CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hoping to grow a new crop of hunters in the state. And the DNR plans to work on that goal with a campaign entitled “Let’s Go Hunting.”
Land open for public hunting near Palo. The Iowa DNR has launched a campaign to get experienced hunters to take newcomers the next time they go hunting.
In Iowa, the sale of hunting licenses peaked all the way back in 1975 with a total of 416,057 that year. Just two years ago, in 2015, the number had fallen to 181,154 licensed hunters. That’s a decrease of about 56%.
The “Let’s Go Hunting” campaign includes videos, a photo contest and social media events. Organizers launched it this week and plan to continue through mid-December.
And one part of the message is clear. The DNR is trying to get experienced hunters to reach out to newcomers to invite them along on a hunt so they can get some exposure to the sport.
Hunters say one reason for falling numbers is fewer places to hunt.
Less than one percent of Iowa land is publicly owned and open to hunting. Even long time hunters say it’s getting tougher and tougher to get permission to hunt on private property.
But the biggest roadblock is probably a lack of experience from those who didn’t learn to hunt growing up.
Tim Powers with the Whitetails Unlimited conservation group says that’s where reaching out to non-hunters might help.
“The campaign can’t hurt and as conservation groups we need to push a little bit harder to talk about it and try to get some out and I’m speaking for myself here too,” he said.
Matt Schrantz of Palo Outdoors says unlike fishing, the equipment needed to go hunting can be expensive—whether it’s bow and arrow or shotgun or rifle.
And the intimidation factor of trying something new without an expert’s helping hand probably holds some potential hunters back. That’s why he’s a fan of reaching out.
“They get curious. Then the next step is what do I have to do to take part in hunting,” Schrantz said.
John Lindstrom with the local National Wild Turkey Federation group says his organization likes to focus on youth events to encourage interest in hunting.
At one youth event every summer in Linn County, members teach kids to use a bow and arrow, shotguns and rifle in a controlled environment.
They like to look for that spark of interest to encourage a next step.
“You need to have someone involved in it. That’s why we’ve done the hunts that we’ve done with youth,” he said.
Conservationists say one DNR campaign won’t reverse years of decline in the number of hunters in the state. But supporters have to start somewhere.