The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum Year in Review

The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum Year in Review

Some reflection is always fitting on New Year’s Eve. As a hunter, I recall my time in the woods with family and friends. I give a nod to the NRA for securing another year of American freedom. And I give thanks for NRA-ILA and for the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF), which brings me to this website.

As content chief, I watched this website continually demonstrate the NRA’s leadership role in saving hunting’s future. Material cited calls to action for the collective hunting community while promoting the NRA position on issues. It showcased speeches and comments from NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox and other NRA leaders, including the NRA HLF co-chairs—NRA 1st Vice President Richard Childress and Ward French. And it highlighted the actions of Department of The Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect sportsmen’s access to public lands; wildlife species’ habitats; and states’ wildlife management authority. Articles tracked how Zinke’s achievements marked a continual winning streak for hunters—including naming Chris Cox and Ward French to his Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council and NRA-ILA Director of Hunting Policy Erica Rhoad to his International Wildlife Conservation Council. With Zinke set to leave office today, we hunters know he leaves big shoes to fill.

In the fall issued a “Red Alert” as NRA mobilized against escalating death threats to hunters. Other material included research-based articles explaining why hunting bans hurt wildlife and why predator populations must be controlled amid escalating attacks on humans. Features included NRA-ILA’s response to YouTube’s censorship of hunting and firearms-related material and news on court cases the NRA took on to protect American hunters—including fighting anti-hunters’ attempts to derail the delisting of recovered grizzly bears and wolves while seeking personhood status for animals. And leading into the all-important elections, I am pleased to say we hired associate editor Erin C. Healy, whose byline you likely recognize from our material.

Of course, no annual review is complete without touting NRA-ILA and its victories for American hunters. Here are a few examples of headway made on the state level.

  • Oklahoma: NRA-ILA lobbied against a bill in March that would have banned crossbows for individuals ages 18 and under. Crossbows are an important tool for hunters young and old who do not have the physical strength to pull back a vertical bow. 

On the federal level, there was good news just this month as the 2018 Farm Bill, loaded with wildlife conservation initiatives, passed both houses of congress. One of multiple action items included the re-authorization of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), allocating $50 million in ongoing support. The NRA was an original sponsor and promoter of the “Open Fields” inclusion and funding in the successive Farm Bills, advocating for funding for “walk-in access” programs.

Front and center in our material remained one fact: Without the NRA, there is no Second Amendment or hunting—and without hunting, there is no North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. So the site regularly featured updates on NRA safety and training programs, including NRA’s online hunter education course and the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge, as tools in creating the next generation of safe and responsible hunters. features further circulated through bi-monthly e-newsletters and social media alerts to the NRA HLF Network—industry companies and organizations that share our content on their respective social media platforms, reaching 25 million-plus followers. (Please email Erin Healy at [email protected] to be added to our e-newsletters and/or social media alerts.) The website also provided regular issue updates to American Hunter for its monthly “First Light” news section.

In other news: Last month launched its Twitter page @HuntersLead. This is how we will build our audience and better connect with like-minded individuals and organizations, state wildlife agencies, journalists and podcasters. We purposely chose Twitter for its news focus and welcome you to engage with us. Follow us @HuntersLead and be sure to tag us in any Tweets you feel we should see.  

In closing, while 2018 has been a strong year for the NRA, we hunters must remain vigilant. Why? Because, in the words of NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox, as well-organized, well-funded extremist groups work 24/7 to destroy hunting, we had better be working just as hard to save it. Look for on the front lines in 2019 and beyond.

Happy New Year!