As a brand-new father, to say I’m excited about it would be like saying Tom Brady has won some football games. A proud dad to a three-week old son, I can’t wait for all we’ll do together and places we’ll go. One tradition I’m particularly thrilled to pass on and enjoy together with my boy is hunting and teaching him to shoot.
The memories I have of my dad bestowing to his son these sacred lessons have all gained a new gleam and appreciation from me now that I can so easily picture those future opportunities with my son; how to firmly hold and responsibly handle a gun; practicing our aim together on pop cans and hedge balls for 25 cents at home; taking those first pheasant and quail hunting road trips like we did in Kansas with our beloved German Shorthair Pointers.
I’m now remembering my confident excitement after first obtaining my marksmanship Boy Scout merit badge and Hunter Safety card together at the local F.O.P. lodge with several of my friends. The smile I got back from my dad is crystal clear. I now recognize just how much pride he must’ve felt at that moment and planning in his head the father-son hunting trips we’d soon take just as he did with his father decades prior.
When my dad bought me my first .410 and the boxes and boxes of shells we’d use to practice, not only was he teaching his son better aim and building confidence in him with each pull of the trigger, he was supporting the industry he knew bolstered those same opportunities for him and that does so for other parents and their kids. These purchases support conservation and wildlife management programs that provide even more hunting opportunities for millions through Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds.
To date, the excise taxes paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers have generated more than $14.1 billion for programs in every state. This has led to the healthiest and most abundant game populations in the country in generations. The cycle continues.
Looking at my son and envisioning our own hunting trips even now really brings the importance and specialness of these traditions of America’s best pastime into focus so that they’re available for him in the future. What’s even more exciting is it’s clear we won’t be alone. Firearm sales have broken records and are staying strong, a national storyline well-known by now.
But over the past 18 months, hunting specifically has experienced a renaissance as millions of Americans have turned out to give hunting a try or returned to the fields and woods again after a hunting hiatus. States across the country have reported record hunting license sales and their legislatures have recently made it easier for more people to go hunting. Stories abound of parents and grandparents taking their children to the fields and woods, bringing home trophy-sized game and breaking state records along the way. Americans from diverse backgrounds are giving hunting a go as well, a welcomed development by all.
This coming weekend includes National Hunting and Fishing Day® on Saturday, Sept. 25. It’s a great reason for hunters and outdoorsmen and women to drop everything and pledge to take someone new out to the fields, woods or even a shooting range. These opportunities shouldn’t be passed up as they help reinforce and continue the cycles that make the best hunting opportunities available for others to enjoy for generations to come.
Born in August, my son arrived during National Shooting Sports Month®. Maybe it’s coincidence, but maybe it’s also a sign Dad and son have the perfect excuse to take birthday hunting trips together each year too.
For the time being, I’ll think about the shooting lessons and hunting traditions I’ll pass on to him that I got from my dad. Besides, he’s already waking up at 3-4 a.m. Maybe he’s telling me he’ll be ready to head afield or into the woods for an early morning hunt. A new dad can hope, can’t he?
Matt Manda is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.