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ATA’s Explore Bowhunting Program Holds Value in Minnesota’s R3 Programming

Explore Bowhunting is an educational program that helps instructors, program leaders and educators teach students 11 to 17 basic bowhunting skills. The program fits into national efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
Photo Credit: John Hafner

Author: Cassie Scott

When the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources applied for Explore Bowhunting’s materials from the Archery Trade Association in early 2015, ATA staff noticed something unexpected and motivating: Minnesota’s DNR planned to launch the program without ATA funding.

Specifically, the agency didn’t apply for ATA grant money to launch this ATA program. It had already budgeted state funds to launch it statewide.

“It was great news, but not because it saved us money,” said Emily Beach, the ATA’s senior director of education and outreach. “The state budgeted its own money for the program. That means they see value in it.”

Explore Bowhunting is offered nationwide through state wildlife agencies. Educators can receive the complete Explore Bowhunting curriculum packet by attending a development workshop. Photo Credit: ATA

Explore Bowhunting is an educational program that helps instructors, program leaders and educators teach students 11 to 17 basic bowhunting skills. The programming also fits into the bigger picture of hunter recruitment and the R3 movement, a national effort to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.

“Once state agencies recruit or reactivate hunters, they need a follow-up program to retain them,” Beach said. “Explore Bowhunting is that program, and Minnesota considers it important enough to its R3 plan to warrant its own budget.”

While the Minnesota DNR didn’t initially request an ATA grant, late in 2015 ATA staff worked with the agency to create a grant proposal to help kick-start Explore Bowhunting by rapidly growing it statewide during 2016 and beyond. The grant proposal also sought to offset the costs of instructor training, and Explore Bowhunting’s equipment kits and student handbooks.

The proposal was accepted in early 2016. Kraig Kiger, the Minnesota DNR’s state program administrator, then recruited 10 to 20 schools and educators already using the National Archery in the Schools Program. In April, 15 educators took the Explore Bowhunting workshop.

“The teachers at the Explore Bowhunting workshop had a really good time learning about the class and materials,” Kiger said. “They thought the equipment was amazing, and that the lesson plans were laid out well.”

The Explore Bowhunting curriculum offers activities and lessons on bowhunting fundamentals, like camouflage tips and animal tracks and signs. Photo Credit: ATA

All 15 educators will start offering the program in their schools in spring. Kiger is enthusiastic about its future, and glad the state now offers next-step programming to bridge the gap between NASP and mentored-hunting opportunities.

“Archery courses teach students how to use a bow, but there’s a fairly big gap between the archery class and bowhunting,” Kiger said. “Explore Bowhunting is that next-step program, and will act as a catalyst to help get kids out in the woods.”

Kiger and the Minnesota DNR think they’ll start seeing the program’s impact after students complete the course in June. They can then track and analyze its long-term effectiveness in the years ahead.

To learn more about Explore Bowhunting and its curriculum, materials, activities and bowhunting kits, click here, or visit the ATA’s Member Services Area at the 2017 ATA Trade Show, Jan. 10-12 in Indianapolis.

If you’re interested in acquiring the program for your state, contact Josh Gold, ATA’s Education Programs Manager.

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