Reviews of past efforts reveal a handful of critical errors that often prevent programs from achieving success in creating new hunters:
Cover all the bases
Probably the most important reason programs aren't successful at creating new hunters is that they do not address all of the steps in the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model. Most programs provide the initial “trial” experience and then stop, or provide the same trial experience to returning participants. Programs should consciously design in and provide additional experiences and “next steps” for participants. These activities need not be hunting activities, per se, but can be trips to the shooting range, scouting or other hunting-related activities. Providing opportunities for long-term mentoring and social support is also important.
Targeting new hunters
The second shortfall programs often experience is they recruiting (but novice) hunters into their programs -- people who likely were going to become hunters with or without the program. Providing additional experiences and “next steps” is important for all participants. These activities should provide “continuation with support” activities that sequentially and systematically provide both advanced skills and knowledge, as well as advanced hunting experiences for novice hunters. However, be aware that many programs that provide “advanced activities” fall into the “retention” side of the adoption model but are designed for already avid hunters. These programs may play an important role in producing hunters, but the hunters they produce are likely from hunting families who would probably hunt anyway. As a result, they are not producing truly “new” hunters.
It is important to remember that truly new hunters have little or no knowledge or skills, nor social support regarding hunting. They may have some general outdoor skills that can be transferred, but they do not have the basic knowledge or skills that we often take for granted when designing how-to-hunt courses. Include a member of your actual target group on your planning team to help you establish their baseline knowledge/experience/comfort level, so you can design a more effective course
The third shortfall is lack of “participant feedback” in the program’s design or implementation. For additional information, see the Participant feedback and measuring success section. Participant feedback is needed to improve programs and to “prove” programs. Ideally, this entails pre, post and follow-up feedback, as well as opportunities for participants to ask questions during the program. The long-term, follow-up feedback help prove programs, while pre and post-event feedback is used in program improvement.
In many situations, content experts are recruited as instructors. Be sure information they provide is geared toward beginners, not more advanced audiences. Involve representatives of the target audience in program planning so instructors understand the level and type of information the target audience needs. In addition, provide specific opportunities for participants to ask questions to assess their “place” in the Adoption Model and what they need to progress. See Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model and Using “results chains” and understanding your program's "theory of change" for additional information on incorporating these aspects into planning your program.
And lastly, most programs do not consciously incorporate or develop social support systems or self-identity as an integral part of the program. This may be challenging, but additional social support systems will likely be critical for successful programs. See Importance of creating “social support” section for additional information.