Friend John Stallone hits the nail on the head with this piece on hunter recruitment.

John starts out stating, “I am very concerned about the direction the “Hunting Industry” is heading. Aside from the Hunter on Hunter hate that runs rampant in social media, there is heavy competition and a general lack of camaraderie in today’s hunting culture. As a result, the non-hunting community portrays us as toothless hillbilly running around the woods shooting anything we see, or blood-thirsty savages only concerned with the kill and the trophy.”. He goes on to state a number of contributing factors: selfishness, negativity in society, and a lack of unity in the hunting community.

I think the urbanization of society has resulted in people growing up not knowing where meat comes from; not knowing or understanding the circle of life; and having a romanticized view of nature. One needs to look no further than the election map to see a generalization of the differing values in this country, with cities voting one way, and rural areas voting another.

Hunting used to be taught in families, passed down from generation to generation. Now, the knowledge is waning, families are busy and there are too many other alternatives for kids out there.

Also, society has shifted focus from us being citizens to consumers. Citizens have an obligation to their fellow citizens; consumers have no obligation to other consumers. Now, it is “What’s in it for me?” This is more than evident on Social Media where hunters are woefully fragmented, bickering about nearly every topic that pops up. New hunters are blasted for asking questions. Novices are mocked for misconceptions or mistakes.

According to a survey completed in 2011 by the Fish & Wildlife Service there were 269,000 Hunters in Arizona. How many do you think gave back through wildlife conservation groups? Groups like Arizona Mule Deer, the Arizona Elk Society, Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Antelope Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and many other do amazing work in Arizona. They do habitat work, youth education, adult education, community outreach and more. How many hunters belong to one or more of these groups? 2000? 5000? 10,000? Not nearly enough. Consumers, not citizens…

Arizona Game and Fish knows the necessity of recruitment, retention and re-engagement (R3) efforts – they have a whole program dedicated to R3 – HAHWG

Hunters need to unite, plain and simple. We need to educate the public. We need to quit bickering. We need to quit being so selfish. We need to embrace newbies to the fold. We need to participate in the critter groups. We need to self-regulate, reporting the slobs and poachers among us. Anti-hunting groups are organized, united and well-funded. They are on the move and won’t stop.

John has a plan to help.

THE #HUNTERUP INITIATIVE:

What’s the solution to all this negativity? The solution to the decline in hunting participation?

I would like to start an initiative to right this ship, stop fighting amongst ourselves, and most importantly, work on hunter recruitment. Hunter Recruitment and Retention is an important issue for anyone concerned about wildlife management, conservation and the future of our hunting heritage.

If 5% of us were able to bring on one new hunter a year, in 5 years we would reach hunter participation numbers we once had in the 1980’s. I challenge every hunter to recruit one at least one hunter into hunting each year, work with and foster their new interest. Help them learn to shoot, take their first animal, prep it, cook it, and enjoy it with their families. Then help them go hunt again.

I challenge those TV shows, Podcast Hosts, Bloggers, and influencers to push the #hunterup initiative. I also challenge everyone year-round to not engage in hunter on hunter hate or arguments in public forums. If you feel strongly about a situation, respect your fellow hunter enough to contact that person directly in a private message. Take it off social media, show the world the strong unified, front of hunting.

I can already hear the whining… I know a lot of you are thinking to yourselves “I don’t want more competition in the woods”, “I already have a hard time finding a place to hunt, why do I want more people?” Sometimes it’s hard to see past our own wants and immediate needs and see the big picture. But I promise you, we will lose hunting rights and privileges if we fail to see the bigger picture. Or think about it like this, if you introduce a child into hunting, by the time he/she is an adult, it’s more than likely they won’t be direct competition for you anyway.

In the video below we discuss the benefits of taking a non-hunter and introducing them to hunting.

The inaugural launch of this initiative will be July First 2018 and each year in July we will have Hunter recruitment month with participants posting their pics and videos of their new hunting buddies with the hashtag #hunterup.