The Three Rs of Conservation


R3 is a hot word that is thrown around in the hunting world. R3 is mentioned here and there. What does R3 stand for, and what are the impacts for the everyday sportsmen?

R3 is a catchy abbreviation for the three-step program aimed at saving hunting. I can feel the eye rolls from here. "Save Hunting"? Why do we need to save something like that? Well, the answer is simple. Funding. Hunting funds conservation. Ammo, guns, and gear are all subject to an excise tax that has generated billions of dollars in revenue used by the department of the interior to spend on conservation projects. This funding has an added potency when you realize that conservation funds are allocated by the number of license sales in the state. The more hunters buying licenses, the more money for conservation in that state. 

The 2021 duck stamp

R3 stands for; recruit, retain, and reactivate. In the following sections, we will explore what those tenets mean and how we can deliver on them.



Recruitment of new hunters is the most straightforward R to understand. If we want to stop the declining number of hunters, we need to get more people to hunt. States offer early youth seasons, and special opportunity hunts to encourage young people to hunt. The future of hunting America and the Plus one movement are both non-profits to recruit and educate new hunters. This push for recruitment has led to a soul-searching of what hunting means. For some, it's tradition. For others a way to eat locally. While there are no doubt generalizations as to who hunters are. The motivation to recruit new hunters means a group out there looks like you and hunts for the same reason, regardless of where you come from.

It's never too late to learn to hunt. Joel (left) experienced his first pig hunt at 27 


Retention of hunters is where there is the biggest struggle for state agencies. We can show people how to hunt. We can make their entrance into hunting easy, but the continuation of hunting into adulthood is a challenge. Keeping hunters in the field means more license purchases and more chances for them to be a mentor to new hunters. It's an ideal time to change up what we hunt and how we hunt it. If deer season lands in the busy season for work, try small game season. If the duck spots are becoming crowded on the weekends, try turkey hunting. We don't have to give up on hunting; we need to adapt.



Reactivation of hunters that have dropped out of hunting. Maybe this is a senior hunter who has hung up their boots or a person who has traded days in the tree stand for days in the little league soccer stands. The approach to reactivate hunters needs to be as diverse as recruitment and retention. If you hear "I used to hunt," you should press that. Not everyone will hunt again, but having a new friend to hunt with or educate can be as good a motivation as any to climb into your old hunting boots again.


A Call to Action

As sportsmen, we must be active in protecting our natural resources. Hunting IS conservation. Without hunters and fishermen, the American model of conservation falls apart. We all must take steps to grow the ranks of sportsmen. This means all three Rs. We are introducing new people to the outdoors, Keeping sportsmen engaged with the sport and issues in our community, last but certainly not least, motivating those who have hung up their gear to get back out in the field. By a concerted effort from us all, we can make deer camp look like a cross-section of our community. Our lands and waters are for everyone, and as such, it's up to us to make sure they are still here for our and everyone's children.

Multiple generations heading to the field.

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