White Oak Mountain Ranger: Retain, Recruit And Reactivate = R3

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hunkered down between some serious storm fronts pushes me to the World Wide Web (WWW), especially since the guy that delivers the local fish wrap apparently decided not to run the paper route this morning.


Today there are three pieces worth reading on the www. One is from the boys at MeatEater inviting us to take a look into the widespread and well-funded movement seeking to recruit new hunters, retain hunters that are currently in it, and get those who have quit hunting back in the woods.

Call the movement R3.


The MeatEater thought process is that the R3 movement is probably responsible for crowds of hunters, where none were known to exist in the past. The R3 movement seems to be predicated on dubious statistics, widely believed by many conservation non-profits, motivating these organizations to present us and the Wall Street Journal reporters with the potential catastrophic decline in numbers of hunters and the impending collapse of hunting as a tradition in the US of A.


Fewer hunters mean fewer conservation minded voters, resulting in a wave of diminishing funds from lost tax revenue from bows, guns and ammo sales through the Pittman-Robertson Act. The article states that even state and federal wildlife agencies are on board with the R3 movement.


The MeatEater’s also state that last year the movement successfully lobbied Congress to modify the Pittman-Robertson Act so that hunter-generated excise taxes once earmarked for conservation and public access can now be reallocated to hunter recruitment.


That particular Congressional reallocation nugget got my attention.


After shredding the accuracy of a recent edition of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Hunter Participation Survey, basically ripping holes in the concept of the poll, One of the Outdoor Life editorial staff seemed to agree that the stats were about as good as any presidential poll concerning those that included Hillary’s chances at being Commander in Chief.


Apparently the MeatEater stepped on the Outdoor Life editor’s new penny loafers.


The Outdoor Life boys loaded up four editors with 140 plus years of hunting experience to fire a series of broadsides designed to blow the MeatEater boys back in their fox-holes.


The magazine editors had a wide ranging list of reasons why crowds are a good thing and why we deserve more hunters.


A particular problematic logic nugget from one editor was to take issue with private versus public land hunting by saying that outdoor content writers like Newberg and the MeatEater praise hunting on public land. The Outdoor Life editor’s comment was that the platforms that celebrate public land hunting think that; “hunting on public land is more praise-worthy than hunting on private land.”


That’s about the time I went for the aiming fluid.


The Outdoor editors titled the broadside “MeatEater Misses the Point in Its Case Against Hunter Recruitment” story.


Maybe both camps missed some points!


If truth was even possible, we probably would know about how many feral hogs are terrorizing North America before we actually know how many hunters are coming or going.


I think most public land hunters will universally agree that we don’t have adequately maintained public land to hunt in order to keep the crowds to a bearable minimum.


It doesn’t appear to me that anyone should try to actually praise public land hunting as much as the large number of hunters in this country are in the position that public land hunting is about all the majority of us can actually afford.


The whole public land hunting media craze appears to me to be driven by a logic that comes somewhere from a place like this; “You don’t have to pay through the nose to hunt if you just pay attention to the boundary lines so you can stay out of jail when you want to.”


And to add insult to injury; the R3 machine lobbied congress to divert funds from buying public land so they could recruit more crowds!


I need to be careful here, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong because I’m kind of spitballing here, but let’s take a quick look at all of the new public lands available to hunters in our part of the state. I don’t know how much Pittman-Robertson funds TWRA captures and I don’t know how much of that is actually spent on purchasing new public access in East Tennessee but it would be interesting to find out where that money goes and how much of it goes for NEW public hunting access around here.


If you’ve seen new public land around here that TWRA purchased;  I’d appreciate it if you let me know if it is crowded yet.


I recently asked a TWRA representative (who requested anonymity) why the eastern part of the state wasn’t getting any new public hunting property and the answer was telling. TWRA was not willing to buy property around here due to the price. Any CHEAP land to be found is on the western side of the state. It was a “bang for the buck” kind of thing and it wasn’t apparently a “need“ kind of issue with TWRA. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the figures on TWRA expenditures for new public land in the East during the last 10 years?


That conversation was before Congress was lobbied to relocate tax dollars to recruit more hunters.


If you buy the statistics that fewer licenses are a decent indicator of the need for a machine like R3, maybe there are other factors to consider.


Maybe some losses are from the economy and resulting unemployment, the cost of living/inflation, the price of gas, stagnant wage increases, and good old middle class financial nightmare related scenarios.


I would postulate that a good many hunters around here just flat gave up due to the dubious success that our nearby public hunting areas offer.


The R3 machine is not only backed by a slick marketing program but it is further bolstered by another media machine that, more often than not, pumps out a daily stream of false narratives.


If you’ve digested the social media or the TV hunting show phenomenon, where the wannabe “stars” take you to the field to breathlessly rack up impressive trophies by way of their sponsor’s products, and their private hunting guide services; you’ve witnessed a good deal of the false narrative.


Every show I manage to sit through includes me going to the WWW to find out just how much one of these hunts on private property actually would set me back. Every one of these searches leaves me dumbfounded at the cost. Try it next time. You too can find very own melancholy, depressed state.


I suppose if a “star” wants to hunt with your guide service on your private land, where you have managed to grow trophies, a “star” might get some kind of discount for free advertising.


Most of us don’t have a camera crew and most of us will never see a discount. Furthermore, most middle class folks that are struggling to pay for a kid’s tooth straightening, education, a mortgage, and two truck payments, just can’t see their way to hunt any place other than with the crowds on scant public land.


So, if wildlife managers and the R3 machine don’t want to spend our tax dollars on increasing access to public land at a rate that comes close to the rate we are loosing hunting lands, to development, and other detrimental factors, and managers want to recruit more license buyers, could we safely conclude that something is badly out of balance in this equation?


Throw in the facts about the recent decade long run on guns and ammo. In addition, add the tax windfall from that hysteria; you have to ask yourself why aren’t managers and legislators spending our money on more public land instead of trying to get more crowds to show up in limited and over hunted spaces?


The third article on the WWW was offered by the National Geographic and it was a very well done piece on one of our burgeoning, outdoor related pandemics; America’s feral hog epidemic.


The author went to great lengths to detail the economics of “hog infested terror” to agriculture  and other wildlife that doesn’t yet eat their own dead. The story was full of many hog related nightmarish nuggets, but the one that got my attention was the battle between farmers down South who could no longer make any money growing crops due to pigs versus the guide services who managed making good money insuring that hunters could shoot some of the local and prolific hogs. Farmers blame guide services for keeping a steady stream of hogs available to eat their crops; while providing numerous targets for dudes that want to pay to slaughter a good hog now and then.


One farmer in South Carolina was quoted as saying, “We’ll never get rid of these things as long as people are paying good money to shoot ‘em.” 


Price any hog hunt in the South advertised by a guide service specializing in hog killing, (for the good of the environment and farmers everywhere), and you’ll be amazed what that little pleasure sells for.


With just minimal research and a couple of phone calls to make sure we were reading Georgia’s hunting guide correctly, we found public hog hunting a little south of Macon for the price of a small game license.


That brings us to another relatively new media issue. With the help of apps that show the line of demarcation between public and private land, just about every “Joe Six Pack” can now straddle the fence between “legal” and “trespasser”.


The “media boys” that praise public land hunting have done an excellent job at selling their products that detail the line between public and private land. To the MeatEater it now appears that one of their unintended consequences of selling apps and getting TV sponsors is to draw crowds in public places they may have thought they had first dibs on.


With the help of one of these handy and relatively cheap apps, we parked the truck at the end of a red dirt Georgia WMA road.  We walked less than 300 yards into a river bottom swamp, and stacked up a brown and white 200 pounder, in less than 30 minutes. Some of that was because of the app; but mostly it was straight shooting.


Some peanut farmer in Georgia is smiling as we speak.


Some guide service In Georgia is permanently out of a good deal of cash.


There were no crowds and we saw no other hunters.


Hogs were in abundance.


Maybe Georgia boys have all the sausage they need.


Maybe Georgia has plenty of cheap land, or the boys down there buy more ammo than we do.


Weather Alert Days drive me nuts.

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