S3DA Embraces Conservation Role (and You Should Too!)

The S3DA program introduces archers to hunting and conservation to create conservation advocates while boosting the outdoor industry.
Photo Credit: S3DA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Scholastic 3D Archery strives to increase hunting participation nationwide by teaching students about conservation, which means adding classroom sessions through clubs and tournaments, while partnering with other archery and conservation organizations.

S3DA is an after-school initiative for students 8 to 18 who want to shoot 3D, indoor and outdoor target archery, and learn bowhunting ethics. The program is based on conservation principles, and schedules competitions in spring and summer to ensure coaches and students can hunt in fall.

S3DA is ramping up its efforts to educate participants about wildlife conservation and bowhunting’s role in those efforts. Scott Cronin, S3DA’s national conservation outreach coordinator, sees a divide between competitive archers and bowhunters, and hopes to close it.

“Not every person will hunt, but we need everyone to have the vote, voice and belief that hunting is a productive tool in conservation,” Cronin said. “Our goal is to get everyone involved in S3DA to start hunting, or to accept and support hunting.”

S3DA encourages new hunters to participate in the hunting of nuisance animals like feral hogs. Photo Credit: S3DA

When consumers buy archery equipment or a hunting license, they’re paying a federal excise tax on the gear and license fees to state wildlife agencies to fund conservation projects, including habitat restoration, hunter education, wildlife research and public access. The excise taxes arose from the Wildlife Restoration Act, aka the Pittman-Robertson Act. Bows and arrows also help manage wildlife by removing invasive species like feral hogs and Asian carp.

To ensure S3DA fulfills its conservation mission, it’s recruiting a conservation-outreach coordinator in each of its 43 active states, and so far has secured 13 coordinators. State coordinators create outreach programs, help with state R3 efforts, teach conservation classes to S3DA participants, and coordinate educational events during S3DA tournaments.

Coordinators also encourage private groups, nongovernmental organizations, and state wildlife agencies to attend S3DA tournaments to promote conservation, and careers in conservation. Partner organizations also introduce people to mentoring and Field to Fork programs.

“We need to give kids information they need to shoot archery outside of S3DA events because our shooters are more likely to try bowhunting [compared to other archers],” Cronin said.

The ATA's Explore Bowhunting curriculum teaches instructors how to incorporate bowhunting into their educational programs. Photo Credit: ATA

Creating Hunters

S3DA provides a natural progression into bowhunting, and S3DA’s partnerships ensure students get tools and information to succeed. S3DA partners with ATA and the Pope & Young Club to teach students fair chase, bowhunting ethics and wildlife conservation. The ATA partnership gives clubs access to ATA’s Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing educational programs, which help instructors, educators and program leaders teach students bowhunting and bowfishing skills. Those efforts increase overall archery participation. Coaches can integrate ATA’s Explore programs into their club’s curriculum, which helps link 3D archery participants to bowhunting and bowfishing.

The programs also encourage participants to hunt together. Cronin said S3DA centers around family, friendship and archery, which sparks conversations between kids and parents, whether the adults hunt or not.

“A lot of parents have fears about their child hunting, or who’d they go with,” Cronin said. “These kids are already team members, and the parents know each other, so they trust them. It’s common for S3DA kids to hunt together because a teammate or parent invited them.”

Even without mentored hunts, participants benefit from coaches, parents, team members and state coordinators while learning . S3DA has 7,000 student members and about 2,500 certified coaches nationwide. It doesn’t track how many students become hunters. Still, Amanda Long, S3DA’s executive assistant, said it’s significant, given the organization’s Fall and Spring Bow Harvest contests, which showcase hundreds of students posing with quarry they arrowed.

Mentoring and organizing Field to Fork programs will give new and existing hunters a better understanding of conservation. Photo Credit: S3DA

Get Involved

Cronin said S3DA is fulfilling its responsibility to introduce kids to hunting and conservation, but hopes more ATA members will get involved. Consider these ways to help S3DA participants.


– Attend S3DA tournaments:

Cronin encourages retailers and manufacturers to attend tournaments to hand out flyers, register archers for events, and mingle with participants. He said many students – and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members – attend events, which means many potential customers.

“If you struggle to find new customers, they’re at S3DA events,” Cronin said. “[Tournaments] bring together a lot of diverse people. If you want to get people involved in hunting, this is where to go.”

Read ATA’s article “Get Involved with Clubs and Tournaments” for more information.


– Create Next-Step Opportunities:

Retailers can also create next-step programs to help competitive archers try bowhunting.

The ATA offers its Explore Bowhunting program and curriculum to ATA members for free. Contact Josh Gold, ATA’s senior manager of R3 and state relations, to learn more or request the materials.

Also consider the ATA’s “Field to Fork: A Curriculum for Mentored Hunts” guidebook, which gives step-by-step directions for holding mentorship programs. The guide explains how “Field to Fork” programs support and build participants’ confidence as they learn how to hunt and obtain their own meat. Click here to download the digital guide.

You can also partner with other companies and organizations to offer resources and programming, while boosting your business’s profile and attracting customers. Learn how in ATA’s article “Embrace the Power of Partnerships.”


– Become a Mentor:

S3DA participants are great bowhunting recruits. They know how to shoot, and they have equipment and parental support. All they need are opportunities to get started. You can help.

“Most kids have everything they need to start hunting, but we lack mentors to teach kids how to hunt,” Cronin said. “We need folks who want to pass on and build hunting numbers to step up and take children hunting. For kids to get the opportunity to hunt and fish, they have to have adults.”

Cronin said adults must ask kids to bowhunt because they might be too shy or intimidated to ask. Don’t worry that mentoring will interfere with your season. Cronin suggests taking students afield during the youth season.

The ATA’s “Hunting Mentor Guide” helps mentors teach others about hunting’s benefits and its conservation contributions. Visit for the digital guide. Read Bowhunting 360’s article “Be a Bowhunting Mentor” for tips and an overview of a mentor’s responsibilities.


– Become the Community’s Social Hub:

If you can’t get heavily involved, Cronin said you can be your community’s information source. Provide and explain hunting rules and regulations, such as bag limits, where to go, and which licenses or permits new hunters need. Post local, regional and state archery events on your website, social-media platforms, and in-store calendar. Partner with guides, farmers and outfitters to connect customers with potential resources. And, most importantly, make newcomers feel welcome in your shop.


– Volunteer:

Cronin recommends volunteering to assist with S3DA practices and tournaments. You can provide instruction and share your love of archery and bowhunting with newcomers. You can also talk to students about archery goals and encourage them to try archery’s many disciplines.

Join S3DA in its efforts to bridge the gap between competitive archery and bowhunting. Then, get involved to make hunting more accessible. Questions? Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail-programs manager, at (502) 640-0944; or

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