The state Department of Natural Resources is hoping to bolster the numbers of deer hunters in Wisconsin with a new program.
The program is called R3, which stands for recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters. It seeks to find new groups of people to get involved in hunting, as well as bringing back hunters who may have stopped hunting for some reason.
Hunting and shooting sports coordinator Keith Warnke says the department simply can’t rely on families continuing the hunting tradition in Wisconsin. “Current hunters, just as a demographic group, are just having essentially fewer children and grandchildren to get involved. It’s tough to continue down that path and think we’re going to stay above water.”
Warnke says the department has been seeing success in framing hunting as a sustainable source of food to people interested in conservation and sourcing what they eat. “And if we offer to teach adults how to do that, we find that they’ve really taken an interest in getting started doing it, but they definitely do need training.”
Warnke says the department is trying to figure out how best to cater to casual hunters who may not be involved in every deer hunt. “Figure out what kind of tactics, what kind of services, what kind of outreach we can provide for people who may not by every year, so we can retain them as customers.”
Current numbers show that while there’s about a million deer hunters in Wisconsin, only two-thirds of them buy a license every year. He says efforts are also underway to help bring back hunters who haven’t bought a license in a number of years. That can include reasons like aging and dissatisfaction with the hunt, or a loss of partners and friends to take part in the hunt.