The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports gained a new executive director and received funds from the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act. It continues to encourage the outdoor industry to focus on the R3 movement, an effort the organization has worked on since its founding to “recruit, retain and reactivate” hunters and target shooters nationwide.
The council announced Dr. Steven Leath as the new executive director in late October. He stepped into the position on Jan. 1. John Frampton, the former CAHSS CEO and president, had announced his retirement after serving on the Council for seven years. The two worked in tandem during Frampton’s final two months in office.
The organization’s mission is to grow and promote hunting and the shooting sports. It also educates the public on the contributions that hunters and shooters make toward wildlife conservation. Leath plans to raise the council’s profile, create new partnerships, and build on current efforts and initiatives, which include work done by the National R3 Implementation Workgroup.
CAHSS created the IWG in 2018 to identify barriers that halt or stall the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan and R3 efforts. The workgroup has 35 members, including ATA’s Josh Gold. Its ideas to improve marketing practices, build regional R3 efforts, understand new mentoring research, and strengthen partnerships between state agencies and nongovernmental organizations pushed the R3 community to evolve.
To further its efforts, the council also received grant money from the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, aka the P-R Modernization Act, which became law in December 2019. Several other organizations, including the ATA, also received funds from the grant.
The original P-R Act was established in 1937 to pay for high-priority conservation initiatives such as habitat restoration, restocking programs, hunter education programs, and public-land access and acquisition. Federal excise taxes generated from the sale of firearms and ammunition — later expanded to include archery equipment — were earmarked for conservation. But this meant state agencies couldn’t use the funds to promote or advertise hunting.
The P-R Modernization Act eliminated that restriction and earmarked an additional $5 million (above the original $3 million) from FET proceeds on archery equipment for the multistate grant program designed to boost national and regional programs for recruiting hunters and recreational shooters. The council received funds from the grant to facilitate the IWG and provide R3 partners with services and resources like the National R3 Community and the recently created National R3 Clearinghouse, a digital repository for hunting, recreational target shooting, angling, boating and other outdoor-recreation materials.
Samantha Pedder, CAHSS’s operations director, said the council and the outdoor industry have a unique opportunity to grow and evolve R3 efforts because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Layoffs and work-from-home situations gave people additional free time, and meat shortages encouraged them to source their own protein. This likely created the recent surge in hunting interest and participation. Many state wildlife agencies have reported more hunting license sales since March.
State agencies reduced participation barriers by making it easier to obtain a hunter education certificate and hunting license online, further fueling hunter engagement. As states welcomed new and returning hunters, they transitioned their R3 focus from recruitment to retention — and for good reason.
According to the “2015 Hunter Churn & Lifestyle Summary Report” produced by Southwick Associates for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, many new hunters plan to continue hunting, but few actually do. The report studied license-sale trends and found 4 out of 5 new hunters say they’ll hunt again in the next five years, but only 1 in 5 actually does.
Pedder worries that when the pandemic flatlines and people go back to their everyday lives, they’ll have more things fighting for their time and attention, so hunting won’t be a priority. She hopes new efforts to retain hunters will keep them engaged after COVID-19 passes. To that end, archery and bowhunting companies must work hard to increase their customers’ love of the sports so they become devoted to the entire lifestyle.
“Right now, we have a chance to help (newcomers) become more avid, enjoy the lifestyle more and keep them engaged,” Pedder said. “If we want archery to stay a part of their life, we must keep it at the top of their mind.”
That’s where ATA members come in. Here’s how to get involved in attracting, engaging and retaining participants:
- Offer opportunities for newcomers to plug in and feel welcome. Think classes, leagues and other experiences that offer a fun, social environment.
- Host family-friendly events that appeal to all archers, from beginner to advanced. Use the ATA’s “Archery and Bowhunting Event Ideas” document to get started. Please note: You will be required to log in to your MyATA dashboard to retrieve the members-only document.
- Introduce new archers to the sport’s many disciplines, including 3D, field, indoor, outdoor, bowfishing and bowhunting. Diversifying their options keeps people engaged.
- Start or become involved in a mentoring program to give newcomers social support and encouragement. The ATA’s “Hunting Mentor Guide” gives step-by-step directions for hosting such programs. You can also connect new customers with current ones to expand your archery community and create an archery “home” for all.
- Work with your state agency on mutually beneficial projects or to create new content and opportunities. Reach out to your state’s R3 coordinator to discuss how you can get involved. You can also connect with many helpful people and groups in the archery industry. The ATA’s state contacts page lists contact information for many industry partners, organizations and representatives.
Pedder pointed out that archery can be a solitary activity, so ATA members should connect with individuals to help make archery relevant to and enjoyable for them. Read the ATA’s article “How to Satisfy Customers During a Pandemic” for more information.
Pedder also encourages ATA members to get creative, particularly if their state has closure mandates or store restrictions. “Inspire people to pick up a bow however you can,” she said. For example, host an online contest or tournament. The more someone participates now, the more likely they are to participate later.
Also, stay connected to the ATA for more information. Dan Forster, ATA’s vice president and chief conservation officer, is working with CAHSS and other partners to create a real-time data dashboard that allows states and industry members to get an accurate picture of statewide license-sale data and information.
The dashboard will use automatic, secure data transfer protocols to instantly compile license sales data in a central location. The real-time information will allow ATA members, state agencies and the R3 community to quickly respond when unexpected events, like COVID-19, affect participation numbers. In other words, the outdoor industry will have data to support and create more effective retention efforts. Pedder said the dashboard will be available this summer.
“We’re learning about a reach in real time,” Pedder said. “We’ve never had the numbers this quickly, and now that we will, we’ll be more capable and able to capitalize on this unexpected opportunity.”
Pedder hopes the industry can position itself to serve community members when COVID-19 numbers decline and people start looking for things to do. “We need to capitalize on people’s energy and desire to reconnect with each other after the pandemic,” she said. Outdoor recreation activities should be their go-to.
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