Author: Cassie Gasaway
The outdoors and hunting industries require consumers. Manufacturers need stores and individuals to buy their products. Archery businesses need customers to buy their equipment, return it occasionally for service, and participate in leagues, classes or lessons. State and federal agencies need hunters to buy licenses and equipment to fund the nation’s conservation projects. They also need project volunteers to help teach new participants to hunt and target shoot. And conservation organizations need consumers to buy memberships and volunteer for mentorship programs and habitat restoration projects.
One big problem, though, is that hunting and bowhunter numbers are declining, which means consumers are dwindling. That’s why the hunting and target shooting industries are driving a nationwide effort to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
The R3 movement engages new, current and lapsed hunters, anglers, target shooters and other recreationists through strategic marketing and unique programming. The movement also strives to remove barriers and create opportunities for consumers. Although many retailers and manufacturers know about R3, they don’t know their role in it.
J.D. Strong, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and chairman of the Board of Directors for the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, recognizes those challenges.
“I see most people embracing (R3) and recognizing that it’s a big priority for all who care about the future of hunting and fishing, but I also think people are scrambling to figure out what it means for their organization, and where they need to focus to get the most bang for their buck,” Strong said.
That’s why CAHSS created the National R3 Implementation Workgroup, which identifies barriers that halt or stall the National R3 Plan and R3 efforts. Removing those barriers requires teamwork to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
R3 initiatives spark interest in hunting and could generate traffic to your shop. Photo credit: CAHSS
Roles and Responsibilities
Samantha Pedder, operations director for the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, said hunting and conservation groups are already collaborating to make a difference.
– Federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to make landlocked public lands more accessible to hunters, hikers, birdwatchers and other recreationists. The F&WS is also trying to simplify its hunting and fishing regulations to mesh with state regulations to increase compliance and reduce confusion.
– State agencies like the Oklahoma DWC are hiring R3 coordinators, identifying and removing participation barriers, creating easy-to-use licensing and customer-management systems, and launching programs to attract and retain hunters.
– Manufacturers like OnX Maps and Federal Premium Ammunition are creating easy-to-use products for general and niche audiences. OnX Maps leverages its technology to help state and federal agencies collect, store and use land-access data. Many manufacturers are updating their marketing materials to include women, youths and people of color, which helps everyone connect and identify with the outdoors.
– Retailers like Fin & Feather in Iowa City feature a welcoming environment that provides information and support to newcomers. Other retailers host “Introduction to Archery or Bowhunting” classes and events. Consumers must feel comfortable and excited about trying new activities if they’re to become lifelong customers. Retailers also partner with state agencies and conservation organizations to run events and programs. These shops become networking hubs by helping beginners, and keeping them motivated and engaged.
– Conservation organizations like the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Quality Deer Management Association provide funding and staffing for state R3 programs. They also offer fun, social events and mentoring programs that recruit and retain participants.
Pedder said R3 initiatives consistently engage new hunters, which improves customer experiences and success afield. In turn, participants have fun, stay involved, boost business for ATA members, and generate funding, support and relevancy for wildlife agencies.
Partner with agencies to recruit new bowhunters. Photo Credit: Anchorage Daily News
Because all these entities and R3 efforts are related and share goals, it makes sense to join forces to ensure significant improvements. Imagine what thousands of people and hundreds of groups can do to capitalize on R3 initiatives.
“[Organizations] need to work together,” Pedder said. “We have a lot of work to do and no one person or group can solve this issue. It’s going to be a mix and collaborative effort.”
Strong agrees. “It truly takes the entire community to turn someone into a true recruit, and keep them in the field pursuing their species of choice over a lifetime.”
Open a discussion with an agency supporting R3 and see what you can offer in your area. Photo credit: Oklahoma DWC
Partnering is an easy way for groups and businesses to join the R3 movement. Strong and his DWC team are growing Oklahoma’s hunter numbers faster than the state’s population growth. Even so, the work never ends.
“We can do more,” Strong said. “That’s why we’re strengthening partnerships with our state conservation partners and trade associations like ATA.”
Oklahoma’s DWC is also working with retailers to develop “Learn to Hunt” programs, which provide mentors who introduce recruits to hunting or shooting, and stick around to help them become avid participants.
Likewise, ATA staff forge and maintain partnerships with industry groups and members to build a sustainable customer base that generates business for ATA members. Here’s how to get involved today:
1. Contact your state’s R3 representatives and program coordinators by scrolling to the bottom of the ATA’s Contact Us page. Click your state for up-to-date contact information.
2. Join the National R3 Community website to connect with potential partners nearby.
3. Attend the National R3 Symposium.
4. Contact Josh Gold, ATA’s senior manager of R3 and state regulations, for advice and assistance at (321) 537-3140, or firstname.lastname@example.org.