by Mike Schoonveld
Renfro Productions is announcing a significant change to a popular program at this year’s 22nd Annual Indiana Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Expo. The Expo attracts exhibitors from across Indiana, the Midwest, the USA and around the world promoting programs, products and destinations geared to hunters and hunting in general with an emphasis on deer, turkey and waterfowl hunting.
The Expo attracts tens of thousands of attendees to see the exhibits, plan and learn from top hunters, guides and outfitters present at the show. During the Expo, scheduled for February 21 to 24, dozens of industry professionals will appear on stage conducting seminars to educate and inform show visitors about the equipment, tactics and locations they use each day or each season.
One perennially favorite session is a presentation called “Ask the Pros Hunting Seminar Series.” Sponsored by Big Tine, during this hour a panel of prominent individuals in the outdoor hunting industry will engage with the audience answering specific questions from the floor.
This year’s “Ask the Pros” panel will be on stage Saturday afternoon at 3 PM and Sunday at 1 PM but instead of their comments being general in nature, the session will be about “R3″ programs by agencies, organizations and industry partners. R3 is the abbreviation for Recruit, Retain and Reactivate.
In Indiana (and most other states) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures show hunting participation is on a downward trend. The latest data revealed there were 267 thousand hunters active in Indiana in 2018. Twenty years ago, there were over 300,000 and sixty years ago there were 600,000.
Things have changed since then. Most licensed hunters in Indiana in 1958 were after small game, rabbits, quail, pheasants and squirrels. Most hunters these days pursue deer, turkeys and waterfowl.
What hasn’t changed is game management efforts by the DNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and wildlife law enforcement efforts by Indiana Conservation Officers are funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. What hasn’t changed is the popularity of celebrity hunters and hunting shows, the popularity of hunting publications and online sites are dependent on a stable or increasing number of hunting enthusiasts. What hasn’t changed is the success of hunting-oriented businesses, hunting travel destinations, hunting gear retailers, as well as hunting guides and outfitters, will ultimately be affected by diminishing hunter numbers.
The “recruit” part of R3 are programs designed to encourage men, women and families to include and embrace hunting as a pastime or lifestyle. Individuals and families have many choices of recreational activities competing for attention and time. Panelists will inform and discuss what they are currently doing and solicit ideas for other programs to encourage people and families to sample opportunities with the hope they will develop a lasting passion.
Most hunters used to be recruited from hunting families. Recruitment now depends on identifying audiences from non-hunting families and providing initial experiences for men, women, youths and families for non-traditional reasons.
The “retain” part of R3 delves into the reasons people stop hunting and what can be done to keep them active and buying licenses. Panelists will discuss the reasons hunters become former hunters. This portion of the seminar could be an eye-opener to attendees when they see themselves in – or heading for – situations which might be leading them to sideline their interest in hunting.
“Retain” leads directly to the final portion of R3, “reactivate.” Panelists will detail information and marketing plans they as promoters, organizations and agencies are scheduling. In many instances, it’s life changes, including job choices, changing family situations or the normal aging process causing individuals to give up hunting temporarily or permanently. Do these changes have to diminish the role of hunting to a person or family?
All the panelists will emphasize R3 will never completely reverse current trends without individual effort. The audience will learn of the need and methods they can use at a personal level to include friends and family members to become hunters, to remain active in the sport or rediscover the challenge and enjoyment a hunting lifestyle can bring.
On stage for this session will be Melissa Bachman, producer and host of the TV show, Winchester Deadly Passion; Karin Holder, co-owner of the Raised Hunting series of TV productions featuring her and her family; Krysten McDaniel, an avid hunter and only the second woman to grace the cover of North American Whitetail Magazine; and Shauna Epeards, a bowhunter who has taken the Grand Slam of Turkeys. Also appearing will be Lindsey Stamm, an R3 Coordinator from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Clint Kowalik an R3 Angler Coordinator from the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. The panel moderator will be Bill Epeards, a championship bowhunter in his own right.
Anyone attending the Ford 65th Annual Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show or the 22nd Annual Indiana Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Expo on February 23rd or 24th are welcome to attend this program being held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Tickets are available at the door or online at www.IndySportShow.com.