Nationwide right now, there is a major movement in hunting called R3 which stands for Recruitment, Reactivation, and Retention. These three activities are vital to growing hunter numbers across New Mexico and the United States, and growing hunter numbers is critical to continued habitat improvement for animals as well as protecting our hunting rights. Participation numbers in hunters and anglers has been on the decline and there is a major push from private groups, state agencies, and others to tackle this issue head on. In 2016, among US residents, 60% were Non- consumptive users, 26% were wildlife watchers, 11% were anglers, and a mere 3% of the general population were hunters. Between 1991 and 2011 there has been a downward trend in both hunting and angling, almost 40% (National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation).
These numbers trend almost identically in New Mexico. If you look at the bulk of the New Mexico hunting and angling customer base, it is between 40 and 60 years of age. Those “Boomers” are already beginning to age out of the sport. With a large majority of the millennial generation un-involved in hunting and angling, who then will become our wildlife conservation leaders? With little to no market buy in, who will fight to protect our heritage? Most agencies and entities have engaged with, mainly, youth through a very traditional approach to education. It has been recognized that this traditional approach is not effective to growing participation. New approaches to educating youth have emerged as a result including skills-based camps and ease of online resources. These changes seem to be helping as a review of the 2011-2015 license record data indicates combined license records increased by 115% in New Mexico (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish). There is no question that getting youth into the sport is critical, however youth participation is greatly dependent on others. Youth do not usually manage their own time, have disposable income, and may not have opportunities due to a lack of mentorship or Hunter Education requirements.
We here at Nada Grande Outdoors believe that there is an overlooked age class that should receive a greater focus. This is that missing millennial generation, mainly 21-40 year olds who have not previously been involved in hunting or angling. These individuals do not have the restrictions that youth have, and while they may not have an abundance of time or disposable income, their opportunities to jump right into hunting are more promising. One of the main things that may be holding these people back is a lack of knowledge and someone to show them how. Additionally, if these individuals join the hunting ranks, they will likely pass that passion on to the next generation. For too long, the hunting community has been selfish and overly protective when it comes to knowledge and skills associated with our favorite past time. While we are not alone in this idea, we want to do something about it.
Nada Grande Outdoors is committed to action rather than just talking about it. We promote a change in hunting culture and encourage others to do the same. We are calling it “Hunt It Forward”. Think back to who first took you hunting? Was it your Dad, an Uncle, the neighbor kid’s Dad down the street? Would you be a hunter today if it was not for that person? Now ask yourself, are you actively trying to do the same thing for someone else. Many of us have taken our children hunting, we’ve even probably taken a nephew or a niece who wanted to tag along. But what about someone outside the hunting gene pool? This is where we really feel the progress in growing hunting numbers can be made. Our children don’t count. They are the minimum we can do. Let’s reach for the maximum. Take someone who has never been. Find someone that has not hunted in over ten years. The reasons don’t matter. Maybe they have never had the opportunity. Perhaps they were not raised in a hunting family or grew up in the city. Maybe they quit hunting when they moved out of state and never got back into it. The reasons are numerous but the solution is simple. Take someone hunting that is not already likely to be a future hunter. Here are a few guidelines that the Nada Grande Boys feel are important in identifying these hunting prospects.
First, we will look at recruitment. These future hunters have never hunted. They have very little gear and no experience. They should be between the ages of 21 and 40. This group of prospective hunters has an extremely low probability of becoming a hunter without our help. They are everywhere. All you have to do is ask.
The next group is the reactivation group. These include former hunters no matter their experience level. They may have some experience from their youth but have lost some of their hunting knowledge over the years. We think those who have not been hunting in ten years or more are prime candidates.
The third part of this process is retention of either someone you have recruited or are trying to re-activate. Start out with one person on one hunt. It doesn’t need to be trophy elk hunt. There are a multitude of hunting opportunities that can be taken advantage of without great expense. Take them dove hunting, buy a left over deer or javalina tag, go predator calling, go rid your neighbor’s pasture of some pesky rabbits. As a mentor, try to create a positive hunting experience so that they are more likely to want to continue to participate. Next year, walk that person through the draw process. Encourage that person to invite one of their friends hunting. Then keep going. We all love to be outdoors and chasing game. It shouldn’t matter if it’s for us or someone else.
One more thing to remember; when you take someone else hunting or fishing make sure the experience is about them. If need be, leave your gear at home. Especially if they are new. Nada Grande Outdoors is taking two people hunting this year. One who has never hunted before and one who has been out for a very long time. This is us living by our beliefs in the “Hunt It Forward” way of life. We encourage others to do the same. If you are a business or entity who agrees with us, we invite you to support us. We would love to be able to help these new hunters in addition to giving them our knowledge and experience. We would love to have some gear gifts to help them get started! We look forward to sharing this “Hunt it Forward” experience with you!
The Nada Grande Boys,
Rodney Wood & Kyle Jackson
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