When the NRA was founded in 1871, shooting and hunting were distinct parts of America’s culture, readily perceived as one in the same. But while the 5.2-million-member NRA is America’s largest organization of hunters with 3.5 million hunters in its ranks, the NRA and American hunters are not telling their story—and hunting and shooting have evolved into separate entities. While anti-hunting, animal rights extremists were once mere fringe elements of society, today they have evolved into the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) umbrella groups and more, boasting hundreds of millions of dollars in collective annual fundraising. Well-funded, well organized and vocal, they fight with a cradle-to-the-grave strategy to end hunting. This is why NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox say hunters must be as passionate about defending hunting as they are about going hunting. Though the vast majority of the American public supports legal, regulated hunting, those in the middle who know nothing about it are being persuaded by extremists’ short sound bites—all while hunters fail to tell their story beyond their community.
A Commitment to Saving Hunting’s Future In December 2014 the NRA launched the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) under the NRA presidency of longtime NRA Board of Directors member Jim Porter. Step No. 1: Build a core group of engaged and active hunters who are personally vested in hunting’s future. Step No. 2: Mobilize to address the cultural, political, demographic and technological challenges facing the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation in the 21st century.
The NRA HLF brings together dedicated hunters who have distinguished themselves as leaders. It marches in step with the NRA objective to promote and defend hunting. It supports the NRA in leveraging its enormous firepower and the grassroots efforts of millions of mainstream American hunters to fight the enemy at the gate.
“History shows what happens when lawful hunting comes under attack: wildlife suffers, funding for wildlife conservation is gutted and hunting—and all that goes with it—is diminished.” —NRA past president (2013-2015) and attorney Jim Porter, founder of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum
NRA Publications’ Launch of NRAHLF.org In July 2016, NRA Publications launched the NRA HLF website—NRAHLF.org—to monitor news on the issues impacting the future of hunting and wildlife conservation on the state, national and international levels. Additional material shares the stories of hunters and hunting and explains: how poaching is not hunting; how legal, regulated hunting benefits wildlife; and how hunters are ethical, compassionate mainstream Americans whose dollars aid game and non-game species alike. Without hunting and hunters’ dollars, there is no wildlife conservation. The website reclaims the narrative on hunters, hunting and animal welfare and exposes the misinformation touted by well-organized, well-funded animal rights extremist groups
Bi-monthly NRA HLF e-newsletters compile material from NRAHLF.org to share with the collective hunting community. Further showcasing the truth about hunting and wildlife conservation and confronting threats to hunting as they arise, NRAHLF.org created the NRA HLF Social Media Network. The network consists of hunting and shooting sports industry companies, like-minded organizations and other members of the collective hunting community that partner with the NRA to share NRAHLF.org content on their respective social media platforms. The information exchange now reaches 25 million-plus hunters. Working together, the collective hunting community can—and will—win this battle to save hunting. In November 2018, NRA Publications launched the NRAHLF.org’s Twitter page to build the NRAHLF.org audience and better connect with like-minded individuals and organizations, state wildlife agencies, journalists and podcasters. Follow the NRAHLF.org on Twitter @HuntersLead.
The NRA and the NRA HLF are making sure American hunters are aware of the escalating attacks on hunters as the collective hunting community fights the mob mentality that is now a hallmark of the culture war on hunting. Every hunter should be concerned that the fundamental act of hunting is being demonized as taboo. Our collective response: Be proud of our mainstream hunting traditions. Share NRAHLF.org story links on our respective social media platforms. Condemn death threats and other attacks on hunters at every turn. Explain that poaching is not hunting. And combat the political correctness and dishonesty that animal rights extremists work into every conversation about mainstream American hunters and legal, regulated hunting. Sharing our story of hunters and hunting is the only way non-hunters will learn and understand why we hunt.
Editor’s Note: Visit NRAHLF.org to add your email to the distribution list to receive periodic social media alerts and e-newsletters—and share the story links.
About the Author: Karen Mehall Phillips is the director of communications for the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum and senior editor of NRA’s American Hunter. An avid rifle and bow hunter, she has hunted for 30 years and in 29 states, Canada, Italy, Finland, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Greenland and Africa, including for two of the Big Five.
Karen draws on her experience to educate non-hunters on the critical role that hunters play in wildlife conservation worldwide and to inform them of the dangers anti-hunting extremists present to the future of wildlife conservation. She is invested in fighting America's culture war on hunters and hunting and works to shed light on anti-hunters’ blatant attempts to tout emotion and misinformation over scientific facts.
An NRA Endowment member, Karen worked in the NRA public relations arena prior to joining NRA Publications in 1998. She is the founding editor of two NRA official journals: America's 1st Freedom and Woman's Outlook. National writing awards include being named the 2015 Carl Zeiss Sports Optics Writer of the Year. She actively promotes women and families in the outdoors. She is also a member of the Washington metropolitan area's Fairfax Rod & Gun Club, a founding member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, a member of Safari Club International and a Life member of the Dallas Safari Club and the Mule Deer Foundation.
Follow NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum on Twitter @HuntersLead.