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September 23, 2020

Recruiting New Hunters by Utilizing the Three “I’s”

By Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Research and Market Development

By the end of 2020, it is estimated that eight million new firearm owners will have joined the ranks of existing gun owners in America. No matter the reason for their purchase, these first-timers need support from experienced gun owners.

Recent NSSF® research shows that millions of these new gun owners, and future gun owners as well, have expressed a sharp interest in learning how to hunt, but they need several things to get started. Key among them are the three “I’s”: information, invitation and incentive.

The Information

New gun owners are hungry for “how-to” content that teaches the basics of firearm ownership and hunting. Be sure to provide them with information about their primary concern for firearm safety and where they can find training and learn about laws and regulations for their state and community.

For those wanting to learn how to hunt, NSSF has a wealth of knowledge available at Hunter education courses, for instance, both online and in-person, are great resources for the next generation of hunters. For hunters who may have taken a few years away from the woods, NRA’s Hunters Leadership Forum offers a free Experienced Hunter Education course that serves as a refresher. State wildlife agencies are another terrific resource for information you can share with people new to firearms and excited about learning to hunt.

The Invitation

Research shows that most folks who have yet to try hunting will not try it alone. When asked what would motivate them to give hunting a try, the No. 1 response is “I’d go if someone asked me to.”

If you are an active hunter and want to see our hunting traditions continue, you need to do your part in bringing in the next generation of hunters. Don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers or neighbors to join you, as you will most likely find willing participants. However, before offering that invitation, know that teaching someone to hunt is a commitment, not just a one-time event. You didn’t learn all you needed to know about hunting overnight, and neither will they. The reward for your commitment? Many mentors say it’s simply the joy of seeing the excitement displayed by new hunters in the field.

What if your newcomer is ready to go afield but has not yet taken the required hunter education course? Most states offer apprentice hunting licenses that allow a person to forgo hunter education so long as they go afield with an experienced mentor. Many hunting preserves, such as those for upland birds, often do not require a hunting license, and that makes them a great option to take someone afield for their first harvest.

The Incentive

New research from the Wildlife Management Institute and Southwick Associates reveals that many newcomers are not as motivated by material incentives as much as they are by their desire to acquire their own food and learn an important skill. Just the experience of their first hunt, we’ve seen, is incentive enough for many to take their first steps toward becoming hunters. While material incentives such as products or contests are proven to reinforce existing good behavior for current hunters who have been mentors or have an interest in bringing in the next generation of hunters, the research found that the strongest motivation for active hunters to reach out and teach someone how to hunt is being asked to do so by someone they respect.

The Experiment

NSSF tested these three “I’s” during an internal +ONESM Learn to Hunt opportunity for its staff, and the results were eye-opening. Staff at NSSF’s headquarters in Newtown, Connecticut, were asked if they’d like to learn to hunt. Surprisingly, approximately 20 percent of the staff responded in the affirmative. They were provided a personal hunter education course which combined online and onsite safety training and, after passing the test at the end, were invited to go afield on a free upland hunt. Please view this brief video to see the results of NSSF’s +ONE experiment with new hunters. Also, see what happens when Ruger and Sig Sauer asked their staff if they’d like to learn to hunt.

Whether you are in a position to invite one person or coordinate a staff event like ours, NSSF challenges you to do your part in recruiting the next generation of hunters. Learn more about NSSF’s +ONE initiative here and reach out to NSSF for additional information on how you can make this process a success.

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