What’s the bigger risk to wildlife, a hunter in a blind or a decrease in funding for wetlands and conservation?
The answer, it turns out, is complicated.
As part of a long term trend, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the number of Americans who hunt is down by an additional 2 million people in recent years.
You might think conservationists would be busy taking a victory lap.
However the problem for environmentalists and state natural resource departments is that their funding model is dependent on licenses and fees generated by hunters.
Exacerbating the issue, baby boomers are aging out of hunting as younger generations focus on school sports and indoor hobbies such as video games.
For more than a century, there’s been a link between hunting and conservation; dating back to the days of trigger-happy hunters, all but blasting the bison population into the history books and finishing off North America’s most abundant bird, the passenger pigeon.
As a result, hunters were asked to curb – and pay for – their excesses. Avid outdoorsmen such as Theodore Roosevelt put their stamp on an enduring ethos that combined sport with conservation and in 1937 the Pittman-Robertson Act was passed, which imposed an 11 percent excise tax on the sale of firearms that is apportioned annually to state agencies for conservation.
As hunting continues to decline, the resulting financial shortfall is hitting many state wildlife agencies.
In Wisconsin, a $4 million to $6 million annual deficit forced the state’s Department of Natural Resources to reduce warden patrols and invasive species control.
Michigan’s legislature had to dig into general-tax coffers to save some of the state’s wildlife projects. Some states, including Missouri, are redirecting sales tax revenue to conservation.
In Pennsylvania, where the game commission gets more than 50 percent of its revenue from licenses, permits and taxes, the agency had to cancel construction projects and leave dozens of positions vacant even as it was tackling West Nile virus.
3 R’s of Hunting: Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation
In the wake of this new reality, many states are devising ways to reinvigorate hunting culture and expand the sport’s appeal, especially to empty nesters and young professionals who have free time on the weekends without the demands of youth sports.
Colorado has a Hug a Hunter campaign to raise awareness of wildlife management and outdoor recreational opportunities.
In Pennsylvania, where the number of licensed hunters has dropped from 927,000 to 850,000 over the past decade, the state is relaxing its ban on Sunday hunting to increase opportunities for working families.
All in an effort to Recruit, Retain and Reactivate hunters.
Meanwhile, these advocacy groups understand that recruiting someone to go hunting one time has a very limited upside unless the participants are retained and reactivated in subsequent seasons.
According to Chris Willard, R3 coordinator at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, “It’s not enough to just host these events and have a good time – you have to be really strategic about who you bring into those events. And more importantly, once they’re at those events, how do you connect them to that next step?”
Mentorships help create lasting habits.
The 3 R’s strategy also embodies our approach to recruiting the heavy listeners who matter most to the ratings and revenue.
Fortunately, with radio’s accessibility and ease of use, no weekend in the woods is necessary to create a habit.
In fact, the most important right of passage for becoming a heavy radio listener is to simply get a full-time job.
Working 40 hours per week generates daily tune-in and high TSL.
That’s one of the key reasons why recruiting a database of employed heavy listeners who can be retained and reactivated beyond the initial campaign maximizes your marketing investment.
Let’s discuss how the 3 R’s can be leveraged in your competitive situation.
– Andrew Curran, President and COO