The Pope and Young Club has seen many changes over the years. We sat down with PY's Executive Director, Jason Rounsaville to get some perspective on the most recent direction for the club, and their strategy for growing the membership, combating mis-perceptions, and their vision for the future of the organization.
If you met a bowhunter who wasn’t aware of the Pope and Young Club, how would you describe it to them?
Pope and Young is the organization that was originally designed to promote bowhunting seasons throughout North America. They have been fighting for our rights for 60 years. Our record books provide data on over 120,000 big game animals taken with a bow and arrow. We share that data with wildlife agencies for use in managing wildlife populations. Pope and Young is the voice of bowhunters in North America.
Some bowhunters describe the PY club as elitist, what is the club doing to change that mis-perception?
Our board has made some great strides to become more inclusive. We have streamlined the membership process, eliminated the "associate member" category and dropped the requirement of having taken an animal with archery equipment. We have made it easier to advance to a "Regular Member" or voting member position by reducing the requirements of animals taken and in the book. If you have taken three species, you can advance regardless of having animals in the book. You may also advance if you have three animals in the book, even if they are all the same species. Overall, we want to be more inclusive. We want more members and recognize that the next generation of bowhunter is paramount to Pope and Young and bowhunting. If you are a bowhunter, Pope and Young wants you and your voice.
The club going through a bit of a transformation, can you describe what’s changed or will be changing?
We have created a new logo that reinforces our focus on the three pillars, preserve, promote and protect. Pope and Young has been instrumental in all of these, but it was important to us to target these three pillars and make a commitment to ourselves, our members and all bowhunters that this is our key objective and a priority.
Recently two more record categories were added, can you describe them? Any new categories being discussed?
We recently added a Sitka Blacktail non-typical category. The other major change in records is the way we classify velvet entries. We now recognize velvet categories just like hard horned, with awards and even world records.
Is the club going to be more active in promoting bowhunting at the State level? If so, how?
We have a number of partners and plan to do everything we can to work with them to promote bowhunting at the state and national levels. We have worked very closely with S3DA for many years and the Pope and Young, World Record Course has been a highlight at the Mountain Archery Festivals throughout the west. These programs will be expanding along with others.
The pandemic affected many organizations negatively, how was PY affected?
Pope and Young took some major hits from covid. We were one of the first major hunting shows to get shut down in March of 2020. We went from all systems go to shut down in a matter of a few weeks. That was a big one. We also lost our Director of Records, Eli Randall to covid. It is difficult to overcome something like that, we miss Eli and his experience. Our new DOR Tim Rozewski has his work cut out filling those shoes. The convention that just occurred in Reno was also postponed from April to July of this year. It was a difficult decision, but turned out to be the right move and people seemed very excited to get out and see the displays, trophies and vendors.
When and where is the next convention? Are you going to have one every year, or every other year as before?
Our next convention will be back in Reno in April 12-15, 2023. We are sticking with the Bi-annual convention and are going back to Reno, specifically due to how great the Nugget was to work with during the transition and postponing of this year's event. They bent over backward to accommodate us even when moving from April to July. We appreciate their partnership and look forward to being back there in 2023.
The club is refining their mission to Preserve, Promote, and Protect bowhunting. How do you plan to do that?
Preserve, Promote and Protect has always been part of Pope and Young. It has now been moved to the forefront for us. The preserve pillar is part of our very culture. Our records program does exactly that, we preserve and document bowhunting from it's start to present day. We also have the Pope and Young, National Museum of Bowhunting which has been moved from Chatfield, MN to Springfield MI. Johnny Morris and his team are building a space for us and we will be included in their amazing facility there. We could not be happier with that partnership. It will literally put bowhunting front and center with thousands of visitors. The museum is at the core the preservation of bowhunting. It will also help promote as we will be in front of thousands of potential bow hunters. To further promote, we are partnering with a number of organizations to help further bowhunting throughout the country. We will be looking at ways to promote throughout the states and across the country. As to the protect piece. Pope and Young is the national bowhunting organization representing bowhunters every day on issues from Washington DC, down to the local level. We will look to expand our role in protecting bow hunting wherever opportunities are presented. Ultimately, we can't do it alone, we need the network of relationships established with wildlife agencies, states, conservation groups, hunting groups and state bowhunting organizations. To accomplish our mission, we need every bowhunter to stand with Pope and Young.
The bowhunter from the 80's is much different than today's bowhunter. How is the club adapting to the changing demographic?
We have identified this and are working to adapt in order to include today's bowhunter. We are constantly looking at membership structures, equipment rules and ways to be more inclusive.
How do you see the PY club 20 years from now?
When founded, Pope and Young had the leaders in the bowhunting culture. We helped achieve seasons throughout North America. We are working hard to break down the self imposed barriers that kept people away from Pope and Young. We want to be more inclusive, welcome new members and we are looking to be the voice of bowhunters in North America.
For more information about the Pope and Young Club, or to become a member, please visit www.pope-young.org