Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why It Matters: As we take a look at the best ways to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters, anglers, recreational shooting sports participants, and trappers, it is often worthwhile to recollect the activities that first inspired us to pursue a lifetime enjoying the outdoors. Not only can this trip down memory lane inspire us to engage in our own R3 efforts as we take someone along for the first time, but such activities can help us recharge the batteries as we continue to work on behalf of our nation’s sportsmen and women.
While sportsmen and women provide the bulk of conservation funding through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, many choose to further highlight their support of conservation through more outward actions, including the purchase of conservation license plates that provide additional support to state fish and wildlife agencies. While these plates often feature an iconic game species, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission took a unique step in 2022 by featuring a longear sunfish, a prominent fish species for many who grew up catching panfish throughout the Midwest. Reminiscing on these roots may conjure images of the simplicity that accompanied those early days as a sportsman or woman.
In today’s society, our outdoor endeavors are increasingly dominated by a focus on gear and equipment that, for the seasoned veteran, has greatly improved our ability to hunt, fish, shoot, and trap as efficiently, effectively, and comfortably as possible. However, there are times when a return to the old push-button spin caster reel and rod is just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps no better time for this trip down memory lane are the dog days of summer, especially when these trips include somebody new to our outdoor sporting traditions.
At CSF, we work with elected officials across the country through the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses to support initiatives such as apprentice hunting licenses, R3 efforts that include free fishing days, and other incentives designed to promote the recruitment and retention of new sportsmen and women. For these beginners, recreating the simple outings that many of us enjoyed years ago can serve as the same jumping off point that continue to drive us in our efforts.
So, after you read this article, we hope that you’ll dig through the closet or attic, dust off that old spin caster, buy some crickets, and go catch some sunfish. Better yet, dust off two of them and take somebody new with you. As we at CSF continue to work behind the scenes to protect and advance our time-honored traditions, you can bet that we will do our best to find time and do the same.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?