As I am writing this, we have just completed another spring turkey season. I was fortunate to begin the season with a youth hunter that I met through an essay contest for the Virginia One Shot Turkey Hunt in 2018. We were unsuccessful on the day of the event (an excited missed opportunity), but I was impressed by the young man, his desire to hunt and his attitude. When youth turkey weekend was approaching and I did not have a partner, I contacted his parents and we worked out the details to get together for the weekend. Luckily, the birds cooperated mid-afternoon and he harvested a mature Tom that strutted in around 5:00.
After 43 years of hunting spring turkeys in Virginia, this has been one of my favorites and I didn’t even tag a bird. During the past generation, we have lost nearly 50% of hunters that we once had. If each one of us had nurtured and mentored one new hunter, our numbers would be the same. Two and we would have doubled. Historically hunters, anglers and boaters have been the backbone of wildlife conservation in this country providing billions of dollars for conservation. Our license and tax dollars have supported the recovery of numerous species and protected habitat for all wildlife.
Engaging people in the outdoors is a priority for DGIF and with the help of our new R3 initiative, we will be able to recruit, retain and reactivate people participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, boating, and recreational shooting. As people today are spending less and less time outdoors, it is vitally important that DGIF engages new audiences and communicates the importance of mentorship with our current constituents. This year, DGIF will be launching a new Adult Hunting Mentor program that will match current hunters with new adult hunters who need help and more experience in the field. We have also developed a new Refer-A-Friend program to motivate current participants to introduce someone new to the outdoors.
Let us make it a priority to create a future in the outdoors. Take time to mentor someone and introduce him or her to the outdoors. I think you will find that it will be as enjoyable for you as it is for them.
Gary Martel, Acting Executive Director
Virginia’s Wildlife Restoration Program and You
Hunters and trappers create many opportunities for Virginians to enjoy exceptional hunting, trapping, and wildlife watching. Through the Federal Assistance in Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration program, you help the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries make wildlife-oriented outdoor recreation even better each time you buy a firearm, ammunition, or a hunting or trapping license.
When you buy hunting-related equipment, a portion of the excise tax levied on the manufacturer goes to the Federal Assistance in Wildlife Restoration program. Virginia currently receives approximately $12 million each year from this program, which funds a large portion of the Department’s habitat management and wildlife population research projects.