When I first jumped into the bowhunting pool, one of the first organizations I heard about was the Pope & Young Club. I was a young, green archer and didn’t take the time to do any research about the Club. I knew it was a place I could submit all my “soon-to-be-killed” trophies, and truthfully, that was it.

Now 12 years into my archery tenure, I know a lot more about this Club – a Club dedicated to the preservation and purity of bowhunting, to conservation and the involvement of youth in our sport. Still, knowing all this, it took some conversations with multiple Club Directors to pen my name on the dotted line and become a protector of bowhunting. Shame on me!

Much more than a group of bowhunting record keepers, the Pope & Young Club is one of North America’s leading bowhunting and wildlife conservation organizations. Founded in 1961 as a non-profit, scientific organization whose objectives included bettering the image of bowhunting, the Club was named in honor of pioneer bowhunters Dr. Saxton Pope and Arthur Young. Today, carrying on the vision of Pope and Young, the Club prides itself on its mission to protect our bowhunting heritage – promoting its rich values and the adherence to strong fair chase ethics.

I know. That’s nothing you can’t read on Pope & Young’s new and improved website (www.pope-young.org). You want to know the specific reasons you should join. What programs the Club’s involved in. Its vision for the future. What major moves the Club’s made recently. Well, here you go.

The New Pope & Young Club

No matter how hard you work and how dedicated you are to a task, there are always going to be naysayers who thrive on creating negativity. Sadly, the Pope & Young Club has come under fire several times over the years as being cemented in its old ways, being standoffish toward partnerships, etc. I’m not sure how these rumors started, but let me squash them right now. Just take a peek at what the Club has done in the past 16 months.

“There simply isn’t another national bowhunting organization out there right now that can say they represent bowhunters and just the sport of bowhunting in general,” said P&Y President Jim Willems. “We pride ourselves on being the bowhunter’s voice.

“Recently, the Club’s Board of Directors moved to change its by-laws to allow new technology. Effective Aug. 1, 2014, our new Fair Chase Affidavit allowing the use of lighted nocks and bow-mounted video cameras goes into effect. This exciting new change is retroactive, so bowhunters who harvested animals before the official rule change will be eligible for entry into the Pope & Young Record Books. It was decided that lighted nocks and bow-mounted cameras didn’t give bowhunters any unfair advantage, so we made the adaptation. We wanted to reach out to the younger generation of bowhunters – a generation that is very driven by technology. I was so pleased to see such a large percentage of our voting members choose to change our by-laws. We want to attract and welcome new members, and to those teetering on the fence, let me be the first to say, ‘Welcome. Come on in.’

“Another issue, baiting bears in the state of Maine, recently came under attack. Several groups banded together to abolish hunting and harvesting black bears over bait. Had they been successful, Maine’s bear population would have exploded in an unhealthy way and the state would have lost a lot of revenue. When things like this happen, we swing into action. Though we always want to help out more than we are able, and if we had a boost in members we could, we were able to offer support by writing letters, emails and making phone calls.”

“Plus, this past year has been a very exciting one in terms of new partnerships. We have formed strong bonds with Mathews, Hoyt, Kuiu, FeraDyne, Cabela’s, Zeiss, Lumenok, Sitka and the list continues to grow with over 20 corporate partners to date.  The corporate partner thing is very new to us, but we are very excited about it and feel these partnerships are going really well. We don’t want to be seen as anti-industry or set ourselves to be alone on a little island. If these partnerships are good for bowhunting, and it seems they are, we will continue down this road.”

A major change in its by-laws. Defending the rights of bowhunters in Maine. Partnering with and seeking new industry partners to further the sport of bowhunting. Yep, there’s no question the Pope & Young Club is more than just a record-keeping organization. Oh, and we haven’t touched on a pair of subjects that should be near and dear to the heart of every bowhunter: conservation and education.

Paying It Forward

“We have such a strong focus on conservation,” said Records Chairman Ed Fanchin. “We always have. We always will. Simply having your trophy scored and submitted plays a huge role in conservation. When we get bowhunters submitting their trophies, we can continue adding to our database of mature animals harvested with a bow and arrow. Conservation organizations take and use this information to help develop their conservation models, set season dates and gain valuable population information in different areas. We want them to use our information and we want to have information for them to use. The more data we can provide, the stronger the sport of bowhunting will be.”

Of course, the P&Y’s conservation involvement doesn’t end there.

“As far as we are concerned, conservation outreach and education is crucial,” Willems added. “We donate funds and man hours to a wide array of conservation efforts. One of the things we’ve done recently, along with the Boone & Crockett Club, is help with a lot of genetic research on the different species of deer to determine the genetic differences between whitetail, mule, Coues and black-tailed deer. It’s fascinating to me to see how these animals interact together, and also see their many genetic differences. Understanding these differences and how the species interact with one another in certain areas is pivotal to their growth as a species. Another study I’ve been involved with since it began is a joint jaguar effort between the United States and Mexico. The focus of the study is to reestablish some jaguar habitat, learn how many animals are currently living in Mexico and the list goes on. The group actually placed two radio/GPS collars on a pair of jaguars in the Sierra Madre Mountains.”

When it comes to education, the Pope & Young Club believes that educating the public about conservation and issues surrounding bowhunting will ensure a bright future, and the Club spares no expense when it comes to keeping the education torch burning brightly.

“We spend a lot of time and resources aiding the NASP (National Archery in the Schools) program,” said Kevin Hisey, executive secretary for the Club. “We also do a lot with Boy Scouts of America. We set up archery programs for the Scouts and help out at events. The Pope & Young Club is heavily focused on the youth. After all, it’s the youth that will become future members and become protectors of our bowhunting heritage. Plus, we attend major bowhunting shows each and every year like the ATA Show, Mathews Archery Retail Business Show and the list goes on.

“Most recently, we have identified five threats to the future of bowhunting: access, diseases, habitat issues, seeing technology take over the skill set required to be a bowhunter and crossbows. Our plan is to educate the public on these five threats to our sport to make sure bowhunters know why these issues could very well put a serious chokehold on our great sport.”

A Vision For The Future

As with any forward-thinking, well-rounded organization, the Club is heavily focused on the future. In fact, each of the Club’s Board of Directors talked at length about what they see for the future of the Club and its role in protecting conservation and the bowhunting heritage.

“I’d like to get to the point where we have strength in numbers, which would result in more revenue, which would result in a bigger overall impact,” Willems said. “I want the Club to be more representative of bowhunters around the country. This way when an anti-bowhunting issue comes up, we can jump all over it no matter what part of the county the issue arises. I want the Club to be able to offer financial support and provide as much help as possible.”

Your Responsibility

We at Bowhunting Worldbelieve that if you’re bowhunting, you’re truly living the dream. And like most dreams, you need a person or group hovering over that dream, protecting it at all costs, advocating for your rights to continue your dream. That’s what the Pope & Young Club does. If you’re a bowhunter, it’s your duty to sign the dotted line and support this organization. Sadly, according to Willems, the Pope & Young membership-line graph is angling down slightly.

“We have around 7,000 members, but the trend has been going down slightly over the past four or five years. Like other organizations, bowhunting and non-bowhunting alike, it’s getting harder to recruit new, younger members. But what I want the younger generation to know is that without organizations like ours, their bowhunting opportunities will dwindle.”

“There is no other organization out there putting its heart and soul into protecting bowhunting,” Hisey said. “Allowing lighted nocks was a big deal for us. It was an effort to reach out to the younger generation, and I hope those who aren’t members of the Club see this and decide to join. We want to welcome our new members with open arms. Plus, the evolution of our partnerships is definitely an outreach. We want to reach out to partners in the industry, which is constantly growing, who support our Club and its vision. The Club has plans to grow, to expand, but we need help.”

Vice President Tom Nelson, a man with deep roots in the bowhunting industry, had a powerful question that really impacted me during our conversation about the future of the Club and the future of bowhunting.

“Who’s going to do it for you?” That’s Tom’s hook. That’s the question he asks everyone. “Every state bowhunting agency, every outdoor club, every organization that I know of is losing members. It’s sad. This right, this tradition that we call bowhunting, could vanish if people don’t start stepping up. We, us, bowhunters…we are the only ones who are going to save our sport. We are the ones who have to step up and defend our rights. I wish I had that magic bullet, that magic wand to burn this into people’s minds, but I don’t. If we can get people to our convention, which this year is in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 15-18, we can get them to understand. So come to the convention or to one of our other educational events and see what we are all about. We are a national bowhunting organization that does a lot of very exciting things, and all of what we do is in the name of protecting the legacy, the heritage of bowhunting.”

It should be clear. It should be evident. The Pope & Young Club is here for you. It is on the front line defending your rights to hunt with a stick-and-string, to keep the heartbeat of this great sport pounding hard. Don’t prolong it anymore. Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow. Take a stand. Become a protector of our great sport. Log on to www.pope-young.org and click the big blue “Join!” button. I’m proud to say I did. What are you going to do to help our sport?

Records Program

No, it’s not all they are, but it’s definitely a big part of what they do. Since 1962, bowhunters have been having their trophy animals scored and submitted to the Club. The Club’s job is to review all record applications submitted and place those that meet the criteria into the Club’s Records Program archives.

If you think it’s about ego, you have missed the point.  The first and foremost goal of the program is to honor the animal as well as celebrate all the time and effort each individual hunter put into harvesting their trophy. Secondly, together with the Boone & Crockett Club, the Pope & Young Club maintains the universally accepted scoring system, from which statistical data are taken and used by many state wildlife agencies to set season dates and the like.

Records Chairman Ed Fanchin had this to say about the Club’s Records Program: “The system has been refined throughout the years, and there are some slight differences between the P&Y and B&C systems, but they are very similar. The great thing about the Records Program is that it’s developed to provide an ongoing database of mature animals harvested in a fair chase setting with a bow and arrow. That data are then used to make historical comparisons. Is the trend for harvesting mature mule deer in a certain county in Nevada the same today as it was in 1973? Are more mature whitetails being harvested in Pike County, Illinois, in 2014 than in past years? Having a records program allows us to look at things like this and see trends. We, as well as state game agencies, learn a lot from our Records Program.”

The Museum

Just minutes off Interstate 90 near the agriculture-rich region of southeastern Minnesota is the Pope & Young Club Museum. A place to stop, take a deep breath and soak in bowhunting’s rich heritage – a place to track and follow the history of this great discipline.

“Our museum is just fantastic,” said Fanchin. “Whether you’re a member or not, you need to come check out this little slice of bowhunting heaven. Learn about Dr. Saxton Pope, a surgeon and medical instructor who arrived at the University of California in time to study the famous Ishi. That’s how deep our roots run. That’s the stuff we as bowhunters need to see, embrace and be excited about. Admission is totally free, and I promise you that if you love bowhunting, you will love this place.”

For more information about the P&Y Museum, including hours of operation, visit www.pope-young.org.