North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference Workshop
Approximately 80 representatives from many states, federal agencies, industry, and NGOs attended the workshop. The room was full to standing. We front-end loaded the event to accommodate busy schedules and the need for participants to attend many events.
Events and programs targeting youth have historically been the staple of hunter recruitment strategies. While these programs are enjoyed by participants and mentors alike, research shows that they are generally only marginally successful at producing new license buyers.
In the majority of cases, participants in these programs are the children of hunters, and would likely become hunters with or without these events. If the goal of an agency or organization is to stem the tide of falling hunter numbers by engaging new participants, most current programs provide a low return on investment.
Training adults who have a deep vested interest in hunting nature and conservation provides a strong return on investment.
Why? Because adults want to hunt, have the decision-making authority necessary to hunt, have money they are willing to spend on hunting, have their own transportation, and have an active community to support their initial and continued involvement. Perhaps most importantly, active adult hunters are the best-equipped mentors for teaching their own children to hunt.
Adults seeking to live sustainably are emerging as a driving force behind this increased interest in hunting. Hunting provides these individuals local, wild food but most people lack the skills and knowledge to hunt and do not have access to knowledgeable mentors. This represents an untapped source of future engaged conservationists and license buyers connected to each other through food co-ops, slow food organizations, and farmer’s markets.
The workshop focused on why a paradigm shift from youth-focused recruitment and retention programs is important to agencies, non-profit organizations, industry, and the broader conservation community. There were presentations from three states currently piloting adult/family recruitment programs, along with a lively panel session. We added 30 names to our email and outreach lists for further follow up. Attendees learned how to effectively reach, recruit and train new adult hunters, and workshop presenters shared examples of successful pilot programs that can be expanded and applied for any agency or organization.