The NWTF has found a unique way to support their continued R3 efforts in Georgia. Lynn Lewis, NWTF conservation field manager, certified wildlife biologist and a steering committee member of the Georgia R3 Initiative, plans and hosts the annual steering committee meeting. For the second year in a row, the committee held a turkey hunt for new hunters in conjunction with the annual meeting. Two new hunters participated in 2018.
The Georgia R3 initiative is a cooperative effort between the NWTF, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association and the Safari Club International Georgia Chapter. This is the first cooperative in the nation at the state level.
Charles Evans, GWF R3 coordinator, said they invited one new hunter to the meeting last year. This year’s two hunters, Edwin and Sam, were in different places in their learn-to-hunt journey, Evans said.
Edwin, a Ph.D. student, had attended a Georgia R3 Field to Fork program, where he harvested a deer. Sam, a professional, had never been hunting and had been a vegetarian for years, Evans said.
The two hunters met with the steering committee and shared their learn-to-hunt path. The committee was able to obtain insight into the trials new hunters face and, because of the setup, they were able to help formulate a plan to solve those hurdles to hunting.
Some of those hurdles include information that may be hard to access, including finding land to hunt, regulations and licensing questions, Evans said.
Sam, who is in the early stages of hunting, said, “I had read about how hunting and conservation are a key part of our shared heritage, but I hadn’t really experienced it or felt a part of such a community before.” After experiencing a successful hunt and the comradery with the other hunters in camp, he said, “I now know why hunts, hunting camps and evening meals after hunts, in particular, are celebrated.”
“We will really be able to see the impact of these learn-to-hunt programs five years from now,” Evans said. “Even very small programs have a much larger impact than we sometimes can quantify. When you teach an adult, they have authority in their lives, which can lead to them quickly and positively impacting others who may show interest in learning to hunt.”
As an example, Evans said Edwin, who learned to hunt in the field-to-fork program, went on to take four other new people hunting last fall. He also took some of his venison to school and shared it with others, possibly exposing another whole segment of people to the benefits of hunting.
Just this one new hunter has already impacted many with a positive message on hunting, Evans said.