Partnerships are key to helping recruit, retain and reactivate hunters. Outdoor, shooting sports and hunting organizations joined together to create a national plan to tackle this mission: R3. During the Conservation Conference at the Annual Convention, industry leaders presented on success stories and best practices learned related to their R3 outreach efforts.
Like many hobbies and interests, we know there are challenges to becoming a hunting enthusiast and shooting sports participant. The goal of R3 is to alleviate some of these challenges, making it easier for people to participate in the sport, hopefully becoming a lifelong hunter. In Massachusetts, the challenges are noticeable. A very small percent of the population hunts, and those who do are on average in their late 40s. For MassWildlife, their tactics to overcome these challenges expanded beyond focusing on youth outreach, which many organizations do. MassWildlife, the state’s division of fisheries and wildlife, wanted to fill the gap between what happens after a hunter goes through hunter education and then goes on to buy a license or go on his or her first hunt.
The organization offers classes on field experience, helping to increase a new hunter’s comfort with the sport. They teach field dressing a deer, processing game meat, specialized training, turkey calling and more—all meant to familiarize the hunter and engage them in the hobby. Finally, MassWildlife created an online community for new hunters through a Facebook alumni group. People who have gone through their program can connect online, schedule group hunts, ask questions and engage in a safe support group. After three years of work, they’ve had nearly 500 people go through the deer and turkey hunting programs.
In another success story, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department partnered with the NWTF to help open land access for hunting in the state. Nearly all of the land in Texas is privately owned, making access to a place to hunt a barrier to many hunters. The TPW and NWTF have worked together to lease private land for public hunting, forming 56 leases to open 21,000 acres of land for hunting. In return for leasing their land to the public, private landowners receive improvements on their property, such as cattle guards, gates, food plots and brush work.
Finally, Nebraska looked to educate new hunters to empower them with information on the sport. As part of the national R3 hunter efforts, Nebraska’s R3 Coordinator created a central website as a repository of educational information for new hunters and sporting shooters. With the help of the NWTF and other partners, the Nebraska team hosts workshops for new hunters, teaches them how to plan a hunt, hosts special programs for women youth and families, offers hunting mentors and more. After three years of outreach and R3 efforts, Nebraska is seeing great success with getting more people hunting for the first time, or reengaging with the sport after years of not participating.
Helping to effectively recruit, retain and reactive hunters cannot be done alone. We’re proud at the NWTF to be a part of a larger mission of cohesive R3 efforts, and we’re seeing great successes nationwide.