Initiative 5 - Educating, Recruiting, and Retaining Hunters

Text from the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan, 2008, Page 25

Two young boys with waterfowl bag, Credit: Association of African American Sportsmen


Between 1990 and 2005, participation in hunting declined by 4.4 percent, continuing an overall trend of decline between 1980 and 1991. This is part of a larger trend away from nature-based recreation of almost all types and a growing disconnect between children and the outdoors. In fact, competition for time from a growing array of leisure opportunities has drawn people away from hunting and shooting sports.

Also contributing to the change in the social landscape is an aging U.S. population. Further, the U.S. population is projected to increase from 282 million in 2000 to 420 million by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). The changing family structure reflects further modifications to the U.S. social structure.

In addition to their financial contributions to resource management, sportsmen and sportswomen have traditionally formed the backbone of organizations that provided political support for policies that form the basis of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Failure to reduce the decline in the trend will reduce the funding available to federal and state agencies, as well as NGOs, with a subsequent decline in wildlife habitat and outdoor experience opportunities.

Hunters, trappers, and anglers have traditionally introduced these activities to family and close friends. The social structures in support of hunting and recreational shooting traditions have eroded, however, as the U.S. populace has shifted from a rural to an urban culture.

As society becomes more urbanized and as urbanites have reduced ties to rural settings, the opportunities to take part in these activities have declined. The mobile nature of our society is exemplified by the rate of annual changes of address. As families scatter across the landscape for economic opportunity or retirement, the ability to retain hunters and recruit others into hunting traditions is lessened. While rural upbringing contributes to a propensity to hunt among males, other factors, such as gender and availability of a parent or mentor who hunt, play a role in hunter recruitment. Participation in these activities by women and minorities has historically been very low.

Education programs, such as the Archery in the Schools Program, are vital to the preservation of hunting traditions. A variety of programs mainly aimed at youth, minorities, and women have demonstrated that North Americans are still interested in learning traditional hunting and fishing skills. These programs offer women, youth, and minorities opportunities to learn skills outside the traditional family setting. They have been successful in increasing participation in traditional hunting, have increased sale of licenses and equipment, and have increased the interest
of participants in natural resource management. Recent information suggests, however, that greater structure in youth and minorities activities will be required to engage the next generation of hunters.

An aging leadership within agencies also threatens retention of the foundation within the natural resource profession to ensure the future of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Reports estimate that 27.2 percent of conservation professionals plan to retire by 2010; among leadership positions this was nearly half (46.1 percent) and is projected to exceed three-fourths by 2015 (76.7 percent). While this presents opportunities in natural resources careers, skills needed to address contemporary conservation challenges have changed, and questions arise about the tendency of new hires to embrace a traditional self-sustaining hunting, fishing, and conservation culture. With the advancing age structure in state and federal resource agencies, a primary concern has been the loss of core competencies, leadership skills, and institutional memory.

SCC White Paper Goals and Recommendations

  • Create a Hunting and Shooting Heritage Foundation similar to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.
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  • Use social sciences and marketing for hunter retention and recruiting.
  • Use the Foundation as a forum to bring together industry, NGOs, state, and federal agencies.
  • Establish a foundation based on implementation of the ten-year plan. Engage a Chair or Director to manage the foundation; create this entity outside CEQ, and have it be specifically aimed at the wildlife and hunting heritage.
  • Use this foundation to generate youth and minorities interest through service programs aimed at wildlife and conservation.
  • Develop an “Open Fields,” walk-in hunting access to private lands (which was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill).
  • Use focus groups and other marketing tools to determine how best to understand and reach young people.
  • Be sure to put marketers or public relations experts in leadership positions, as well as biologists and hunting enthusiasts as the foundation is established.
  • Establish the institutional framework and priorities for education, recruitment, and retention.
  • Establish hiring and training standards.
  • Ensure that new professionals entering the wildlife field are well exposed to practical experience in the field through programs and training. Help them with the basics of hunting and its relevancy and value to conservation practices for federal land management agencies, and ensure that personnel understand and value the importance of hunters and anglers to wildlife management.
  • Increase structured hunting, shooting, and conservation education programs on federal lands.
  • Seek visible Executive endorsement for American’s involvement in natural resource based recreational activities and engage influential people as spokespersons in support of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
  • Develop ways and means to effectively create and distribute information on the Model/Public Trust Doctrine for dissemination to a wide target audience, including the general public, academic programs, and state, tribal, and federal agencies.

Actions for Initiative 5 - Educating, Recruiting, and Retaining Hunters

Supporting documentation and findings

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