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Things You Didn’t Know NRA Does for Hunters



Editor’s Note: Today’s guest column comes to us courtesy of Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network.


NRA’s Renewed Focus on Hunting

Jun 25, 2024

In the wake of months and month of turmoil surrounding the cabal of insider dealings at the National Rifle Association, nobody could really fault you for losing trust – and faith – in the NRA. Besides wasting money in what appeared to be a concerted lining of the pockets, what have they been doing?

Well, if you were to look beyond the upper levels of NRA leadership and drill down into mid and lower levels of employees, the ones still there, you’d find a good number of very dedicated people who weren’t ready to give up the ship.

That takes a lot of dedication, because most people would walk out the door rather than suffer as collateral damage in the vitriol aimed at the NRA leadership. Not to mention the accompanying disillusion of many of the NRA’s stalwart supporters within the firearm industry. All that combined to drive down membership and incoming donations, making the NRA a less palatable place to work.

I was one of those that frequently asked “what the hell is going on there?” and wasn’t shy about letting my total frustration in the NRA be known. And I didn’t hold back during dinner at the 2023 SHOT Show when I found myself sitting across the table from Peter Churchbourne, who I found out after venting on the NRA – for several minutes – was one of those still toiling away in the NRA mines.

Peter is the Managing Director of NRA Hunting / Hunters’ Leadership Forum, and until I attended the Hunters’ Leadership Forum event at the NRA Show in Dallas, and spent more time talking with Peter, I would never have known that the NRA was actually grinding away on behalf of hunters and hunting.

I think that’s unfortunately the case for many NRA observers.

Maybe this is because the office of the NRA’s past Executive Vice President sucked up all the oxygen in the room when it came to promoting the NRA. Outside of the work done in NRA Publications – which is and always has been excellent – you never really hear about the NRA’s various competitions, or the work of NRA Hunting. If you don’t get one of their member magazines you definitely don’t hear much about these and other programs.

But work on behalf of hunting is being done, and it’s being done well.

Now that the NRA seems to have turned the corner – at least for the moment – it might be a good time to get up to speed on what are the hunting focus points at the NRA. There are four key areas in which the NRA is working with renewed energy on behalf of hunters.

Hunter’s Ed

Hunter’s education is a key component to introducing new hunters to hunting. For obvious safety and ethics reasons, hunter’s education is required to obtain a hunting license, but finding a class and the time to attend one isn’t always easy.

Back in 2017 this all changed when the NRA – yes, the NRA – developed and launched their Online Hunter Ed Course. Their goal was to provide the world’s best in class online hunter education course and to offer it for free to states. Yup, free.

The NRA spent almost 2-1/2 years creating content with film crews and then used one of the best instructional designers in Salt Lake City to put it into a learning management system.

Now, 15 states as well as the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society offer NRA’s Online Hunter Ed Course to their residents and members with over 200,000 people certified, all for free. The great thing about this free course is that states can use it for securing Pittman Robertson funding. Oklahoma, for instance, gets a check for about $800,000 each year.

Of course, not all states are using the free training course, either out of distrust of the NRA or the ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome that often plagues bureaucrats. However, with NRA Hunting catching a second wind, a push is on to re-hire staff to expand usage in other states, as well as invest an additional $150,000 on the tech side for the most up-to-date security and backend functionality.

Youth Hunter Education Challenge

Like most things, COVID took the wind out of the sails of the NRA’s YHEC, which is a program to provide a fun environment for kids 18 and under to improve their hunting, marksmanship and safety skills.

NRA Hunting is now back to recruiting more volunteers to run this program that, since its inception in the 80s, has had over 1.3 million kids go through it. And considering that 79% of YHEC participants have purchased a hunting license in their home state, you can see why this NRA program has become the basis around which every other group has modeled their own youth skills day.

As part of their continued initiative in this area, and showing that the organization can be flexible, the NRA is working on a version of the program for release in a couple months that will allow local groups to still get the same amount of NRA support without being required to offer all the YHEC associated activities.

Before you raise any objections, NRA Hunting has found that for some groups that want to put on a YHEC event they simply don’t have all the firearms, bows, targets or space needed to conduct the hands-on training in the eight skill areas of the Challenge.

Instead of offering future hunters zero options under the YHEC umbrella, NRA Hunting is working to give more kids the opportunity to make their way into the community of hunters. Thus proving that to win not every trip to the plate needs to be a home run, especially when you can rack up base hits.

Youth Wildlife Art Contest

The NRA has a Youth Wildlife Art Contest…who knew? I sure didn’t, and I am guessing many of you reading this were also in the dark about this particular NRA program.

Well, they do run this program and every year the NRA holds a youth wildlife art contest where they give out $5,000 in prizes. There are usually anywhere from 80 to 100 submissions each year. NRA Hunting is responsible for taking in the submissions, grading them, and notifying the winners.

Through the contest NRA Hunting has found several talented young artists and their artwork has been incorporated in publications and internal documents.

Hunters For The Hungry

More than likely you’ve heard of Hunters for the Hungry but what you may not have known is that the National Rifle Association has been involved with the program, and a major driving force, since the late 80s.

One of the ways the NRA provides support is through websites to allow hunters wishing to donate meat to connect with meat processors. The NRA has also invested in, and taken the lead in, research into hunters’ usage of game meat, which goes into its messaging about the importance of hunting.

To that end, the NRA conducted a study on the operations of the 44 distinct hunters for the hungry groups in the U.S. and then fed that information back to those organizations to assist them with improving their efficiency.

NRA Hunting also started National Wild Game Meet Donation Month, which takes place in November, to draw attention to the need to share wild game meat. Backed by a $100,000 yearly donation to meat processors, the NRA is helping with the distribution of wild game meat to those in need.

NRA Hunting’s ongoing communication and advocacy helps activate its members, as well as everyday hunters, to donate a portion of their harvest to those groups distributing wild game. As a result, approximately 20 million pounds of wild game meat was donated in 2023.

Think about that for a minute. That’s the equivalent of 80 million meals worth of organic, grass fed, free range, non-GMO protein hitting the dinner tables of those that need it the most.

One more key stat that NRA Hunting’s research found is that 98% of the non-hunting public has a favorable opinion of hunting when they learn that hunters eat the wild game they harvest.


NRA Hunting staff does a lot of its work behind the scenes to protect the future of hunting. Their staff is involved in numerous boards, round tables, and other advisory committees regarding anything to do with hunting. NRA Hunting is often called upon by states, wildlife agencies, and other NGO’s to look at future initiatives, rules, or laws that will affect hunters. Their participation insures that the voice of the hunter, to protect that future for hunting, is heard.

The last thing you need to know about NRA Hunting is that it is funded not by the NRA’s general fund but by an endowment generously supported by major donors who immediately realized the future of hunting would not exist without a strong, clear voice.

Yes, there were and probably still are a lot of problems within the NRA, and much of the organization’s work has been tarnished by scandal and mismanagement that effectively left the leading Second Amendment advocate impotent these last few years as infighting and the New York court battle hobbled it.

Fortunately, what hasn’t ‘died on the vine’ is that wing of the NRA that champions hunting. With the new air of reform about it, no matter how faint it is at the moment, the NRA has a renewed focus taking hold and moving forward on behalf of hunters. And that is a bit of welcome news coming out of the NRA’s Fairfax HQ.

— Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network

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