When thinking about ways to further conservation efforts, people likely attribute habitat enhancement projects or land acquisitions as key elements, and rightly so. However, significant funding for habitat enhancement projects comes directly from the hunting licenses purchased by outdoorsmen and women each year.
It is known throughout the conservation industry that the number of hunters across the country has been steadily dropping for the last 40 years. This is alarming for conservation organizations like the NWTF and state wildlife agencies alike, as the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and the excise taxes on ammunition, firearms, archery equipment and fishing supplies are the driving force behind conservation efforts across the country. While there are countless productive initiatives to increase hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3), some University of Nebraska-Lincoln students are combatting the decline in an innovative way.
“In Nebraska, we are looking to reduce the churn rate of hunters,” said Micaela Rahe, NWTF Nebraska Hunting and Shooting R3 coordinator. “We are doing this by calling hunters who have lapsed one year and reminding them of the upcoming season. We also have the ability to help these hunters purchase their permits by phone. If the hunter does not want to purchase a permit, we are asking basic questions to learn why.”
Cabela’s, through its Apprenticeship Grant, is providing paid jobs to UNL students who work to contact lapsed hunters and gather data. And though the project is only in its beginning phases, R3 enthusiasts are excited to see what kind of information they can glean from responses that can be used for future R3 initiatives.
“This project has been underway for one month, and our student callers are starting to get into the groove of calling,” Rahe said. “We can’t wait to see what type of data we have to review in May 2021 when the grant ends.”