A commentary by Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sports coordinator.
Wisconsin's hunters started the sustainable use of wildlife movement. And we contribute critical levels of funding and volunteer effort towards conservation in Wisconsin.
But it goes much further than that. Hunting in Wisconsin generated $1.4 billion in retail sales in 2006 and supported more than 25,000 jobs. With about 700,000 hunters, that means every 28 hunters support one job in Wisconsin.
Added to those benefits - hunting is just plain good for you. Being physically active outside with family and friends has been shown to result in less stress, a healthier lifestyle and improved physical condition.
Plus, a portion of your diet is free range, pesticide-free, low-fat protein, adding to the healthy hunting lifestyle.
It's no wonder hunting is so important to our Wisconsin heritage. It highlights all things Wisconsin - family, friends, conservation, food and jobs.
But, we're faced with an unfamiliar challenge: the total number of hunters in Wisconsin declined between 2000 and 2010 and studies predict that the decline in hunting participation will continue.
We are exploring new tactics for hunter recruitment in the 21st century.
It's guaranteed not to be the same things that worked a generation ago, but two things seem fairly certain: First, it will be hunters leading the effort, and second, we need to broaden and shift the focus somewhat to adults and families who do not already hunt. This is where you come in.
Check out the Hunter Challenge 2012 at the DNR website by searching keyword "challenge" at dnr.wi.gov.
There are maps that provide hunter numbers in three key age groups by county of residence. This will help you track progress in recruiting hunters in your community.
This web page also includes new ideas for recruitment, goals for 2012 and a look at last year's results.
What you can do: Take the Hunter Challenge 2012.
You can get your club to take the initiative and invite new hunters.
How about your friends who may have stopped hunting recently? Invite them back and challenge them to mentor someone else.
Can you and your group sponsor a Learn to Hunt event?
How about inviting your kids' friends or your friends' kids to deer camp?
To make it easier, new hunters pay only $5 for a license.
Work in your county. Make this a local effort. Make it a club challenge or a contest between the clubs in your county. Set a goal for your county. Plan your strategy. Implement the plan. Be the coordinator, the organizer. Make sure your goal is met.
Wisconsin is a better and more beautiful state because of hunter conservationists. The benefits they provide in wildlife and habitat restoration are beyond calculation.
Let's make sure we are carrying this tradition forward. Let's all get in the game and take the Hunter Challenge 2012.