NEWTOWN, Conn. — Nine state wildlife agencies and one regional organization have been awarded $480,552 in grants by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to fund programs that will work to expand hunting opportunities for all ages.
Since NSSF began the Hunting Heritage Partnership grant program nine years ago, more than $4.3 million has been provided via 109 grants to 38 state agencies and one regional agency covering all Western states. “These grants support sorely needed programs that might never have gotten off the ground because agencies are so strapped for funding,” said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. “Hunting Heritage Partnership grants are making a difference. After decades of decline, hunting license sales have stabilized, and in 2009 thirty states reported increases in license sales.”
Notable among this year’s awards are Kentucky earning its first grant and Florida receiving funding for two projects. Three new grants will have an effect on multiple states. The Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies received funding for a programs-evaluation project that will benefit all states in its region. Two proposals–Virginia’s and Georgia’s–will focus on research related to apprentice hunters that will benefit five Southeastern states. “We encouraged submission of these broader plans to encourage states to work together on recruitment-and-retention issues they are all dealing with,” said Melissa Schilling, NSSF’s recruitment and retention manager. “We have high hopes for this approach.”
NSSF developed the Hunting Heritage Partnership grant program to respond to significant challenges that hunters face in an increasingly urbanized and mobile society. Helping hunters locate land on which to hunt and to easily access state hunting information plus encouraging newcomers to get started and then continue hunting are issues state agencies are grappling with nationwide.
This year’s 11 grant recipients are as follows:
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission–$46,560
Project: The agency plans to evaluate its apprentice hunting license program to identify trends and then use an integrated marketing approach to motivate apprentices to complete a hunter-education course and purchase a hunting license.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission–$16,992
Project: The agency plans to increase the amount of hunting activity with current and lapsed hunters by using email, social media and Internet-distributed public service announcements promoting public lands and quota- hunt opportunities. The goal is to reach more hunters with these less-expensive, new-media strategies.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources–$55,000
Project: This multi-state project with Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky will assess the best ways to encourage and assist hunter-education graduates to become regular hunters and license purchasers. The project will focus on using data combined with hunter education surveys to develop “next step” guidance for hunter-education graduates.
Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Restoration–$75,000
Project: A comprehensive advertising promotion to increase hunting participation will focus on electronic outreach to males in their 20s and 30s. A promotion related to apprentice-hunter opportunities will include “next steps” to creating lifelong hunters. In addition, the agency will launch an effort to expand partnerships with shooting ranges.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources–$39,000
Project: Mentored youth hunts will be offered in each region of the state to provide a positive hunting experience and allow youth to interact with wildlife managers and conservation officers. The importance of mentoring will be impressed on parents, relatives and guardians. The goal is to increase the number of youth who annually purchase a hunting license and to develop lifelong hunters.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources–$25,000
Project: The agency’s Mi-Hunt public hunting interactive website will be enhanced to deliver quality information on nine million acres of land open to public hunting. Features include new data on vegetation and game species and more detailed maps of habitat. At the same time, the agency will advertise Mi-HUNT on social media sites.
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation–$40,000
Project: The agency plans to certify 4,000 to 5,000 students via teacher-led, in-school hunter education courses and recruit up to 1,000 students to participate in hunting.
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife–$25,000
Project: The agency plans to train adults from groups such as the Boy Scouts, 4-H and Outdoor Schools to become certified hunter-education instructors and incorporate hunter education into their group’s activities.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources–$38,000
Project: The agency will utilize its email database to mount an electronic media campaign to increase hunting license sales and highlight regional hunting opportunities. The agency hopes to reactivate lapsed hunters and encourage active license holders to hunt more. Secondary efforts focus on recruiting new hunters through Facebook.
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries–$75,000
Project: This multiple-state project includes Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina and will use research to determine apprentice hunting license holders’ motivations for obtaining a first-time license, their expectations related to hunting and their satisfaction with their hunting experiences. Such information can be used to encourage apprentice license holders to become regular hunters.
Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies–$45,000
Project: The purpose is to develop tools that state agency members of this regional organization can use to evaluate recruitment-and-retention programs so that project coordinators are provided important feedback and assessments.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.
NSSF is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011. Learn about the Foundation’s history at www.nssf.org/50.