Hunting and hunting-rights advocates like me are always on alert for positive news in the press. Sometimes it can be hard to find. A recent news article from News Channel 9 out of Chattanooga, Tenn., proved to be one of those positives. It led to an enlightening study on the current state of the hunter participation numbers that have been in decline in the United States since the mid 1980s.
So what changed? Technology and the Internet have upended marketing strategies for everything from politics to yard sales. As that NRAHLF.org article I mentioned earlier reported, GADNR now has a social media coordinator, marketing and communications manager and a winning strategy to increase hunter engagement and retention. I spoke with GADNR’s Jenifer Wisniewski, the current marketing and communications manager and subject of the News Channel 9 article. She explained how she will take her winning formula from Georgia to Tennessee.
Wisniewski explains that social media marketing and partnerships with organizations using the R3 approach—recruitment, retention, reactivation—has been the most effective. Today it is an integral part of nearly every hunting organization. R3 has had a great year in 2018. In addition to continuing to increase hunter participation, The Council to Advise Hunting and Shooting Sports hosted what was billed as the first national R3 symposium in Nebraska.
Furthermore, Wisniewski cites like-minded hunting and wildlife conservation partner organizations as being pivotal to GADNR’s successful R3 endeavors. With national coordination and education, the trend of increasing participation is not limited to hunting as the USFWS reports significant increases in other outdoor related activities nationally. This includes a 20 percent increase in wildlife watching and a 10 percent increase in fishing in some regions. GADNR reports fishing enjoying as high as a 20 percent increase as licensing rose from 1 million to 1.2 million.
Georgia also has been active in the protection of hunters’ and landowners’ rights. In 2006, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and statewide NRA members and other sportsmen were instrumental in passing Amendment 2—the Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment—to Georgia’s constitution. In 2009, the state passed HB529, which protects landowners who allow hunting on their property, absolving them of liability in case of a hunting accident.
The GADNR has also embraced technology to ease access to information and licensing. Smart phone apps and a comprehensive website have taken over where license agents and regulations booklets left off. Now you can buy licenses, report harvests and have every state hunting regulation at your fingertips. Hunting maps and area-specific regulations are easy to find—especially helpful in areas with convoluted boundaries or special regulations.
In moving forward, it is refreshing to note that one little story can lead to a much better outlook on an otherwise grim reality. Social media and national coordination have turned the tide in some states with increased hunter participation. I’d like to congratulate Tennessee on its new hire and wish it much success.