How To Hunt Upland Birds program will grow and strengthen our conservation community
By Colby Kerber, Director of Conservation Education for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
Shortly after hunting season had ended on a windswept, cold day on the western prairie of Nebraska, I took a moment by the fireplace to reflect and inventory the year.
I couldn’t help but reminisce about my outdoor experiences, the memories made, and the fun I had. Early mornings in hunting camp, exhilarating flushes over a bird dog’s point, fresh meals at the tailgate, and late nights around the campfire.
Those little things add up big, and are images that always stay with me long after the moment.
As I reflected, I couldn’t help but imagine how powerful it would be if we could bottle up these memories and share them with the world. My conviction about the importance of defining moments in nature is why I am so passionate about connecting others to hunting and conservation.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Learn to Hunt (LTH) program has been very successful at helping people have positive and memorable experiences outdoors. But the barriers of time and capacity limit these physical events. How could we overcome this obstacle?
Charismatic dogs. Wild game. Quality habitat. Proper ethics. And passionate people.
As I sipped coffee, I grabbed a blank sheet of paper and began to imagine. My intent was simple: Write a project narrative that could change the face of upland hunting as we know it.
As my mind wandered all over the place and my notepad grew more cluttered, I realized that the outdoor community was missing a true way to connect individuals of all backgrounds to the core principles of upland bird hunting.
From a hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation standpoint, we need people to have those defining moments in nature — instinctual recollections that will emerge in their minds when the topic of wildlife conservation arises.
What comes to mind? Charismatic dogs. Wild game. Quality habitat. Proper ethics. And passionate people. All are simple things that many of us take for granted … but are unknown to many people in this country today.
From a hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation standpoint, we need people to have defining moments in nature.
It is difficult to convey the entire experience of hunting to someone who has never hunted. But when you portray the story in video form, it becomes a tangible thing they can consume … and it helps emotionally connect them.
There is a gap between state hunter education courses focused on certification, and in-the-field practical understanding of hunting. In fact, less than 6 years after people graduate from hunter education programs, over half will stop hunting, due in part to a lack of support and need for continued education.
So, over the past two years, PF & QF have gathered some of the most well-respected organizations in the hunting and conservation community to tackle the journey of building a cutting-edge and inspirational how-to-hunt resource together. Introducing How to Hunt Upland Birds.
Working side by side with our partners at Modern Carnivore, production took place with input from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Minority Outdoor Alliance, North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and Ruffed Grouse Society. This joint effort was made possible by a modern multistate conservation grant cooperatively administered by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Our goal is to improve educational opportunities for upland hunters while keeping them engaged and motivated.
What began as an idea on a scratch pad is now the first-of-its kind, nationwide, educational online series for upland hunters of all skill levels. This original How to Hunt Upland Birds content is intentional, representative and welcoming to people of diverse communities. The online format allows participants to navigate the complexity of learning a new skill at their own pace by providing free resources that can reach multiple demographics.
Our goal is to improve educational opportunities for upland hunters while keeping them engaged and motivated. Accurate and easily accessible information is critical to participants during all stages of their Path to the Uplands. This course will provide enough knowledge and confidence to prepare individuals for their own independent, in-person upland hunting experiences.
Time is running out for many of the sacred upland bird species that are so closely linked to habitat conservation funded by the hunting and sport shooting community. More dedicated upland hunters equates to additional habitat and conservation advocates.
You never know what little memory may stick in someone's mind and become one of the defining moments that turns them into lifelong sportsmen or sportswomen. How to Hunt Upland Birds puts things into perspective and creates a strong foundation to build on.
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