Whitetails are ubiquitous.
As discussed earlier, the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model describes the steps to become a hunter as a process that involves several theoretical stages. Because hunting is a complex recreation involving considerable knowledge and many different skills, it is not likely adopted during a single exposure. Numerous exposures and trials involving both hunting and hunting related activity will likely be required before a person becomes an independent, long-term hunter in the “continuation without support” stage.
It is critical for program planners, as well as program implementers, to design-in “next steps” into their programs so that participants can advance along the various stages. Some of these steps will repeat or review skills or knowledge previously presented, while other steps will involve completely new material. It will likely take numerous iterations for a person to become confident with their newly acquired knowledge and skills to be able to hunt independently.
In many situations, these steps can be provided by a different agency or organization. Creating cooperative partnerships is an effective way to share the workload, as well as the responsibility, for creating new hunters.
Creating next steps for participants to do as a large or small group also helps develop a social support network within the group. Developing small group activities with the class structure can help establish social networks early in the program. In many situations, encouraging and facilitating next steps outside of the program or between sessions can be worthwhile.
For example, assigning “homework” to a group of participants to complete will help establish or reinforce a social support network within the group as well as reinforce the knowledge and skills being taught. For example, assigning the task of planning the logistical needs for “deer camp” to several sub-groups of participants and having each group report on their recommendations during the next class session would accomplish both the logistical planning requirements as well as help improve the group’s social network. Another potential homework assignment could be to have groups of participants “scout” a piece of property using Google Earth and identify areas of interest to focus their on-the-ground-scouting efforts.
In most cases, participants will want to hunt again after they have hunted their first time. Providing information about other hunts, for deer or other species, is critical. Generally, the sooner a person hunts again after their first hunt, the more likely they will be to developing a self identity as a hunter and strengthening the fledgling social support mechanisms that they developed.
Do not overlook your state’s regulations booklet as a sources of information for additional hunting opportunities. Spending time to review seasons for other species, and providing additional material about the habits and habitats of these species is recommended. In addition, asking probing questions about their confidence in and perceived limitations to hunting different species can help focus discussion about what additional information or skills they may need to feel confident to continue hunting.
In addition, promoting other formal educational opportunities sponsored by partnering organizations as additional “next steps” will help encourage additional partnerships. However, care should be taken so that you do not create participants who are codependent on an agencies’ or organization’s events for participation. Encourage participants to independently learn and participate in new activities at every opportunity!
For many hunters, hunting is a life-style that defines who they are and involves year-round activities. This year round immersion in hunting related activities enhances their self identity and makes them more likely to become long-term, independent hunters.
These year round activities may not involve actual hunting, but they are supportive of a hunting life style. These activities include, but are not limited to:
- Attending hunting seminars, shows or expos
- Shopping for new equipment
- Shooting sessions at the range
- Reloading ammunition and “working up” new hunting loads
- Scouting new areas
- Contacting new landowners seeking permission to hunt
- Helping landowners with fieldwork or other chores
- Building or setting up stands; clearing shooting lanes
- Planting food plots or other habitat management work
- Sausage making or deer processing
- Fish/game pot-luck dinners
- Foraging for mushrooms or other wild foods
This list is provided as an example of types of activities that can support hunting during the off season. A similar list could be developed by brainstorming with the group during a class session to identify off seasons activities the group may be interested in doing. Having the group generate the list gives the group some ownership in it and some responsibility for organizing some of the activities.
All of these activities would be voluntary, and outside of your formal “program.” However, the more you can do to facilitate, or have the participants arrange on their own, the more likely the participants will establish strong social support systems, advance through the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, and become long-term, independent hunters.
Encouraging the group to create a virtual group via social media is also a powerful tool for encouraging the group to continue to support each other and devise ways to continue their hunting education.