Georgia R3 Initiative (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) is a cooperative effort led by Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division (GA DNR-WRD), Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), National Deer Association, and the Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International. The goals of this initiative are to 1) to increase participation in hunting and shooting sports as they relate to hunting and 2) to increase societal acceptance and understanding of hunting and shooting sports (Georgia Wildlife Federation, 2020).
GA DNR-WRD Programs focus on supporting shooting sport participation. Since 2003 National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) has engaged Georgia youth in archery during physical education class time. This benefits students as NASP has shown to improve concentration, motivation, engagement and behavior at school. This benefits wildlife conservation as it engages non-traditional audiences in the shooting sport industry. This engagement potentially recruits student participants for GA DNR-WRD supported Scholastic 3-D Archery Program and Scholastic Clay Target Program. Youth are encouraged to visit state parks for additional outdoor recreation and environmental learning.
College-aged youth are an excellent audience for hunter recruitment efforts. A large portion of college age youth report an interest in trying hunting regardless of familial ties to the activity. During this time, recreation levels peak and activities adopted often contribute to an individual’s identity as they progress through life. Additionally, individuals in this age category tend to have disposable income and autonomy over how they spend their time. This enables an interested party to participate the fullest extent generating hunters from non-traditional backgrounds that had no connection to the activity prior. Georgia R3 Initiative supports GWF’s Academics Afield. Programs are active at University of Georgia, Georgia Southern and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. The Academics Afield Program focuses on creating a collegiate hunting community. A paid student intern plans and organizes four hunts a year, identifies volunteer student instructors and student participants. This program structure builds social support networks encouraging life long adoption.
Many women have only been hunting with their male counterparts. Many are searching for a fellow sportswoman to learn from, grow with or inspire. Unfortunately, finding other women hunters is not an easy task-less than 10% of hunters in Georgia are female. The future of hunting is bright though. Studies show that populations of those who don’t hunt, but might be willing to, more closely reflect America’s general population. Nearly half of those interested in hunting are female. Researchers have identified that the greatest barrier for hunter recruitment is social support networks. These networks provide interest, trials, guidance and support. Different programs in Georgia aim to develop the networks and empower women to fish, hunt, shoot and participate in outdoor recreation.
The GA DNR-WRD supports educational programming offering hands-on workshops to women from a variety of backgrounds. Becoming an Outdoors-Woman and Beyond sessions are hosted at various locations in the state and allow participants to develop hunting, fishing, boating and other outdoor recreation skills, while also providing insight into the management of the natural resources of Georgia. Georgia R3 Initiative supports GWF’s Women’s Initiative. It aims to engage, empower and encourage one another in conservation through hunting, fishing, and shooting sports. Monthly “Fireside Chats” are held virtually to involve women in all communities and monthly events help develop and apply new skills. The Women’s Initiative creates a network of women with varying stages of outdoor recreation expertise to foster mentoring relationships leading to a deepened sense of community, increased stewardship for the environment, and ultimately more advocates for hunting and outdoor recreation.