By Steve Weisman
Throughout the country, there is a growing concern about the declining participation rates in outdoor recreational activities such as fishing and hunting. As a matter of fact, the numbers are pretty scary.
There is little doubt that our demographics and family dynamics are changing, so youngsters are not getting the opportunity to experience these outdoor experiences like past generations. At the same time, competing hobbies-yes cell phones and texting fall into this category-are taking away potential anglers and hunters.
As a result, the outdoor recreation community nationwide, including the Iowa DNR, has developed a plan that its leaders hope will increase participation in angling, hunting and the shooting sports. The overall plan is called the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (ORAM) and is based on over 50 years of research into how and why people and cultures choose certain hobbies and activities.
Also called R3, for recruitment, retention and reactivation, the goals of R3 are to create new participants in an outdoor activity and increase participation rates of current outdoor participants. So, it’s about bringing new people (young and old) into one of these outdoor activities, it’s about keeping people involved through the years and finally reactivation, which is bringing people back into the activity.
Certainly, youngsters are the future of all outdoor activities. County conservation boards, school districts and outdoor entities such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited are opening paths through local youth fishing programs, youth hunting days, the local middle and high school archery programs and the rapidly growing high school clay target program.
So, we have a start. However, the goal of R3 is to make this an ongoing opportunity that will be fun, social and rewarding. Oh, and they have nothing to do with texting!
A unique recruitment tool
When I was at the fall Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club meeting, I visited with Paul Daniels, a member of the Clay County Pheasants Forever organization. They invited women to be participants in a Ladies Pheasant Hunt in early November. Now, that is pretty cool.
According to Daniels, 16 gals participated in the event. Very few had ever fired a shotgun before, let alone gone pheasant hunting. So, the day began with a safety lesson and gun handling presentation from DNR Safety Officer, Marty Eby. This was followed by trap shooting for the gals to get comfortable handling their gun and to practice at moving targets.
Next, the ladies were divided into groups of four. Half the groups were taken to a field to hunt with dog handlers and some pointing dogs. We released additional birds in each field to increase their odds of running into some roosters. The other half of groups went to a pistol range we set up on the property and shot .22 pistols at multiple targets. Daniels says, “After they had practiced shooting at the targets, we had a shooting competition and the best shooter out of each group won a $25 gift card to No Limits Outdoors. “
After everyone had completed the pistol station and had a chance to hunt birds, we came in and gave them a bird cleaning demonstration of the three birds that were bagged. To end the day, organizers prepared several different pheasant dishes for the ladies to try. Daniels says, “I sent out a Survey Monkey after the event to get feedback for next year and the overwhelming response was positive from the event. This was all done by just asking around for ladies that would like to try this. Plus, we wanted to keep the number at 16 since this was our first time. It went so well that we are thinking of advertising this for next year.“
“Overall, it was a great event, adds Daniels, “and we hope that it helps us bring more women, kids, and families to the fields to hunt over the years to come.”
Pretty cool stuff, I would say! You know, it’s all about people reaching out to other people and having fun. Let’s make R3 a catchy and meaningful movement!