on experiences. In conjunction with excise taxes on sporting-related goods, revenue generated through license sales (including the pheasant and quail permit) will further benefit the state’s fish, wildlife, and habitat management through the American System of Conservation Funding.

 

CSC Member Sen. Daines Introduces Bill to Protect Access for Sportsmen and Women

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

  • On Thursday, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Sen. Steve Daines (MT) introduced a bill that would protect an important method of take for America’s 55 million sportsmen and women, known as the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act.
  • Specifically, this bill will ensure that the use of traditional ammunition and tackle is an allowable method of take on certain federally managed lands and waters unless a substantiated scientific and state-supported process has taken place that determines a restriction is necessary.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation maintains that efforts to restrict the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle must be guided by a sound, science-based process that has the support of our state fish and wildlife agencies.

Why It Matters: The use of lead ammunition and lead tackle in hunting and angling is a contentious issue, with the primary concern being the potential effects on wildlife. However, to this date, there has been limited documented evidence that sportsmen’s use of lead has had significant deleterious impacts on wildlife at the population level in the United States. These efforts are generally based on the emotional assumption that isolated incidents of animals ingesting harmful levels of lead translates to impacts on entire populations.

On Thursday, September 22, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Steve Daines introduced the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act, a bill that seeks to prevent federal land management agencies from arbitrarily limiting the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.

The Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the U.S. Forest Service from instituting any restrictions on lead ammunition and tackle on Federal land and water unless three triggers are met: decline in wildlife populations at the specific unit as a result of lead ammunition and tackle based on data from that specific unit, restrictions are consistent with state law and the regulations of the state fish and wildlife agency, and the restrictions are approved by the respective state fish and wildlife agency.

Efforts to restrict the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle often ignore many of the existing variables that must be weighed and considered when looking to restrict such methods of take. First, any decision that seeks to limit the use of traditional ammo and tackle must be rooted in a scientific process. The use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle should not be restricted by any arbitrary decisions that lack scientific justification. Additionally, non-lead ammunition and tackle options are often cost-prohibitive and not widely available, and as the markets have shown (primarily for ammunition), supply is still struggling to meet demand. Lastly, the inability to locate non-lead options, especially those that are reasonably affordable, has the potential to stave-off participation, which in-turn may result in a loss of revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies through the American System of Conservation Funding.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work to ensure that hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters are able to use traditional ammunition and tackle unless a scientific process determines that restrictions or closures are warranted.

 

DOI Announces Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, CSF President and CEO Reappointed

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

  • On Friday, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture announced the appointment of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President and CEO Jeff Crane to the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council (HWCC).
  • CSF appreciates the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture for standing up this important Federal Advisory Committee.
  • The HWCC is a Federal Advisory Committee that reports directly to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues to support and promote hunting, recreational shooting, and wildlife conservation.
  • Notably, Jeff Crane is the only individual who has been appointed to every single hunting-conservation and shooting sports Federal Advisory Committee since it was originally created under President George W. Bush nearly 20 years ago.

Why It Matters: The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council is a unique opportunity for leaders in the sporting-conservation community to provide recommendations and advice directly to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues that are most important to the outdoor sporting community. As a member of the HWCC, Crane will be in position to work directly with the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to support and advance wildlife conservation, access for sportsmen and women, and promote our hunting and recreational shooting traditions.

On Friday, September 23, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture announced the appointment of CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane to the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, a Federal Advisory Committee dedicated to supporting the interests of America’s hunters and recreational shooters.

As a testament to the unique bipartisan reach of CSF, Crane is the only individual who has served on every single version of the HWCC since it was first established under President George W. Bush nearly two decades ago – demonstrating CSF’s unmatched bipartisan reach. Most recently, Crane served as the Chair of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council for the entirety of the Council’s existence from 2018 – 2021. During his time as Chair, Crane spearheaded an aggressive agenda that resulted in over 30 recommendations to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues of critical importance to sportsmen and women.

The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council builds off previous versions of similar Federal Advisory Committees that worked to advance the interests of America’s sportsmen and women. Previous versions of the HWCC have addressed issues related to wildlife disease, closures of federal land to hunting and recreational shooting, federal land management planning decisions, among other issues of importance to sportsmen and women.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation extends our thanks to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture for standing up the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, a critically important opportunity for sportsmen and women. CSF looks forward to working with the HWCC as a member.

 

Iowa Natural Resources Commission Works to Update Regulations as Fall Turkey Season Approaches

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy

  • During the September Commission Meeting, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission was requested to approve rule changes to allow the use of .410-bore and 28-gauge shotguns and shot as small as Size 10 during the turkey season.
  • This request follows the passage of Senate File 2334 during the 2022 legislative session which officially took effect in July.
  • The ability to utilize lighter recoiling options represents a great opportunity for many who may be sensitive to the recoil generated by larger shotguns.

Why It Matters: Though we should always strive to maintain the fair chase ethic that defines us as sportsmen and sportswomen, improvements in ammunition have allowed shotgun option once considered to be underpowered to serve as viable options in the turkey woods. These lighter, softer recoiling firearms represent great options for younger, smaller, or otherwise recoil sensitive hunters who may have shied away from turkey hunting due to the limited options. 

During their September meeting, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission heard a proposed rule change that would authorize the use of .410-bore and 28-gauge shotguns and shot as small as Size 10 during Iowa’s firearms turkey hunting seasons. Following this meeting, the Commission will open a public comment period and host a public hearing in October.

The proposed regulatory changes follow the unanimous passage of Senate File 2334 during the 2022 legislative session. SF 2334 amended existing statute that currently limited hunters to shotguns chambers in 20-gauge or larger and capped shot size at size 8. This move represents a win for turkey hunters who wish to take advantage of improvements in shotshell technologies that have allowed lighter recoiling shotguns to serve as effective options in the turkey woods.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is proud to have worked with the leaders of the Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Kim Reynolds, and our great mission partner organizations in support of this effort.

 

FWS Finalizes Hunt Fish Rule, Increasing Access but Restricting Use of Traditional Ammo and Tackle

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

  • On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a final rule regarding the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Rule, an annual effort to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
  • While the final rule increases access for sportsmen and women across 18 national wildlife refuges spanning nearly 38,000 acres, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is disappointed to see that the final rule contain restrictions on the use of traditional ammunition and tackle that will take effect by the fall of 2026.
  • Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF led a letter to the FWS to offer our support for efforts to increase hunting and fishing within the NWRS, but also to express our opposition to arbitrary restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle that lack scientific justification.

Why It Matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. As such, it is critical for FWS to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including decisions surrounding method of take. Unfortunately, the final Hunt Fish Rule does not appear to follow the science that is the foundation of the agency. On the positive side, FWS supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, making the agency one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. The expansion of access across 38,000 acres bolsters opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women.

On Thursday, September 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the finalization of the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule, offering a mixed bag for sportsmen and women.

CSF is thankful for efforts by FWS to increase access for hunters and anglers across 38,000 acres of land and water within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Lack of access is often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in our time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and CSF appreciates FWS for continuing its efforts to expand opportunities for hunters and anglers.

However, we are concerned to see the inclusion of future restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle within the NWRS without a sound, science-based justification. Specifically, the final rule does not include any new opportunities that would allow the use of lead ammo and tackle beyond 2026. Additionally, the final rule announced that 8 different NWRS units are analyzing the phasing out of lead ammunition and tackle by the fall of 2026.

Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF developed a comment letter to thank FWS for expanding accessible acreage within the NWRS. However, in the letter, CSF and 30 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations expressed concerns regarding seemingly arbitrary efforts to limit the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds FWS for expanding access within the NWRS, however, we are disappointed to see the inclusion of efforts to arbitrarily restrict long-standing methods of take within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

 

Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Gathers for Annual Dove Hunt – Recognizes Mike Bell

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • On September 13, the Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus), in coordination with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, hosted their hosted their annual dove hunt at the Lock Five Farms outside Lebanon, TN.
  • More than 40 people, including roughly 15 Caucus members, attended the dove hunt. Notable attendees included Caucus Co-Chair Representative Bob Freeman and incoming Caucus Co-Chair Senator Paul Rose, among others.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the Caucus also recognized Mike Bell for his leadership as a former Caucus Co-Chair and member of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council (EC.)

Why It Matters: The dove hunt provided an opportunity for Caucus members, sportsmen’s groups, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) staff to enjoy a day afield together, celebrating Tennessee’s outdoor sporting heritage.

Prior to barrels heating up in the dove field, attendees were welcomed by Caucus Co-Chairs Representative Bob Freeman and Senator Paul Rose and given a hunting safety talk by the TWRA. CSF’s Southeastern States Coordinator, Mark Lance, presented Mike Bell with an award on behalf of CSF recognizing Bell for his unwavering leadership over many years as a Caucus Co-Chair and member of the NASC EC.

Bell recently retired from the legislature on September 1 and was subsequently hired by the TWRA as their Senior Advisor for Legislative Affairs and Policy.

Bell, who had been a member of the Caucus since 2010, spearheaded the growth of the Caucus by encouraging his colleagues in the legislature from both sides of the aisle to get involved and show their support of outdoor recreation in Tennessee. Thanks to Bell’s leadership, the Caucus successfully led the charge on legislation protecting conservation funding for the state fish and wildlife agency, repealing an antiquated knife ban, prohibiting the removal of tracking collars from dogs, and constitutionally protecting the right to hunt and fish, among other key victories for sportsmen and women in the Volunteer State.

Attendees of the dove hunt were also encouraged to register and attend the 19th Annual NASC Summit that will take place November 29 – December 2 in Bozeman, MT. For more information on the Summit, please click here.

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Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2022

CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore Introduces Important Bill to Enhance Recreational Shooting Opportunities

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2022

  • On Friday, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Rep. Blake Moore (UT) introduced the Range Access Act, an important bill to improve recreational shooting opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women.
  • Specifically, the Range Access Act would require both the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ensure that each of their respective districts has a minimum of one recreational shooting range that is open to the public.
  • This bill will bolster the Pittman-Robertson Act, the lifeblood of state fish and wildlife agencies, which is largely funded by the contributions of recreational target shooters.

Why It Matters: The Range Access Act is an essential piece of legislation to increase access opportunities for America’s hunters and recreational shooters. As recreational shooting continues to grow in popularity, this legislation will help increase opportunities for hunters and target shooters to participate in this time-honored tradition. At a time when lack of access if often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in hunting or shooting, the Range Access Act represents an important piece of legislation to continue bolstering the increase in target shooting popularity.

On Friday, October 14, CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore of Utah introduced the Range Access Act – an effort to enhance recreational shooting opportunities for sportsmen and women, and a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

The Range Access Act requires the USFS and BLM to have at least one designated shooting range in each of their respective districts. The target ranges established under this bill shall be free and open to the public to provide a safe and accessible site for sportsmen and women to participate in recreational shooting.

Not only is the Range Access Act important in terms of providing access opportunities for hunters and recreational shooters, it is also critical to bolstering the Pittman-Robertson Act – the largest and most important program for hunters and recreational shooters in the country. Enacted in 1937 at the request of hunters and the manufacturers of firearms and ammunition, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs industry level excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. Last year alone, the Pittman-Robertson Act generated $1.1 billion in funding to support state-level wildlife conservation, shooting range construction, hunter education, and other critical programs to our hunting and shooting heritage.

Roughly 80% of the funding generated under the Pittman-Robertson Act comes from recreational shooters, who often spend even more money on firearms and ammunition than hunters. Given their contributions to the Pittman-Robertson Act, it is critical to increase access opportunities for recreational shooters to participate in our time-honored tradition of target shooting. The Pittman-Robertson Act represents a unique and unmatched partnership in support of conservation, our sporting traditions, and enhanced opportunities to exercise our firearms rights, and the Range Access Act bolsters this partnership. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Member Rep. Blake Moore for leading the Range Access Act. CSF looks forward to working with the Congressman to advance this legislation.

 

Public Comment Period Open for Two U.S. Forest Service Habitat Projects in Virginia

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Director

  • On October 7, the U.S. Forest Service released the draft environmental assessment for the Archer Knob Project and announced the Currin Glade Vegetation Project on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia.
  • Both projects are supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) for their conservation benefits for game and non-game species alike.
  • The projects would help both National Forests move closer to the desired conditions set forth in the 2014 Revised Forest Plan for the George Washington National Forest and the 2004 Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the Jefferson National Forest, respectively, by creating more early successional habitat.

Why It Matters: Early successional habitats are lacking on George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and the scarcity of these critical habitats for wildlife negatively impacts hunting traditions as game populations have declined because of reduced active forest management treatments. Supporting these projects is important for creating habitat that supports game and nongame wildlife and improves forest health.

Located on the North River Ranger District in Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, the Archer Knob Project would increase forest resilience and restore proper ecological function by creating and enhancing early successional habitat and open woodlands throughout the 25,860 acres of National Forest System land in the project area. More than 75% of the area is comprised of closed canopy stands over 80 years of age that inhibit understory growth, which is needed to provide important forage and cover for wildlife. Specifically, the project proposes to use regeneration harvests to create young forests on 2,142 acres and commercial thinning to open the canopy on 2,883 acres, in addition to creating 44 acres of early successional habitat by expanding existing wildlife openings. Prescribed fire will also be used to improve habitat by returning nutrients to the soil, increasing vegetation, and reducing the threat of wildfire.

Located on the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Smyth County, the Currin Glade Vegetation Project would utilize regeneration harvests, commercial thinning, uneven-aged harvests, and prescribed fire to increase the amount of early successional habitat on the landscape, improve forest stand structural diversity, support oak regeneration, and address nonnative invasive species.

The deadline to submit comments on both projects is November 7, 2022. Comments can be submitted online through the project websites linked above.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports both projects and appreciates the U.S. Forest Service’s recognition of the need to establish and maintain more early successional habitats to support wildlife. Similarly, CSF recently commented in support of a wildlife habitat improvement project on the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont and looks forward to commenting on these projects as well.

 

Senate Committee Considers Important CSF Supported Forestry Measure

Posted on Monday, October 03, 2022

  • On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on a number of bills including the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022 (S. 4904), a bill strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
  • S. 4904 is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice Chair Senator Joe Manchin and CSC Member Senator John Barrasso, who respectively serve as the Chair and Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  • This bipartisan bill includes many provisions that have been longstanding CSF priorities in our efforts to promote forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on National Forests and other public lands.

Why It Matters: Currently, the U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers such as the Bureau of Land Management are unable to make significant headway in efforts to address forest restoration needs and to improve fish and wildlife habitat. This legislation takes a pragmatic approach to addressing wildfire threat and improving wildlife habitat. CSF is excited to see Chair Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso continue to prioritize efforts to improve the health of our nation’s forests and public lands.

Last Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a top CSF priority that seeks to improve the health of our forests and federal public lands known as the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022.

This bipartisan bill, led by CSC Members Senators Manchin and Barrasso, seeks to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risks, and bolster fish and wildlife habitat by setting specific requirements for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service land management agencies. Prior to the hearing, CSF submitted a letter in strong support of this bill. In the letter, CSF highlighted the need for this legislation and the benefits it would have on fish and wildlife habitat and the health of our forests.

Specifically, this legislation sets pragmatic and reasonable forest management goals by establishing annual mechanical thinning targets, incrementally increasing acreage targets over time, requiring annual reporting of the status of meeting thinning goals, and increasing transparency for reporting fire migration work. Collectively, these requirements will significantly improve the health of our nation’s forests by leveraging authorities already in place. Presently underutilized authorities include categorical exclusions for collaborative restoration projects, wildfire resilience projects, and greater sage-grouse and mule deer habitat projects provided by the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003; emergency action to mitigate against wildfire threat and a categorical exclusion for fuel breaks provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; and stewardship end-resulting contracts provided by the Wildfire Suppression Funding and Forest Management Activities Act.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the continued efforts of CSC Members Chair Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso to improve the health of forests and to improve fish and wildlife habitat. CSF looks forward to working with these offices to further advance this important legislation.

 

Pheasant Season Opening in Several Northeastern States – How Non-Native Species Can Benefit Ecosystems and the Economy

Posted on Monday, October 03, 2022

Contact: Joe Bachar, Coordinator, New England States

  • Over the past week, the 2022-2023 pheasant season has opened in several states, including Maine (September 24) and New Hampshire/New York (October 1), with numerous others within the region soon following suit (Massachusetts on October 15; Rhode Island on October 16; and Pennsylvania on October 22).
  • In each of these states, the respective fish and wildlife agencies have been, and will often continue to, stock wildlife management areas with pheasants for sportsmen and women to pursue.
  • Small game hunting (inclusive of upland game), which is experiencing an increasing trajectory in engagement, provides a multitude of economic and social benefits.

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies are instrumental in setting the frameworks that result in the successful conservation and management of a state’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Sportsmen and women (including hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. In the northeast, state agencies have been able to finance and facilitate stocked pheasant hunting opportunities as a result of the ASCF’s success, providing further credence to the effectiveness of this System.

On September 24, Maine opened its 2022 pheasant hunting season, while last Friday marked the start of this year’s pheasant season in New Hampshire and certain regions of New York. Several other northeastern states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, will be in the same camp in the coming weeks. Pheasant hunting has been a popular pastime in America ever since the species was originally introduced to the continent in the late 1700s. Today, over 2 million sportsmen and women – most of which alongside their four-legged partners – pursue pheasant each year. In the northeast, state fish and wildlife agencies stock certain state-managed lands to provide opportunities for sportsmen and women to pursue pheasants.

For new sportsmen and women, upland hunting offers a variety of benefits and presents the engaging opportunity to experience time afield in an ideal learning environment. It is unique in that it is one of the few hunting pursuits in which you are encouraged to speak loudly and move freely, which in turn allows for increased communication and overall enhanced comradery. Likewise, upland hunting positions are often coordinated in a targeted approach that allows beginning hunters to quickly grasp the tactics involved in the pursuit. Therefore, upland hunting can be the ultimate opportunity for new sportsmen and women to learn alongside mentors in a more controlled, safe environment. Factor in the element of including hunting dogs, such as flushers, pointers, and/or setters, and it’s easy to see the benefits that upland hunting has on recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts. Project Upland – an award-winning hunting media brand – conducted a survey of its readership to determine the members’ reasons for getting involved with hunting, and a resounding 75% answered “Yes” to the question “Would you say that dogs played a critical role in you becoming a hunter?” If there’s a way to get prospective hunters active and engaged, pheasant hunting is a great starting point.

In 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supported the creation of a pheasant and quail permit and the removal of seasonal bag limits in Massachusetts. This will generate increased funding for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s conservation efforts, as well as increase opportunities for new hunters to learn and improve through hands-on experiences. In conjunction with excise taxes on sporting-related goods, revenue generated through license sales (including the pheasant and quail permit) will further benefit the state’s fish, wildlife, and habitat management through the American System of Conservation Funding.

 

CSC Member Sen. Daines Introduces Bill to Protect Access for Sportsmen and Women

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

  • On Thursday, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Sen. Steve Daines (MT) introduced a bill that would protect an important method of take for America’s 55 million sportsmen and women, known as the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act.
  • Specifically, this bill will ensure that the use of traditional ammunition and tackle is an allowable method of take on certain federally managed lands and waters unless a substantiated scientific and state-supported process has taken place that determines a restriction is necessary.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation maintains that efforts to restrict the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle must be guided by a sound, science-based process that has the support of our state fish and wildlife agencies.

Why It Matters: The use of lead ammunition and lead tackle in hunting and angling is a contentious issue, with the primary concern being the potential effects on wildlife. However, to this date, there has been limited documented evidence that sportsmen’s use of lead has had significant deleterious impacts on wildlife at the population level in the United States. These efforts are generally based on the emotional assumption that isolated incidents of animals ingesting harmful levels of lead translates to impacts on entire populations.

On Thursday, September 22, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Steve Daines introduced the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act, a bill that seeks to prevent federal land management agencies from arbitrarily limiting the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.

The Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the U.S. Forest Service from instituting any restrictions on lead ammunition and tackle on Federal land and water unless three triggers are met: decline in wildlife populations at the specific unit as a result of lead ammunition and tackle based on data from that specific unit, restrictions are consistent with state law and the regulations of the state fish and wildlife agency, and the restrictions are approved by the respective state fish and wildlife agency.

Efforts to restrict the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle often ignore many of the existing variables that must be weighed and considered when looking to restrict such methods of take. First, any decision that seeks to limit the use of traditional ammo and tackle must be rooted in a scientific process. The use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle should not be restricted by any arbitrary decisions that lack scientific justification. Additionally, non-lead ammunition and tackle options are often cost-prohibitive and not widely available, and as the markets have shown (primarily for ammunition), supply is still struggling to meet demand. Lastly, the inability to locate non-lead options, especially those that are reasonably affordable, has the potential to stave-off participation, which in-turn may result in a loss of revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies through the American System of Conservation Funding.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work to ensure that hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters are able to use traditional ammunition and tackle unless a scientific process determines that restrictions or closures are warranted.

 

DOI Announces Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, CSF President and CEO Reappointed

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

  • On Friday, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture announced the appointment of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President and CEO Jeff Crane to the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council (HWCC).
  • CSF appreciates the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture for standing up this important Federal Advisory Committee.
  • The HWCC is a Federal Advisory Committee that reports directly to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues to support and promote hunting, recreational shooting, and wildlife conservation.
  • Notably, Jeff Crane is the only individual who has been appointed to every single hunting-conservation and shooting sports Federal Advisory Committee since it was originally created under President George W. Bush nearly 20 years ago.

Why It Matters: The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council is a unique opportunity for leaders in the sporting-conservation community to provide recommendations and advice directly to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues that are most important to the outdoor sporting community. As a member of the HWCC, Crane will be in position to work directly with the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to support and advance wildlife conservation, access for sportsmen and women, and promote our hunting and recreational shooting traditions.

On Friday, September 23, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture announced the appointment of CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane to the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, a Federal Advisory Committee dedicated to supporting the interests of America’s hunters and recreational shooters.

As a testament to the unique bipartisan reach of CSF, Crane is the only individual who has served on every single version of the HWCC since it was first established under President George W. Bush nearly two decades ago – demonstrating CSF’s unmatched bipartisan reach. Most recently, Crane served as the Chair of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council for the entirety of the Council’s existence from 2018 – 2021. During his time as Chair, Crane spearheaded an aggressive agenda that resulted in over 30 recommendations to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues of critical importance to sportsmen and women.

The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council builds off previous versions of similar Federal Advisory Committees that worked to advance the interests of America’s sportsmen and women. Previous versions of the HWCC have addressed issues related to wildlife disease, closures of federal land to hunting and recreational shooting, federal land management planning decisions, among other issues of importance to sportsmen and women.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation extends our thanks to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture for standing up the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, a critically important opportunity for sportsmen and women. CSF looks forward to working with the HWCC as a member.

 

Iowa Natural Resources Commission Works to Update Regulations as Fall Turkey Season Approaches

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022

Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy

  • During the September Commission Meeting, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission was requested to approve rule changes to allow the use of .410-bore and 28-gauge shotguns and shot as small as Size 10 during the turkey season.
  • This request follows the passage of Senate File 2334 during the 2022 legislative session which officially took effect in July.
  • The ability to utilize lighter recoiling options represents a great opportunity for many who may be sensitive to the recoil generated by larger shotguns.

Why It Matters: Though we should always strive to maintain the fair chase ethic that defines us as sportsmen and sportswomen, improvements in ammunition have allowed shotgun option once considered to be underpowered to serve as viable options in the turkey woods. These lighter, softer recoiling firearms represent great options for younger, smaller, or otherwise recoil sensitive hunters who may have shied away from turkey hunting due to the limited options. 

During their September meeting, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission heard a proposed rule change that would authorize the use of .410-bore and 28-gauge shotguns and shot as small as Size 10 during Iowa’s firearms turkey hunting seasons. Following this meeting, the Commission will open a public comment period and host a public hearing in October.

The proposed regulatory changes follow the unanimous passage of Senate File 2334 during the 2022 legislative session. SF 2334 amended existing statute that currently limited hunters to shotguns chambers in 20-gauge or larger and capped shot size at size 8. This move represents a win for turkey hunters who wish to take advantage of improvements in shotshell technologies that have allowed lighter recoiling shotguns to serve as effective options in the turkey woods.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is proud to have worked with the leaders of the Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Kim Reynolds, and our great mission partner organizations in support of this effort.

 

FWS Finalizes Hunt Fish Rule, Increasing Access but Restricting Use of Traditional Ammo and Tackle

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

  • On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a final rule regarding the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Rule, an annual effort to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
  • While the final rule increases access for sportsmen and women across 18 national wildlife refuges spanning nearly 38,000 acres, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is disappointed to see that the final rule contain restrictions on the use of traditional ammunition and tackle that will take effect by the fall of 2026.
  • Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF led a letter to the FWS to offer our support for efforts to increase hunting and fishing within the NWRS, but also to express our opposition to arbitrary restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle that lack scientific justification.

Why It Matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. As such, it is critical for FWS to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including decisions surrounding method of take. Unfortunately, the final Hunt Fish Rule does not appear to follow the science that is the foundation of the agency. On the positive side, FWS supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, making the agency one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. The expansion of access across 38,000 acres bolsters opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women.

On Thursday, September 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the finalization of the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule, offering a mixed bag for sportsmen and women.

CSF is thankful for efforts by FWS to increase access for hunters and anglers across 38,000 acres of land and water within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Lack of access is often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in our time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and CSF appreciates FWS for continuing its efforts to expand opportunities for hunters and anglers.

However, we are concerned to see the inclusion of future restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle within the NWRS without a sound, science-based justification. Specifically, the final rule does not include any new opportunities that would allow the use of lead ammo and tackle beyond 2026. Additionally, the final rule announced that 8 different NWRS units are analyzing the phasing out of lead ammunition and tackle by the fall of 2026.

Following the proposal of this rule in June, CSF developed a comment letter to thank FWS for expanding accessible acreage within the NWRS. However, in the letter, CSF and 30 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations expressed concerns regarding seemingly arbitrary efforts to limit the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds FWS for expanding access within the NWRS, however, we are disappointed to see the inclusion of efforts to arbitrarily restrict long-standing methods of take within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

 

Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Gathers for Annual Dove Hunt – Recognizes Mike Bell

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • On September 13, the Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus), in coordination with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, hosted their hosted their annual dove hunt at the Lock Five Farms outside Lebanon, TN.
  • More than 40 people, including roughly 15 Caucus members, attended the dove hunt. Notable attendees included Caucus Co-Chair Representative Bob Freeman and incoming Caucus Co-Chair Senator Paul Rose, among others.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the Caucus also recognized Mike Bell for his leadership as a former Caucus Co-Chair and member of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council (EC.)

Why It Matters: The dove hunt provided an opportunity for Caucus members, sportsmen’s groups, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) staff to enjoy a day afield together, celebrating Tennessee’s outdoor sporting heritage.

Prior to barrels heating up in the dove field, attendees were welcomed by Caucus Co-Chairs Representative Bob Freeman and Senator Paul Rose and given a hunting safety talk by the TWRA. CSF’s Southeastern States Coordinator, Mark Lance, presented Mike Bell with an award on behalf of CSF recognizing Bell for his unwavering leadership over many years as a Caucus Co-Chair and member of the NASC EC.

Bell recently retired from the legislature on September 1 and was subsequently hired by the TWRA as their Senior Advisor for Legislative Affairs and Policy.

Bell, who had been a member of the Caucus since 2010, spearheaded the growth of the Caucus by encouraging his colleagues in the legislature from both sides of the aisle to get involved and show their support of outdoor recreation in Tennessee. Thanks to Bell’s leadership, the Caucus successfully led the charge on legislation protecting conservation funding for the state fish and wildlife agency, repealing an antiquated knife ban, prohibiting the removal of tracking collars from dogs, and constitutionally protecting the right to hunt and fish, among other key victories for sportsmen and women in the Volunteer State.

Attendees of the dove hunt were also encouraged to register and attend the 19th Annual NASC Summit that will take place November 29 – December 2 in Bozeman, MT. For more information on the Summit, please click here.

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