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What is R3?

What is R3?

What is R3?

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

What is R3?

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
‘‘

Since the dawn of man, hunting has been in our blood. It’s primal. It has become ingrained into the fabric of American culture. For decades, sportsmen and women have been at the forefront of species management and wildlife conservation, bringing some species, such as wild turkey, pronghorn antelope, and white-tailed deer, back from near extinction.

But what if I told you one of the species of greatest concern to hunters right now isn’t the Northern bobwhite, but rather the hunter himself?

If you consider yourself an avid hunter, you may have seen headlines recently that allude to a drastic decline in the number of hunters in the United States. Even if you are on the fringe of the hardcore hunting community, you may still have heard similar rumblings that depict a bleak future for one of America’s oldest traditions. They are all true.

A recent United States Fish and Wildlife Service survey confirmed what some in the hunting industry have known for years: The number of licensed hunters taking to the field each season is dwindling, down by 2 million from 2011 to 2016. The 2016 survey showed there were around 11.5 million hunters nationwide—a huge decline from the over 17.5 million reported in 1980.

While fewer hunters in the field to compete with may seem like a good thing to some, this is a huge problem for the country’s system of wildlife conservation, which is heavily dependent on sportsmen and women for funding. Funds generated from license fees, as well as excise taxes on guns and ammunition, provide the overwhelming majority of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies for on-the-ground conservation efforts. Additionally, hunter expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide.

Increasing urbanization, shifting demographics, societal changes, aging hunter population, Netflix—there are a million different reasons that have led to this problem, but the fact is we have a problem, and to ensure that future generations of sportsmen and women have the same opportunities as generations past—and to ensure that the model by which we fund conservation remains intact—this needs to be addressed.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

Sportsmen and women are among the most passionate conservationists in the United States—a notion that can be traced back to even before the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold. The creation of the duck stamp, the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act, and the creation of our nation’s public lands system can, at the core, be attributed to sportsmen. When issues affecting wildlife arise, sportsmen and women always heed the call.

Much like the creation of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to help tackle the problem of declining populations of Northern bobwhite in the United States, leaders in the conservation and sportsmen communities recognized the declining populations of hunters and realized that reversing the trends could only be done through a collaborative effort.

And just as with NBCI, this problem needed a central organization to be the clearinghouse for this movement, to help coordinate strategies, and to work across the entire spectrum. For this reason the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports was formed in 2009, helping to accelerate the R3 movement.

WHAT IS R3?

R3 stands for recruitment, retention, and reactivation, and it seeks to create new participants and increase the participation rates of current or lapsed outdoor recreationists. It is based on the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, which explains the steps an individual moves through as they learn about, try, and then adopt a new activity or behavior, and can be used to understand the differences between recruitment, retention, and reactivation.

Recruitment refers to ways to generate awareness and interest in hunting or shooting, as well as providing opportunities for an individual to get a “hands-on” trial.

Retention means providing the education and social support necessary for novice hunters and shooters to build their skills until they are able to branch out on their own.

Reactivation aims to target lapsed hunters and shooters to become active participants again.

While the synergy behind the R3 movement has grown recently among state fish and wildlife agencies, hunting industry leaders, and sportsmen’s groups, it’s far from a new concept. At its core, R3 encompasses elements of public relations and marketing, program development and evaluation, data, customer management, and strategic agency/organization change.

R3 GROWTH

The R3 movement is growing, and growing fast. But as with any movement, there are growing pains.

One of the biggest problems for R3 has been embracing change. For example, for years, a hunter recruitment program might have consisted of a one-day event designed to target mainly youth participants—and in no way is that bad—but those young people might not yield the best return on our investment.

By expanding recruitment efforts to women, college-age adults, suburban parents, and even “hipsters,” we have a better chance to recruit individuals who have expendable income, make their own schedules, and are looking for the next great adventure—ultimately people who will yield better long-term results.

Much like the way NBCI created a guiding document to address quail restoration efforts across the country, the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports also helped author a document called the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan. This document is meant to serve as a guiding strategy for state agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and industry leaders in the hunting, shooting, and conservation communities.

Another growing pain for any movement this size is building consensus among all parties involved. The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, along with the Wildlife Management Institute, has conducted numerous workshops for state fish and wildlife agencies and NGOs around the country over the past few years to help assess current R3 programs, infrastructure, and strategic planning for the future.

More than 35 state agencies have already committed funding or resources to employ dedicated staff who work on R3 efforts daily. That number was fewer than 10 just 3 years ago. Conservation groups around the country have followed suit in hiring staff and dedicating resources to R3 programs, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, and Quail Forever, to name just a few.

Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever has been one of the leaders in R3, hiring a full-time staffer to lead their R3 efforts nationwide and host learn-to-hunt events, launch R3 pilot programs, target underserved audiences, and educate volunteers on R3 best management practices.

Just recently, leaders in the R3 community met for the first-ever National R3 Symposium, organized by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and hosted in Lincoln, Nebraska. Representatives from the hunting, angling, shooting, and boating industries met for two days to share, learn, and develop opportunities to accelerate the current state of R3 effort and impact. More than 325 attendees from state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation groups, industry, and outdoor media were present.

MODERNIZING CONSERVATION FUNDING

In Washington, D.C., one piece of legislation, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017 could be a catalyst in R3 and help to reverse the declining trend in licensed hunters.

This legislation, if passed, would provide state fish and wildlife agencies greater flexibility to promote hunting and recreational target shooting by allowing portions of federal excise tax dollars collected through the Wildlife Restoration Fund to be used for public relations efforts. It would also earmark an additional $5 million annually to be used for regional and national R3 projects through a competitive grant program.

A similar funding mechanism for the angling side already exists through the Dingle-Johnson Act, and the Sportfish Restoration Fund already allows for state agencies to use monies for the promotion of fishing.

This legislation should be at the top of every sportsman’s watch list and is supported by all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, Archery Trade Association, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and Ducks Unlimited.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

To some, the R3 movement can seem daunting, or at the very least, like someone else’s problem. This problem is a direct threat to hunting, and it’s going to take hunters to fix it. The easiest way for hunting participation to increase long term is for hunters to invite others into our world.

Sometimes hunters can be greedy. Ask a hardcore bird hunter where he found success the day before, and he might tell you the state where he was hunting, maybe even the area code he was in, but seldom will he give you a detailed description of the location.

Hunting and the outdoors should be shared and enjoyed by all, and sportsmen and women should to be ambassadors for our way of life and encourage new individuals to experience our beloved hunting traditions. If fewer than 40 percent of the current hunting population introduced just one new hunter next season, we could reverse the downward trend of hunting participation in a matter of a few years.

We owe it to the future generations of sportsmen and women to ensure that hunting remains part of American culture and the driving force behind conservation and wildlife management.

But what if I told you one of the species of greatest concern to hunters right now isn’t the Northern bobwhite, but rather the hunter himself?

What is R3? This article is published in the issue.
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What is R3?

Since the dawn of man, hunting has been in our blood. It’s primal. It has become ingrained into the fabric of American culture. For decades, sportsmen and women have been at the forefront of species management and wildlife conservation, bringing some species, such as wild turkey, pronghorn antelope, and white-tailed deer, back from near extinction.

But what if I told you one of the species of greatest concern to hunters right now isn’t the Northern bobwhite, but rather the hunter himself?

If you consider yourself an avid hunter, you may have seen headlines recently that allude to a drastic decline in the number of hunters in the United States. Even if you are on the fringe of the hardcore hunting community, you may still have heard similar rumblings that depict a bleak future for one of America’s oldest traditions. They are all true.

A recent United States Fish and Wildlife Service survey confirmed what some in the hunting industry have known for years: The number of licensed hunters taking to the field each season is dwindling, down by 2 million from 2011 to 2016. The 2016 survey showed there were around 11.5 million hunters nationwide—a huge decline from the over 17.5 million reported in 1980.

While fewer hunters in the field to compete with may seem like a good thing to some, this is a huge problem for the country’s system of wildlife conservation, which is heavily dependent on sportsmen and women for funding. Funds generated from license fees, as well as excise taxes on guns and ammunition, provide the overwhelming majority of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies for on-the-ground conservation efforts. Additionally, hunter expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide.

Increasing urbanization, shifting demographics, societal changes, aging hunter population, Netflix—there are a million different reasons that have led to this problem, but the fact is we have a problem, and to ensure that future generations of sportsmen and women have the same opportunities as generations past—and to ensure that the model by which we fund conservation remains intact—this needs to be addressed.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

Sportsmen and women are among the most passionate conservationists in the United States—a notion that can be traced back to even before the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold. The creation of the duck stamp, the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act, and the creation of our nation’s public lands system can, at the core, be attributed to sportsmen. When issues affecting wildlife arise, sportsmen and women always heed the call.

Much like the creation of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to help tackle the problem of declining populations of Northern bobwhite in the United States, leaders in the conservation and sportsmen communities recognized the declining populations of hunters and realized that reversing the trends could only be done through a collaborative effort.

And just as with NBCI, this problem needed a central organization to be the clearinghouse for this movement, to help coordinate strategies, and to work across the entire spectrum. For this reason the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports was formed in 2009, helping to accelerate the R3 movement.

WHAT IS R3?

R3 stands for recruitment, retention, and reactivation, and it seeks to create new participants and increase the participation rates of current or lapsed outdoor recreationists. It is based on the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, which explains the steps an individual moves through as they learn about, try, and then adopt a new activity or behavior, and can be used to understand the differences between recruitment, retention, and reactivation.

Recruitment refers to ways to generate awareness and interest in hunting or shooting, as well as providing opportunities for an individual to get a “hands-on” trial.

Retention means providing the education and social support necessary for novice hunters and shooters to build their skills until they are able to branch out on their own.

Reactivation aims to target lapsed hunters and shooters to become active participants again.

While the synergy behind the R3 movement has grown recently among state fish and wildlife agencies, hunting industry leaders, and sportsmen’s groups, it’s far from a new concept. At its core, R3 encompasses elements of public relations and marketing, program development and evaluation, data, customer management, and strategic agency/organization change.

R3 GROWTH

The R3 movement is growing, and growing fast. But as with any movement, there are growing pains.

One of the biggest problems for R3 has been embracing change. For example, for years, a hunter recruitment program might have consisted of a one-day event designed to target mainly youth participants—and in no way is that bad—but those young people might not yield the best return on our investment.

By expanding recruitment efforts to women, college-age adults, suburban parents, and even “hipsters,” we have a better chance to recruit individuals who have expendable income, make their own schedules, and are looking for the next great adventure—ultimately people who will yield better long-term results.

Much like the way NBCI created a guiding document to address quail restoration efforts across the country, the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports also helped author a document called the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan. This document is meant to serve as a guiding strategy for state agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and industry leaders in the hunting, shooting, and conservation communities.

Another growing pain for any movement this size is building consensus among all parties involved. The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, along with the Wildlife Management Institute, has conducted numerous workshops for state fish and wildlife agencies and NGOs around the country over the past few years to help assess current R3 programs, infrastructure, and strategic planning for the future.

More than 35 state agencies have already committed funding or resources to employ dedicated staff who work on R3 efforts daily. That number was fewer than 10 just 3 years ago. Conservation groups around the country have followed suit in hiring staff and dedicating resources to R3 programs, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, and Quail Forever, to name just a few.

Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever has been one of the leaders in R3, hiring a full-time staffer to lead their R3 efforts nationwide and host learn-to-hunt events, launch R3 pilot programs, target underserved audiences, and educate volunteers on R3 best management practices.

Just recently, leaders in the R3 community met for the first-ever National R3 Symposium, organized by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and hosted in Lincoln, Nebraska. Representatives from the hunting, angling, shooting, and boating industries met for two days to share, learn, and develop opportunities to accelerate the current state of R3 effort and impact. More than 325 attendees from state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation groups, industry, and outdoor media were present.

MODERNIZING CONSERVATION FUNDING

In Washington, D.C., one piece of legislation, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017 could be a catalyst in R3 and help to reverse the declining trend in licensed hunters.

This legislation, if passed, would provide state fish and wildlife agencies greater flexibility to promote hunting and recreational target shooting by allowing portions of federal excise tax dollars collected through the Wildlife Restoration Fund to be used for public relations efforts. It would also earmark an additional $5 million annually to be used for regional and national R3 projects through a competitive grant program.

A similar funding mechanism for the angling side already exists through the Dingle-Johnson Act, and the Sportfish Restoration Fund already allows for state agencies to use monies for the promotion of fishing.

This legislation should be at the top of every sportsman’s watch list and is supported by all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, Archery Trade Association, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and Ducks Unlimited.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

To some, the R3 movement can seem daunting, or at the very least, like someone else’s problem. This problem is a direct threat to hunting, and it’s going to take hunters to fix it. The easiest way for hunting participation to increase long term is for hunters to invite others into our world.

Sometimes hunters can be greedy. Ask a hardcore bird hunter where he found success the day before, and he might tell you the state where he was hunting, maybe even the area code he was in, but seldom will he give you a detailed description of the location.

Hunting and the outdoors should be shared and enjoyed by all, and sportsmen and women should to be ambassadors for our way of life and encourage new individuals to experience our beloved hunting traditions. If fewer than 40 percent of the current hunting population introduced just one new hunter next season, we could reverse the downward trend of hunting participation in a matter of a few years.

We owe it to the future generations of sportsmen and women to ensure that hunting remains part of American culture and the driving force behind conservation and wildlife management.

But what if I told you one of the species of greatest concern to hunters right now isn’t the Northern bobwhite, but rather the hunter himself?

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