New Research Identifies Diverse University Students Key for National R3 Efforts

Much in the same way the NWTF engages and funds research to address the conservation needs of the wild turkey, the organization also utilizes the latest research to bolster the second half of its mission, the preservation of our hunting heritage.

Hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts are the backbone of wildlife management efforts across America through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), which provides crucial funds to conservation projects through the purchasing of firearms and ammunition.

With a declining trend of hunter participation for decades (30% fewer active hunters since 1980, as mentioned in the study), ensuring there are future hunters and shooters to perpetuate this funding model is becoming increasingly important for conservation organizations, wildlife agencies and the overall public who enjoy having robust natural resources and recreational opportunities.

A recent research article, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, illustrated that diverse university students provide promising pathways to R3 efforts (recruit, retain, reactivate new hunters).

The research identified “nontraditional path hunters” as major prospects for R3 efforts. Nontraditional path hunters were defined as individuals who enter the hunting community as adults, have limited hunting experience, have little or no familial or social support for hunting and are part of an underrepresented group within the hunting community, such as women, people of color or individuals from urban areas.

In the study, nontraditional path hunters were often motivated to hunt to procure their own ethically sourced food and to participate in conservation efforts. In fact, each group in the study listed sourcing ethically and locally sourced meat as the top reason for hunting motivation.

“We know how much of an impact nontraditional path hunters can make in preserving our hunting heritage,” said Mandy Harling, NWTF’s director of Hunting Heritage Programs. “The NWTF hosts a wide variety of events specifically tailored to introducing these new hunters into the hunting community.”

Many of the NWTF’s events coincide with the recent research to effectively recruit nontraditional path hunters, such as field-to-fork events, conservation field days, specialized events geared toward diverse audiences, Women in the Outdoors events and more.

Across the country, local NWTF chapters host these events that seek out potential hunters and provide a comfortable atmosphere to learn about hunting, conservation, cooking wild game, ethics, and usually finishes with the opportunity to hunt and put meat in the freezer.

“We always try to include a connection to food  in our learn-to-hunt events,” Harling said. “More and more, university-aged students and people of different backgrounds are coming to our events to learn about procuring locally sourced wild game, and it is exciting.

“We’ve always had a presence in recruiting hunters at universities, and we are excited to continue to further our efforts with some exciting new events in the near future. The research in the Journal of Wildlife Management provides valuable information to those looking to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.”

To find an NWTF event near you, visit

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