Hunters: What is R3? Why it Matters. A Pandemic Surprise! How You Can Help.
Participation in hunting and fishing has been generally declining since the 1980s. There has been a growing effort to reverse this trend in the hunting and fishing community. We now call this movement R3. R3 stands for recruitment, retention, and reactivation and R3 efforts seek to create new participants or increase participation rates of new, current or lapsed hunters, anglers and target shooters.So that we can all sing from the same hymn book, the community developed the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model which outlines the process of becoming an outdoor recreation participant. Recruitment activities generate awareness and interest in an activity, as well as providing opportunities for people to try an activity. Retention activities provide the support necessary for novice recreationists to build their skills until they can participate independently. Reactivation activities help lapsed recreationists become active participants. This broad national effort is gaining momentum. State agencies and Nongovernmental Organizations such as NWTF, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, etc. are looking for new ways to expand access to hunting and fishing and to increase our support for state R3 planning and national R3 planning for fishing (PDF), and hunting and shooting. Whether it’s through mentoring, expanding access, monitoring fish and game species, or marketing there are dedicated people working to grow participation in the outdoor traditions we all love in order to preserve them for future generations.
Why should you care?
Less participation = less funding = less wildlife/habitat management = the end of hunting and fishing as we know it.
License sales from hunting and fishing and excise taxes paid on firearms, archery equipment, fishing tackle, and boat fuel produce valuable funding each year for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration. These expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs and have kept wildlife thriving with huntable and fishable populations nationwide. If those funding sources were to dry up, then so would our wildlife resources.
A Pandemic Surprise!
Outdoor traditionalists have been preparing all our lives for a pandemic. We are all proud of our freezers full of wild game and fish and closets full of guns. An unexpected side effect of COVID-19 has been people discovering or rediscovering the outdoors and going hunting, fishing and shooting in droves. There is a lot of hope about this silver lining to such a tragedy, and one hope is that we come out the other side as individuals and communities that, when given the time and space, go outdoors and take advantage of natural resources for mental and physical health. And take advantage of the grocery store in the woods by honing in your survival skills.
How You Can Help
Be a mentor. Mentoring is simply sharing the experience. You don’t have to have a curriculum or even a game plan. Just welcoming someone on a hunt – whether it’s yours or theirs – creates the medium for mentoring, which is as easy and natural as sharing ideas or gear or a special place with someone else. COVID driving people outdoors has made it the perfect time to start to mentor. The future of conservation in this country relies heavily on our collective ability to reverse a devastating trend in outdoor participation.
The world has changed and will continue to do so. We are not going to rid the world of video games and cell phones. There’s nothing we can do about 80-game soccer leagues and travel baseball/softball for 10-year-olds. People are going to continue to move away from rural areas. Families are going to lose their farms to inheritance taxes. Baby boomers are going to age out of their hunting days in the next 10 years.
We need to learn to thrive inside of the constraints of these realities. Here are some examples of things each of us can do: 1) hold a wild game feed and invite the families from a sports team; 2) start a trap league; 3) create hunting opportunities for youth in programs like National Archery in the Schools (NASP), and high school trap teams; 4) get your whole family involved in your local Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, or Quail Forever chapter; 5) take your family and some friends fishing; 6) host a range day for people from your church or workplace;7) invite someone from the range on a hunt; 8) invite people outdoors with you at every chance you get! Again, looking at the silver lining, COVID and national unrest have driven millions of folks to purchase their first firearm. An estimated 8 million Americans will have become first-time gun owners in 2020. These new folks provide an massive opportunity to growing hunting and the shooting sports. But it is up to current hunters and target shooters to reach out and offer them education and an invitation.
No matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from, if you care about the future of hunting, fishing and shooting, you have to figure out ways to bring a new person and this is a perfect year to do it. It doesn’t need to be a kid, the person doesn’t even need to shoot, but we need to invite them to come along. No one learned to love hunting, fishing, or shooting through a social media post or a tv show. We need to intentionally seek them out, invite them, bring them along and teach them.
Jenifer Wisniewski is the Chief of Outreach and Communication Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.