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Indiana’s R3 Program Combats Hunter Decline

According to recent conservative estimates, there are about 13.7 million hunters and more than 40 million shooting sports participants in the United States.

Their combined activities support more than 1.5 million jobs and produce nearly $110 billion in economic impact annually. Hunters and recreational shooters have generated more than $10.5 billion for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats (see Hunters Fund Conservation and Recreation article). Indiana alone has received over $178 million in federal assistance for wildlife conservation.

However, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service records, national participation in hunting declined 18 percent since it peaked in 1982.

Present trends suggest that the decline will continue while the average age of Hoosier hunters increases. With many baby boomers aging out of hunting participation, the need to engage a new segment of the population is increasingly important in order to sustain future wildlife conservation activities.

To counter the decline, Indiana is part of a national movement to reverse the trend. It’s called Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3).

R3 experts are working to identify the complexity of the challenge, hoping to stabilize and increase hunting and shooting sports participants. R3 efforts focused on hunting are needed now more than ever to ensure the hunting heritage of Hoosiers remains relevant.

In Indiana, the hunting, trapping, and shooting sports R3 program is administered by the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Hoosier Outdoor Heritage (HOH) program. The goal of HOH is to teach people how to hunt, trap, and enjoy the shooting sports in a safe and secure manner. HOH puts on 40-60 events and workshops per year. Events range from single-day events to multi-day workshops. Single-day events, like family dove hunts, pair participants new to hunting with seasoned mentors and provide high quality hunting opportunities. Multi-day workshops, like the Learn to Hunt Deer workshop, provide participants all the knowledge, experience, and practice to try deer hunting for the first time.

For more information on HOH and its events, visit www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2701.htm. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer hunting, trapping, or shooting sports mentor, contact the HOH Coordinator by email at Learn2Hunt@dnr.in.gov.

Non-Native Wild Pigs Present Problems

Populations of non-native wild pigs have been a problem in pockets around the state.

Wild pigs are an invasive species and a threat to native wildlife, including popular game animals such as deer and turkey. They are opportunistic animals that feed on the nests and young of game birds, rabbits, reptiles, amphibians and deer. They also compete with native wildlife for food. Some wildlife, such as deer and nesting turkeys, avoid areas where pigs are active.

Pig activity along streams and rivers can cause water quality issues. Pigs muddy up waterways, an activity that covers fish spawning beds in silt and decreases oxygen levels.

Wild pig rooting also damages crops, parks, lawns and rural cemeteries. Wild pigs will eat young lambs and goats.

They are known to carry more than 30 pathogens and parasites that can be transmitted to livestock, people, pets and wildlife. Some of these pathogens can be directly transmitted to humans, causing life-long debilitating illnesses.

A person can take a wild pig anytime without a permit from the DNR, but they must have written permission of the landowner where the pig is taken. All captured pigs must be euthanized immediately; possession of a live wild pig is illegal.

Recreational sport hunting has not been successful in reducing wild pig populations. Population control is possible through a combination of trapping whole social groups, selective shooting of trap-shy pigs, and aerial shooting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services (USDA-WS), the Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH), and the Indiana DNR ask hunters who observe or take wild pigs to report the animal(s) to the USDA-WS at 1-855-386-0370.

Reports help the cooperating agencies determine necessary control and disease monitoring steps.

Reports should include date, best possible location information (e.g., distance and direction to nearest town, county or township, landowner’s name), approximate number and relative size of the pigs, and the observer’s contact information. Digital pictures of the pigs are helpful.