Gone are the days when the hunting masses wore red flannel for visibility, when youth wandered the countryside with .22 rifles hunting squirrels with little or no supervision and kids sold nightcrawlers along the side of the road like lemonade.
Not only have clothes and methods for hunting and fishing changed, but participation has declined, an issue that led the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to plan a two-day conference from Friday, Aug. 26, to Saturday, Aug. 27, that will focus on recruiting and retaining hunters and anglers.
“In the 1960s and decades before, hunting and fishing was simply a part of people’s heritage, and it was a relatively low cost social activity that provided food for the table,” said Jeff Ledermann, angler recruitment, retention and education supervisor. “But times have changed.”
In the 1960s and 1970s about 40 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and older purchased a fishing license. Beginning in the 1980s that number began to decline. Now, 27 percent of Minnesota residents age 16 and older fish and 12 percent hunt, down between 4 and 8 percent from the 1970s.
“Because hunting and fishing provide important social, economic and conservation benefits, many are concerned about the declines in participation,” Ledermann said. “That’s why we’re bringing experts and organizations together around boosting hunter and angler numbers.”
The conference will allow for information sharing on best practices to design and deliver recruitment and retention programs. Presentations from national experts, reflections from local organizations and breakout sessions to address common challenges are also scheduled.
Additionally, the DNR will provide a free toolkit with templates for new programs, strategies to enhance existing programs, evaluation tools, and checklists to help program planning and management.
The conference will be at Earle Brown Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Drive in Brooklyn Center. Volunteers and staff of organizations or agencies and members of the public involved or interested in preserving Minnesota’s outdoor heritage are encouraged to attend. There are no fees for registration or meals. Online registration is open at www.mndnr.gov/r3.