Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) Programs Spreading Nationwide
Today, roughly 11.5 million Americans hunt in a country of 320 million people, according to American Hunter magazine. This means that less than 5% of people in the U.S. hunt. From 2006 to 2016, 1 million Americans stopped hunting. The Aspen Times stated in a 2007 article that the number of people hunting in Colorado decreased 24 percent from 1991 to 2006. In a Colorado Hunter article titled “Hunting is for Girls,” the author pointed out that the average hunter in Colorado is a 55-year-old white male. In other words, the clock is ticking.
A Colorado Parks and Wildlife hunter education class. Photo by Crystal Egli/CPW.
Hunting has never been a part of my life. I have never desired to take down a bull elk with a gun or even whack a trout on the head. Yet, somehow, I found myself in a hunter education class, enjoying the lessons and learning more than I ever expected. If I’m clearly not a hunter, why on earth did I sign up for hunter-ed?
Utterly disconnected from where food comes from, I stopped to think about it for the first time when a coworker offered me slices of sausage harvested from an elk hunt. I’m a regular person who eats regular supermarket meat, with no room in the budget for local butcher shops or organic, free-range, grass-fed beef. Taking the first bite of elk, it dawned on me that I could finally ask someone exactly where the meat came from. Within 10 seconds I had my answer and more. The elk came from game management unit 32, near Meeker. It died quickly with two shots to the lungs, and the hunter shared the meat amongst family and friends. Sure, you could ask your local grocer the same question, but unless you work somewhere along the supply chain, you can never be 100 percent certain where supermarket meat comes from or how humanely it was harvested.
Being directly connected to this elk meat started a chain reaction of questions I had no answers for. I have always enjoyed blissful ignorance in regard to where my meat comes from. So why did I care about this meat, and not the burger I ate last night? Could this animal have had a better life—and death—than the animals I usually consume? Could these factors make hunting… better? To answer these questions I needed to know more about hunting. Read more
When I was a kid growing up in northern Minnesota during the 1970s, most of my friends hunted and fished, and many trapped, but my outdoors social circles during those elementary and early middle school years were boys’ clubs. It was rare to encounter a girl who hunted, although, there were surely many about. In recent years, though, women are a bright spot in the general downward hunting-numbers trend.
Women are spending more time in tree stands and duck blinds — and putting fresh meat on the table. Although men still account for the vast majority of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters, the number of women actively hunting is on the rise. The total number of women hunters surged by 25 percent between 2006 and 2011, after holding steady for a decade, according to Census Bureau statistics. At last count, 11 percent of all U.S. hunters were women, compared to 9 percent in 2006.
“During the 1980s, we saw a pretty good increase in women hunting, which flattened out in the 1990s,” said Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a research firm specializing in outdoor recreation trends. “And now there seems to be an increase in the past three or four years.” Read more
A young hunter seeks direction on a pheasant hunt. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
“A man’s gotta know his limitations.” — Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan, “Magnum Force”
Callahan’s wise advice is particularly appropriate for small-game hunters, for the many species of animals and birds they may hunt present a broad array of hunting challenges. Todd Schmidt, Colorado hunter education coordinator, emphasized during an interview that small-game hunting is a foundation for developing skills and traits important to all types of hunting. “The lengthy, five-month hunting season, not only enriches the hunter through a broad variety of experiences, but it can also nurture good character,” said Schmidt. “Terrains differ, as do shotgun gauges, rifle calibers, arrow selection and physical fitness requirements – each offering unique lessons.”
Acting honorably in diverse environments with different firearms demands humility and judgment. Some years ago I was on a varmint hunt sponsored by a major firearms company. I had a .22 Magnum that had not been sighted in to my standards. A colleague challenged me to shoot prairie dogs at about 200 yards. I declined. Although otherwise quite sufficient, my skill level would be compromised using this rifle and the likelihood of unethical shots would increase. Read more
Online hunter-education courses make it easy for aspiring hunters. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Story by Gary Berlin
Formal hunter education training has existed since 1949 when New York became the first state to require hunters to complete hunter education prior to buying a hunting license. More than 20 years later, Colorado joined the ranks, requiring anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949 to obtain a hunter education certificate to purchase or apply for a hunting license. Because of the success of hunter education training, which reduced hunting-related shooting incidents, today all 50 states and 11 Canadian provinces have some type of hunter education requirement.
Between 1949 and 2000, a typical hunter education class consisted of 12 to 22 hours of formal classroom training, passing a comprehensive written exam, demonstrating safe gun-handling techniques and firearms proficiency at a firing range. It was not uncommon for a student to attend three to six individual class sessions before obtaining their hunter education certificate.
At the onset of the 21st century, a number of far-sighted, state hunter-education administrators recognized that many of their residents were resorting to the Internet for their news, information, entertainment and education. These administrators submitted a proposal to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) to create a program for online delivery of hunter education. Read more