EDGEFIELD, S.C. — More than 1.5 million new or formerly lapsed hunters are hitting the woods thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation and its partners.
By NWTF chapters and volunteers working with state wildlife agencies and conservation partners across the country, the NWTF exceeded its Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative 10-year goal by recruiting and reactivating nearly 1,527,000 hunters three years ahead of schedule.
“A general decline in hunters since the 1980s has been a direct threat to a cherished outdoor lifestyle and a crucial funding source for conservation work in the United States,” NWTF CEO Becky Humphries said. “The NWTF recognized this trend early and was at the forefront of finding solutions to reverse the decline. Our efforts to help develop and implement hunter Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation programs along with our partners have made a tremendous impact, but we still have a long way to go to completely reverse the trend.”
NWTF chapters and volunteers took up the call and have supported these efforts by hosting mentored hunts, hunter education classes, learn-to-hunt clinics, wild game cooking sessions and a number of other events to attract lapsed hunters as well as new-to-hunting adults and youth to the outdoors.
Reducing barriers was also key. The Families Afield partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sportsmen’s Alliance works through policy makers and regulatory offices to increase opportunities and reduce barriers, such as age restrictions on young hunters and the creation of apprentice licenses that allow first-timers to experience hunting under the supervision of an experienced hunter before going through a hunter education class.
“The Save the Hunt. goal of 1.5 million hunters was part of a greater action by a large network of partners working hand-in-hand to boost hunter numbers, but we won’t stop there,” said Mandy Harling, NWTF director of Hunting Heritage Programs. “Even though we’ve reached and exceeded our goal, there is more work to do. With such a large force of partners working in concert, there’s no telling where this momentum will carry us.”
The NWTF already exceeded its goal of opening hunting access to 500,000 new acres by 2022. As of Sept. 1, the NWTF has opened up more than 626,000 acres to public hunting and recreational use.
“This is just one more example of how our chapters, volunteers and partners are focusing efforts for the benefit of wildlife, natural resources and the hunting lifestyle,” Humphries said. “Together, we will continue to capitalize on opportunities around the U.S. to open land to hunters, reducing an impediment that historically keeps people from hunting while providing new and veteran hunters places to go.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to conserve or enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.