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NRA's hunter services division: untapped source for gun dealers.

NRA's Hunter Services Division: Untapped Source For Gun Dealers

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is unquestionably the world's largest and most prestigious organization dedicated purely to firearms and the shooting sports. Yet according to NRA officials the touted organization harbors "one of the best kept secrets" from the sport shooting fraternity. But not because it wants to -- it is only because for reasons difficult to fathom, the so-called "secret" never really received just publicity.

We're talking about the NRA's Hunter Services Division (HSD) which has been in existence for some years and despite the fact this particular division of the NRA offers exemplary services geared to American sportsmen as well as the firearms/hunting retailer, it still remains virtually unsung.

Nevertheless, we'll be hearing a lot more about the HSD in the future. Only this past winter personnel with the NRA's HSD were on tap at a dozen sportsmen's shows scattered across the country and in the future HSD personnel expect to be in attendance at more such events purely to get the message to the nation's sportsmen that it is indeed dedicated to our legions of hunters via a multitude of informative programs designed to assist sportsmen in enhancing their favored activities. In addition, the HSD further aids in establishing a liaison between the individual hunter and the sporting goods retailer which can further set the stage for greater rapport between the two.

Actually, the HSD was established some years ago with the following goals -- to promote hunter safety; to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and to promote hunting as a viable and a necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth, conservation and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.

To help meet these goals the HSD oversees the following programs. Foremost, the HSD features its "Hunter Clinic Program." This particular program has been designed to aid hunters in developing practical hunting skills as marksmanship, safety, responsibility and knowledge of the hunting sports. Its hunter clinics encompass such topics as turkey, waterfowl, deer, predators, upland game and western big-game hunting plus retriever training, marksmanship, handgun, black powder, etc.

These HSD clinics are conducted by qualified experts and certified hunter clinic instructors and they can surely be co-sponsored by interested gun clubs, associations and organizations as well as by the individual retailer. Remember, such clinics bring customers into one's business establishment and there is no question such an influx does generate business.

The HSD program also places emphasis on sighting-in rifles and patterning scatterguns prior to the hunting seasons. Indeed, the HSD annually emphasizes such sighting-in day programs and again, provided facilities are available, the knowledgeable retailer can benefit by hosting such sighting-in days at the onset of the fall hunting seasons. The HSD, by the way, features a wealth of material for those interested in developing sighting-in day programs plus an added number of educational pamphlets pertaining to firearms, firearms safety and marksmanship.

The HSD also maintains a "Youth Hunter Education Challenge Program" aimed at our nation's youth and actually challenges young people to develop their hunting skills as acquired in state hunter education courses.

"This program consists of state/provincial programs with individual and team winners advancing to the Youth Hunter Education Challenge," said Kitty Beuchert of the HSD. "Youth test their skills in various activities such as rifle, shotgun, bow and arrow, outdoor skills, field safety and hunter responsibility. Activities simulate actual hunting conditions too."

Again, further information on this program can be obtained from the HSD. Also, the HSD will further assist sportsmen's clubs, youth groups, etc., in providing programs for beginning hunters to learn safe hunting methods amid guided and simulated hunting conditions --again, a program which can be closely coordinated with the retailer and a local gun club.

Yet another exciting segment of the HSD is its "Hunter Information Service." This particular program is geared to answer inquiries from sportsmen regarding all hunting-related matters. The program provides the names of hunting guides and outfitters throughout the country as well as game surveys, hunting regulations, license fees, etc., and again, the HSD offers a host of brochures and pamphlets related to all such activities.

Another outstanding program offered by the HSD is its "Hunter Recognition Program" conceived to recognize hunters who take big-game in fair chase. Actually, this recognition program is divided into several segments including a program which compliments the skill of the hunter and its Leatherstocking Big-Game Awards program wherein sportsmen are annually honored for taking outstanding big-game trophies in accord to the Boone and Crockett Club measuring system.

"Our big-game hunter awards are designed to recognize the hunting skills of NRA hunter members," related Kitty Beuchert. "These awards emphasize the skill and accomplishment of the hunter as well as the quality of the game trophies. Personalized certificates mounted on a walnut plaque are awarded for big-game animals in four categories--modern firearm, handgun, muzzleloader, and bow and arrow.

"NRA members who have taken trophies of record quality and meet the Boone and Crockett Club minimum receive a certificate and are further eligible for the Leatherstocking Awards Contest wherein hand-crafted Leatherstocking statuettes are presented each year to the winners at the NRA's annual meeting," she added.

The program also makes available a number of attractive lapel pins depicting the big-game trophies taken by the sportsman. Also, it offers similar awards for youth including embroidered brassards and recognizes a junior NRA member for his/her first deer, pheasant, duck, turkey, squirrel or rabbit.

Finally, the HSD is charged in developing programs related to the use of wildlife resources for hunting; the right of hunters to own and use firearms in accordance to state and federal laws, and to encourage sportsmen to join the NRA.

"In order to promote better public understanding of hunting the NRA also supports National Hunting/Fishing Day by providing sportsmen's groups with a planning guide and suggested materials to assist them in organizing such programs," explained Beuchert.

"The HSD also administers Grants-In-Aid for advanced academic research in order to improve and make new advances in the shooting sports, game management and outdoor recreation. This program has awarded more than 3/4 million dollars to worthy graduate students and independent researchers since 1970," she added.

"With the ever-increasing need to enhance the public image of hunting, to protect hunter's legal rights and to combat anti-hunting activities, the HSD is also working together with the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA's Public Relations and the Field Services Division to effectively counteract the serious challenges facing hunting through legislative, promotional and service programs.

"The Institute for Legislative Action monitors legislative issues and becomes actively involved in the passage, reform or repeal of national, state and local laws relating to firearms and hunting rights," she pointed out.

As previously mentioned, this past winter the HSD personnel attended a number of outdoor shows and we understand in the future more shows will see representatives from the HSD in attendance. "We are attempting to increase its visibility among outdoorsmen in order to better inform them of the many benefits and programs the NRA offers its hunter members -- we don't want this program to remain a deep and dark secret," Beuchert interjected.

"Display booths at such shows will now be staffed by representatives from the HSD as well as local volunteers. Visitors to our booths will be offered a variety of free materials explaining the NRA's hunter programs and services. Also available at such events will be a variety of HSD sales items including most recent publications, hunter lapel pins and youth hunter awards. And as a service to successful hunters, applications for the Leatherstocking Big-Game Awards will be made available as well," Beuchert concluded.

Yes, the National Rifle Association's Hunter Services Division is truly unsung. It offers a multitude of programs aimed at the American hunter and such programs can be utilized by the sporting goods retailer to not only educate our citizenry regarding hunting as a sport and wildlife management tool but to attract customers as well.

Working in conjunction with the NRA's Hunter Services Division and local instructors the enterprising retailer can establish annual sighting-in days and shotgun patterning sessions, further host any number of specialized clinics geared to firearms and hunting and develop his very own National Hunting/Fishing day in-store promotions too -- thanks to the HSD.
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Author:Brant, Howard
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 1989
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