Hunting participation has decreased in recent years nationwide. In fact, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report found hunting participation declined 16 percent from 2011 to 2016, dropping from 13.7 million to 11.5 million.
That decline presents problems for archery businesses, which rely heavily on bowhunters and equipment sales. It also affects the entire outdoor community, which depends on federal excises taxes from the first sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment to heavily fund state and national conservation projects.
But there’s hope – and lots of potential – in ongoing launches of R3 programs that strive to “recruit, retain and reactivate” hunters nationwide. This movement targets new or lapsed hunters, anglers, target shooters and other outdoor recreationists through marketing strategies and many outdoor activities and programs. By attracting and engaging newcomers, retailers and manufacturers attract more customers and boost FET funding for state wildlife agencies.
“The branded name ‘R3’ was introduced about six years ago,” said Cyrus Baird, programs director for the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. “It’s new, but state agencies and nongovernmental organizations were doing individual R3 type programs before. Now, though, we’re coordinating a large national movement to get everyone working together toward a common goal.”
Baird said R3 collaborations and partnerships are necessary to tackle such a large challenge. He hopes everyone in all outdoor recreation industries gets involved.
“People need to make connections and develop relationships with other groups in the industry to generate traction,” Baird said. “This is bigger than one group or entity. I don’t think any one retailer, state agency or nongovernmental organization can fix the problem. It’s a big collaborative effort. The more people we have on board, the more headway we’ll make.”
“Anyone with a vested interest in increasing participation in outdoor recreation – from CEOs and presidents to R3 coordinators, marketers, IT professionals, or anyone else working on these issues for their organizations – should plan to be at this event,” said Samantha Pedder, business development director for the CAHSS. “The future of conservation and outdoor recreation depends on our success in this R3 effort. It’s incumbent upon us to approach this in a collaborative manner. That journey starts in Lincoln.” Photo Credit: GCO Archery Range.
When R3 partnerships form, good things happen. For example, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife worked with its partners on R3 efforts to boost hunting participation the past decade.
Chris Willard, Oregon’s R3 coordinator, started working on these types of projects in 2008 and increased his involvement when the department created his current position in 2012. Willard has since focused on R3 efforts statewide and partnered with retailers to ensure success.
The ODFW, for instance, gives discount cards to participants in its mentored-hunter programs. The cards promote retailers’ businesses and entice customers to shop at participating stores. Willard also helps retailers enhance their stores so newcomers feel welcome. Those enhancements include endcap displays to explain products and services to new customers so they feel informed and more comfortable in the store. Willard believes efforts like those are critical to attracting and engaging newcomers.
“Retailers provide an essential customer touchpoint for new participants looking to get into archery and bowhunting,” Willard said. “Retailers are often the first, and sometimes the only, interaction newcomers have with our community. They need to be prepared to answer questions in a stick-figure-like manner that new folks can understand. The more engaged a customer is in hunting, the higher the likelihood they’ll keep coming back through your doors for many years to come.”
Individual retailers make great R3 allies, but they’re even more powerful and productive when part of a strategic or creative partnership with NGOs, state agencies and other industry representatives.
The ODFW, for example, partnered with Oregon-based Bowtech to enhance its introductory archery events. Bowtech’s marketing staff created marketing materials and head-turning advertising “skins” to emblazon truck trailers. In exchange, Bowtech gets to promote its products and boosts its brand with new audiences. Bowtech also provides beginner bows for the ODFW’s outreach events. Good equipment makes learning fun and enjoyable while encouraging consumers to buy their own bows to continue with the sport.
Willard said industry partners provide skills and resources that complement the agencies’ specialties. “My goal in working with industry folks is to leverage these varying strengths (to) enhance the experiences of our shared customers,” he said. “It’s time to proactively and strategically work together.”
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We have to do a better job communicating and working with all interested parties, which includes NGOs, retailers, manufacturers, state agencies, federal agencies, sportsmen and women, and others.” Photo Credit: GCO Archery Range.
ATA members can play vital roles in R3 programs by getting involved today. Here are four ways to connect in R3:
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 to find up-to-date contact information.
2. Join the National R3 Community website to connect with potential partners nearby.
3. Attend the National R3 Symposium. Learn more below.
4. Contact Josh Gold, ATA’s education programs manager, for advice and assistance at (321) 537-3140 or email@example.com.
The National R3 Symposium will be held at the Cornhusker Marriot Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska, May 21 to 23. This will be the first nationwide event focused on resources and partnerships for securing the future of hunting, angling, boating and target shooting through recruitment, retention and reactivation.
“Anyone with a vested interest in increasing participation in outdoor recreation – from CEOs and presidents to R3 coordinators, marketers, IT professionals, or anyone else working on these issues for their organizations – should plan to be at this event,” said Samantha Pedder, business development director for the CAHSS. “The future of conservation and outdoor recreation depends on our success in this R3 effort. It’s incumbent upon us to approach this in a collaborative manner. That journey starts in Lincoln.”
The event is open to all state agencies, NGOs and industry representatives, including ATA members. The agenda features presentations about recent R3 advancements by conservation organizations, and key addresses by leaders whose organizations embrace R3 as their mission.
“I encourage all ATA members to attend,” said Dan Forster, ATA’s vice president and chief conservation officer, and vice chair of the CAHSS Board of Directors. “Bowhunting’s future depends on how well hunters, state agencies and the industry use partnerships for growth and sustenance. We have to do a better job communicating and working with all interested parties, which includes NGOs, retailers, manufacturers, state agencies, federal agencies, sportsmen and women, and others.”
The ATA is helping coordinate R3 efforts nationwide, and is cosponsoring the symposium. Forster and Hoyt president Randy Walk will speak at the event on behalf of the ATA.
Click here to learn more and register for the symposium.