Hunting and R3 Initiatives

We had this conversation a year ago – about diminishing hunter numbers and what that means to our local and national economy and the future of wildlife conservation. The efforts to stem the slump are commonly called R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) Initiatives.

The good news is that informal reports from around the country indicate that a number of new hunters went afield this fall. The rest of the story is that new hunters still lag well behind the loss of older hunters. For a number of reasons, this ought to concern all of us who care about wild things and wild places, whether or not we hunt.

I came across an article in the October issue of Safari Times (the montly newsprint publication of Safari Club International – SCI) by Dennis Schemmel, Board Member of SCI’s Iowa Chapter. Dennis has been looking at the state of hunter recruitment across North America. I thought you might like to hear his take on the importance of hunters and hunting – see some of what he wrote.

“Many have heard of the North American Conservation Model and how well it has worked in preserving and increasing many species of wild game in North America. But did you know that 80 percent of the dollars that go into wildlife conservation in North America comes from various taxes on on the sale of hunting, shooting and fishing related items? Individually a shooter provides more conservation dollars than does an average hunter, and individually a hunter provides more conservation dollars than does an average fisherman. With respect to overall economic effect on a community, an average hunter stimulates substantially more economic effect than does an average shooter of fisherman. Knowing that, it is easy to see when hunter numbers decline, the loss to both wildlife conservation and community economic benefit is devastating.

“You have heard that hunter numbers in the U.S. are rapidly declining – that is a fact. The latest (2016) USFWS Report just released reported hunter numbers are down to approximately 11.5 million as of 2016, which is about 5.6 percent of the U.S population, with new hunter recruitment at about 3.5 percent. Further, there are legitimate estimates that in 2018 hunter numbers in the U.S. are closer to 10 million hunters, and that any further decrease will make the extended viability of hunting as we know it very questionable.

“You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to realize that old hunters are dying off at a much faster rate than new hunters are being recruited. This is a recipe for total disaster for wildlife conservation and hunting unless hunter recruitment and participation are substantially increased immediately. This is where the R3 Initiative comes into play.

“R3…is a national initiative by most of the state DNR departments, the USFWS, numerous conservation groups and private industry retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to rapidly increase hunter, shooter, fishing, trapping, boating and other outdoor participation in the U.S. so as to remedy and alleviate the devastating trend set forth above.”

Here are a few of Dennis’ strategies for R3 success: “Reallocate dollars to the implementation of R3 and make it a priority; determine our target market in addition to youth – millennial, Gen Z, women, minorities, inactive gun owners (50 million), and market to them with the realization eight out of 10 U.S. citizens live in urban areas; Develop evaluation tools to ensure dollars invested do in fact increase participation; [all] groups must work together and develop strategic long- and short-term partnerships…’

So, how is our Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife responding to these trends?

A formal organized R3 Initiative, with a growing number of partners across the state, is well underway. We are seeing increasing recruitment and outreach each year. And will see more activity in the next twelve months.

Our DFW and Fish and Wildlife Commission’s October, 2013, Youth Outdoors Initiative program is still growing, focused on getting youngsters off their digital habits and into outdoor connections. Activities, including fishing, hiking, hunting and other ways of connecting with the earth, are part of increasing numbers of programs in schools across Washington.

Recruitment of hunters – youth and otherwise – is still largely in the hands of DFW’s regional Hunter Education & Volunteer coordinators, such as our Region 3 guy, Aaron Garcia. Aaron has increased his partnership outreach with turkey hunting clinics, mentored first-time hunter activities for turkeys, pheasants and other game, along with mentored shooting training and increased opportunities for hunter education. Many more clinics and hunts are planned and coming.

This is important to the future of our outdoor heritage – and it is only a start. As more and more R3 activities become available, we all need to be there.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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