HUNTERS CONNECT - A new platform for new hunters

Big Fin

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Over the last year we have been helping the International Hunters Education Association build a digital platform to communicate with new hunters. The premise of the idea is based on what I try to explain below.

We hear R3 a lot; recruit, retain, reactivate. Tons of money is being spent on these three efforts.

We do a good job of recruiting. We bring 650-700K new student into Hunter Education each year. That far outpaces the number of hunters leaving the ranks each year.

The downfall comes with retaining these new recruits. Depending on the state your survey, over half of hunter ed graduates may never buy a license. And in some states, 90% of them are out of hunting within five years. To spend so much time and effort, with so little long-term recruitment, is not acceptable.

The platform we have helped with is designed for the new hunter who has taken the online course, usually 30% of Hunter Education grads, with that percentage taking online courses growing each year. Those folks are mostly older, mostly come from a non-mentored environment, usually less rural, and have a lot of comfort absorbing information from digital platforms. That makes this group of people perfect for reaching with digital content.

The content is very basic. We who have grown up in a hunting culture take for granted the mass of important information we have acquired via osmosis. Just being raised in a hunting environment, going on trips as a youngster, hearing stories, have given us a lot of information that a new hunter has to gather from scratch. So, the old gray hairs like me will find much of this content to be too basic to retain our interest.

My experience, and that of most people I talk to, finds that we lose a lot of these non-mentored hunters due to lack of basic information. They have raised their hands and self-identified that they want to learn about hunting. Yet, we have not yet found ways to lower the hurdles for this increasing segment of the recruited hunter population.

Hunters Connect is an effort to do that. It won't solve all the problems, but it will hopefully give new hunters information that lowers some of the hurdles, especially new hunters coming through online hunter education and lacking a mentored situation.

Here is a link to a video with an overview.


I know many on here are already active in hunter education, some formally and some informally. If you know a new hunter who might benefit from this basic content I hope you would share. If you want to help build the momentum for this digital platform, you can subscribe to any of the Hunters Connect platforms below.

Website - https://huntered.com/

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDCcFMYiqO4LOruabbqVQJg

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/huntersconnect/

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/huntersconnect/


If you have content ideas for these new Hunter Ed grads, we would love to hear them. We have a long list, with a new video coming out every Monday morning. We would like to add to that list the information most helpful to these new online Hunter Education graduates.
 

TOGIEGOAT

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is it too lofty a goal to integrate into this a state based network of mentors available for potential mentees?

i can see many logistical, even legal, hurdles there. mentors having to be licensed or trained to some degree. maybe if it wasn't sanctioned, but developing a platform to enable communication for recent hunter ed graduates to have actual people to be there for questions, and even to take them on hunts if they so chooose
 

406LIFE

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is it too lofty a goal to integrate into this a state based network of mentors available for potential mentees?
There's an app for that: Powderhook. Lots of mentors available there.

Connecting mentors with mentees, or mentees with mentors, seems to be the challenge. How do you connect individuals in meaningful ways, that build the lasting relationship needed to develop hunting skills over multiple seasons, and then have the mentee eventually become the mentor? Within a family unit, its all organic, Grandfather taught dad, dad teaches son. For AOH, though, it is difficult to break down the barrier to get into someone's circle; and with different styles and personalities, finding a connection is difficult. Two thoughts I have had in connecting the two groups:

1. Get state agencies involved at the hunter ed level. When an AOH comes through, make the mentoring part of the course, and help them connect right there.
2. Find a way for the various NGOs and independents to be able to work together. A onestop shop for a mentee to find resources, and the same for a mentor.

Also, FWIW, I mentor a handful of new hunters each year. Every one of them has come to be via a personal connection; Bob knew Fred wanted to hunt, so he gave him my number. I think its very important to remember how relational and personal hunting is; at some point that is when the deepest learning happens. Moving new hunters from computer screens to fieldtime with an experienced hunter should be an end goal.
 

Mtnhuntr

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Great idea. Do you anticipate this will exclusively be a digital platform to refer individuals to, or are you also anticipating other uses, such as a local events, etc...
 

kenton

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Doing my podcast, I've learned three truths about new hunters.
1: It starts from an invitation. Whether its a kid invited by family or an adult invited by friend, neighbor, co-worker, ect. there is always an invitation.
2: The invitation almost always is initiated by the mentor. Its easier to accept an invitation to go hunting than to ask to be taken hunting and feeling like a burden.
3: Its difficult for an adult to take the in class version of Hunter's Ed. Nobody would be comfortable being the only adult in a class full of children which is a real possibility. That's why the online version becomes more popular every year even though more can be learned from the in class version. We need adult hunter's ed classes.

I have no doubt that these videos will be very well done and informative but the trick is not to start basic, but rather stay basic. Keeping the info basic is easily the hardest part for me and I think video will be no different. I recorded an episode with a guy that I taught and he remembers being amazed at how you even walk different while hunting. I never thought to tell him that but that is how basic the info was that he needed. Now he has a mentee, that im recording an interview with this week and Im curious to see what questions he asked that I never would have thought to give answers to. My point is to find out what new hunters need to know, not just what experienced hunters think that new hunters need to know.

Im very excited to see this content and I applaud everyone involved.
 

shb

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Respectfully -


Retention requires opportunities to hunt.

There are more hunters than tags, and land to hunt on right now, and it gets worse every year.


Us geezers are here now because there was enough opportunity to absorb our clumsy, awkward beginnings.


Don't yell at me right now, drive around and think about it for a few days.
 

dirtclod Az.

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This sounds like a great opportunity for some of us HT members to help others
and share knowledge where needed.Looking forward to watching Hunters Connect
grow and prosper.Good on you Randy for your part in helping bring this medium to fruition. :cool:
 

thatsjet

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As a new Hunter I'm excited for this new content but to be honest I've already consumed a ton of basic information. Contrary to @kenton thoughts, I'm not going on my first hunt this year because of an invitation, I'm going in spite of one. I've been asking friends and acquaintances to take me hunting for the past decade. I'm finally going on my own simply because I'm tired of waiting. Here's a list of information I really want to learn that I expect I'll only get from being in the field:
- where do deer (elk, antelope, sheep, etc.) live at various points of the year and why?
- what makes them move?
- what does each species eat, prefer, not like?
- how do each respond to the presence of predators?
- all about wind and thermals at each part of the day, in canyons, on grasslands, on mountainsides
- ...

Maybe this is all basic, but I feel like I know how to choose a rifle caliber ( based on ballistics: internal, external, and terminal), and how to navigate buying a tag and reading regs. What I'm really looking for is how to understand the needs of game so that I can know why they are where I find them 😉
 

thatsjet

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As a new Hunter I'm excited for this new content but to be honest I've already consumed a ton of basic information. Contrary to @kenton thoughts, I'm not going on my first hunt this year because of an invitation, I'm going in spite of one. I've been asking friends and acquaintances to take me hunting for the past decade. I'm finally going on my own simply because I'm tired of waiting. Here's a list of information I really want to learn that I expect I'll only get from being in the field:
- where do deer (elk, antelope, sheep, etc.) live at various points of the year and why?
- what makes them move?
- what does each species eat, prefer, not like?
- how do each respond to the presence of predators?
- all about wind and thermals at each part of the day, in canyons, on grasslands, on mountainsides
- ...

Maybe this is all basic, but I feel like I know how to choose a rifle caliber ( based on ballistics: internal, external, and terminal), and how to navigate buying a tag and reading regs. What I'm really looking for is how to understand the needs of game so that I can know why they are where I find them 😉
Also, FWIW I've been a member of RMEF for three years now... just to learn. And, the mention of a geezer like me (48) sitting in a classroom full of kids is exactly why I never did Hunter Ed
 

Chris76

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I think just by posting on sites like this one will help mentors and new hunters out a lot with information. Maybe talk to hunttalk and see if we can have a thread where we can sign up to help kids that have nobody to take them and teach them the sport of hunting. I would diff sign up and help any kid that needs help in my area. Your doing a great job. Social media does wonders these days and ages. Just keep posting and up dating everyone that reads all the post like I do. A lot of great people on this site that have some very good advise. Thank you for keeping the sport alive and bringing new people to hunting.
 

Cornell2012

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I have thought about this quite a bit, so I apologize for the lengthy post.

Presenting the basic information in a way that is easy to understand and is easily accessible is a huge step forward. I'm happy to see this project gaining some traction.

I think this point that Kenton brought up is both a major barrier to entry, as well as something that is completely fixable.
3: Its difficult for an adult to take the in class version of Hunter's Ed. Nobody would be comfortable being the only adult in a class full of children which is a real possibility. That's why the online version becomes more popular every year even though more can be learned from the in class version. We need adult hunter's ed classes.
We took my girlfriend duck hunting a few years ago. She did Hunter's Ed online. I can say with about 99% certainty that she would not have taken HE if it would have required her to do multiple evenings (or even an intensive weekend) of in-person sessions, especially if she was surrounded by a horde of 11 year olds. Even the online course was clearly geared at kids in the 10-13 year age range. It got the job done, but it was far from ideal. If you are 35 and just getting in to hunting, is this going to make you feel like you are hopelessly behind everyone else out in the field? Is it going to make you feel welcomed to the community? Even framing this as something that is aimed at adults would help make newcomers feel less like outsiders.

Next, onto the subject of mentors.
There's an app for that: Powderhook. Lots of mentors available there. Connecting mentors with mentees, or mentees with mentors, seems to be the challenge. How do you connect individuals in meaningful ways, that build the lasting relationship needed to develop hunting skills over multiple seasons, and then have the mentee eventually become the mentor?
I appreciate what powderhook is trying to do, and I don't want to discount the work that mentors put in to bringing new hunters along. For some subset of new hunters, I think it works great. However, I feel that we're missing a connection with another sizable chunk of potential hunters. I think as a group we've fallen prey to survivorship bias. We keep doing the same things because that is how we got into the sport (family, friend, etc. mentored us) but that isn't effective for some people. Here's the hot take on this point: we need to start talking about ways to get groups of new adult hunters together and figuring it out for themselves.
The 1 mentor to a handful of mentees approach just rubs some people the wrong way. They don't want to be instructed to - they want to experiment and learn for themselves. At the same time, getting started in hunting is not easy - regulations are fragmented by state and each unit has their own quirks. It requires a fairly substantial investment in gear. It requires being in shape. For these people that are not a good fit for a mentor relationship, having a group of comrades of a similar experience level gives them a safe space where they can learn, and that learning helps keep them interested. Think of it kind of like the BHA Hike to Hunt challenge. Hiking, say, 100 miles in a month might be a daunting challenge, but you are more likely to complete it when you have a supportive community of other hikers. If you were on your own, sometimes it is harder to gain the motivation to go out to the trailhead.

From a more logistical standpoint, the mentor model does not scale well - sourcing mentors is a problem. @thatsjet hit on this talking about eventually tiring of waiting for someone to take him hunting. The powderhook app claims they have around 2k mentors. When you mentor someone, let's say you stay in contact with them for 2 years on average before they "leave the nest." (For simplicity, just imagine 1/3 of them figure it out in 1 year, 1/3 in 2 years, and the remaining 1/3 in 3 years). We'll go with an estimate of 700k Hunter's Ed students each year. I'll ballpark that maybe 2/3 or so of them have a mentor already. With some rounding (and for simplicity) we'll say that leaves 200k new students without a mentor. If each of those students were to go to powderhook to find a mentor, then each mentor would have, on average, 200 people they are mentoring each year. That seems unreasonable.
So, how many mentors would we need to keep up with the 200k students each year? Let's assume each mentor can handle 10 mentees at a time. There are 400k students on average who are looking for mentors (200k per year x 2 year average mentor need). Under these assumptions, we'd need 40k mentors, ways to connect them with mentees, and preferably some sort of vetting process to make sure the mentors are behaving ethically.

Sorry again for the long post. I've got some more thoughts tumbling around in my head, but haven't quite figured out how to articulate them yet.

TL;DR: 1) I'm excited for Hunter's Connect. 2) Current Hunter's Ed programs need to adjust for an adult audience. 3) While I think mentoring works for some people, I think we can be more successful at retaining new Hunter's Ed graduates by expanding our strategies.
 

kylemcintyre67

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Something else to consider if you are trying to help the older urban based new hunter is basic land nav skills. Things like Onx and having a Garmin are helpful, but a lot of folks are intimidated by navigating even small eastern WMAs. I was fortunate enough that land nav was a primary skill for my job so coming into hunting I wasn't intimidated by that part. Having taught land nav I can tell you there are a lot of folks who have no idea how to get anywhere even in urban environments they grew up in.
 

neffa3

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There are days when I've already thrown in the towel. There's too many people and too little land/animals/opportunity for hunting to be a long term viable activity for the masses. so why bother. We already don't have any real political clout. One of the two parties wants to reduce our opportunity (through privatization and environmental degradation) and the other wants to reduce our efficacy (or eliminate the actively all together).
 

thatsjet

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There are days when I've already thrown in the towel. There's too many people and too little land/animals/opportunity for hunting to be a long term viable activity for the masses. so why bother. We already don't have any real political clout. One of the two parties wants to reduce our opportunity (through privatization and environmental degradation) and the other wants to reduce our efficacy (or eliminate the actively all together).
Perhaps the answer is a campaign of conservation opportunities for the new hunter? I myself started supporting RMEF years ago because of their efforts in conservation. I think there is probably an opportunity to teach more about conservation, even predator hunts that support the balance of the ecosystem that new hunters might use as a way to get started in hunting. Personally, I hadn't thought much about that until I spoke with the wildlife biologist that studies the unit I drew. He happened to mention the reduced herd size and pressure from predators and was shocked when I asked "what can I do to help?" His answer: buy a cougar tag, and hunt coyote/cougar on your scouting trips. Simple answer, but not one I had thought of until then. Guess what I did? I bought a cougar tag and caller. I'll be throwing down some wounded rabbit when I hike the canyons prior to my hunt.
 

VikingsGuy

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Maybe this is all basic, but I feel like I know how to choose a rifle caliber ( based on ballistics: internal, external, and terminal), and how to navigate buying a tag and reading regs. What I'm really looking for is how to understand the needs of game so that I can know why they are where I find them 😉
Yup, learning to be a good hunter is harder than being a good shooter. And low land availability and limited tags makes practicing hunting more challenging (and time limited) than practicing shooting. But folks have to learn both. My wish is for new hunters to invest some time to get comfortable with shooting and carrying a gun safely before they worry too much about where the elk are. Get comfortable and accurate with a .22LR, then go hunt some squirrels, get comfortable being in the woods or prairie or mountains - burn through some boot leather - camp out of a backpack, then get comfortable with a versatile low recoiled center fire like a .243, 6.5manbun or 7mmHT, then try for white tail deer, mule deer or a elk cow cull hunt, and only then worry about getting a 300winmag and drawing a bull elk tag.

I understand that in an instant gratification world this process will not be very exciting for many, but for those who do “grow” their way into hunting I would predict a higher retention rate than for the guy that buys a new rifle, hits the range a few times and then buys an outfitted elk hunt for his first hunt. I’ve seen it a lot with pheasant hunting in SD, buy a gun, go with the buddies, shoot a few birds, lose interest, sell the gun a local gun shop.
 
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VikingsGuy

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There are days when I've already thrown in the towel. There's too many people and too little land/animals/opportunity for hunting to be a long term viable activity for the masses. so why bother. We already don't have any real political clout. One of the two parties wants to reduce our opportunity (through privatization and environmental degradation) and the other wants to reduce our efficacy (or eliminate the actively all together).
And then there are days when we suck it up and move forward with a little optimism and sense of community.

Not being critical, I have moments of the same frustration you lay out, I am just extending the thought to I hope where we can all end up.
 

kenton

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Contrary to @kenton thoughts, I'm not going on my first hunt this year because of an invitation, I'm going in spite of one. I've been asking friends and acquaintances to take me hunting for the past decade. I'm finally going on my own simply because I'm tired of waiting.
That's awesome, I love hearing about someone trying without being intimidated by doing it alone. But I think you are the exception, not the rule.



I didn't post this yesterday because I wanted to choose my words more carefully than normal. Nothing negative against Hunters Connect because this info is badly needed but I have to disagree with Randy when he says we do a good job of recruiting. Not because we don't try to get new people involved or don't present hunting in a good light or anything like that, but I think it has to do with how we count "new hunters". I feel that we don't properly count "new hunters" and that has caused the R3 initiative to be a little misguided. Well intentioned, but misguided. Children taking hunter's ed and starting to hunt are not "new hunters" they are "potential hunters". Technically they are hunting and Im certainly not minimizing the effect that can have on them but hunter numbers are only important if they reflect hunter behavior. A youth hunter doesn't have the opportunity to spend money on hunting, to vote, to decide to hunt on a day when nobody takes them. Until they can make these decisions, we simply can't count them as hunters; they are potential hunters.

If you're willing to consider this thought, think about what that really means for recruitment. Where does a true hunter number increase come from? Its from getting adults involved. Child recruitment is a waste (I wish I could think of a better word) when it comes to recruiting effort and expense. Im not saying that programs to get kids started outdoors or help them along their hunting journey are bad, but when we talk strictly hunter recruitment its getting adults to be new hunters. So while I started this rant saying that I disagree with Randy, I will end it by saying that I absolutely agree that getting tips, tricks, skills, info, content, ect to new hunters is vitally important.

PS I hope that made sense.
 

VikingsGuy

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That's awesome, I love hearing about someone trying without being intimidated by doing it alone. But I think you are the exception, not the rule.



I didn't post this yesterday because I wanted to choose my words more carefully than normal. Nothing negative against Hunters Connect because this info is badly needed but I have to disagree with Randy when he says we do a good job of recruiting. Not because we don't try to get new people involved or don't present hunting in a good light or anything like that, but I think it has to do with how we count "new hunters". I feel that we don't properly count "new hunters" and that has caused the R3 initiative to be a little misguided. Well intentioned, but misguided. Children taking hunter's ed and starting to hunt are not "new hunters" they are "potential hunters". Technically they are hunting and Im certainly not minimizing the effect that can have on them but hunter numbers are only important if they reflect hunter behavior. A youth hunter doesn't have the opportunity to spend money on hunting, to vote, to decide to hunt on a day when nobody takes them. Until they can make these decisions, we simply can't count them as hunters; they are potential hunters.

If you're willing to consider this thought, think about what that really means for recruitment. Where does a true hunter number increase come from? Its from getting adults involved. Child recruitment is a waste (I wish I could think of a better word) when it comes to recruiting effort and expense. Im not saying that programs to get kids started outdoors or help them along their hunting journey are bad, but when we talk strictly hunter recruitment its getting adults to be new hunters. So while I started this rant saying that I disagree with Randy, I will end it by saying that I absolutely agree that getting tips, tricks, skills, info, content, ect to new hunters is vitally important.

PS I hope that made sense.
I have to disagree. My guess is prior father/son, father/daughter, grandfather/uncle/etc/child exposure to hunting has the single highest correlation to life long hunting and the advocacy and activities that follow. Sure it take longer for that seed to grow vs grabbing some 35 year old off the street, but that family bond around the outdoors is much more powerful and longstanding than an individual’s personal interest of the moment.

But in the end, I do not think of it as an A OR B question. It is an A AND B question. We need both. We need to help onboard adult onset outdoorsman/woman while still promoting youth outdoor activities. And I use the term outdoors purposefully, I find that a person who loves fishing or camping or hiking is more likely to also see the joy of archery or rifle hunting. Some may go from paved parking lot to great hunter, but many take a more meandering journey that began with a general love for engaging the outdoors.
 
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