DES MOINES — Iowa’s game bird populations have seen a bit of resurgence in recent years — but a drop in the number of hunters has kept the harvest numbers moving back to past levels. 

Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz says some of the hunters were lost during the bird population drop. “Some just don’t go out — others move to other things like deer, turkey or waterfowl — they’re more abundant. I think some do go out of state where things sound better. They’ll go to Kansas for quail or South Dakota for pheasants,” Bogenschutz says.

He says another reason for a drop in hunters is the core group is getting older. “That baby boom generation is tailing off, a lot of the upland hunters are hitting the 60-ish range and aren’t as avid as they used to be. And so we are on that side of that curve,” according to Bogenschutz. “We’ve got all the millenials here — but they are not quite as outdoor oriented as maybe the previous generations.”

He says the D-N-R is trying to get younger people to give hunting a try. “Trying to engage them in the outdoors instead of just looking at smartphones and computer screens, ” he says.

Bogenschutz says they follow the three R’s when it comes to hunting — retention of the current hunters; reactivating hunters who haven’t been out in awhile; and recruitment of new hunters into the fold.  Trap shooting has become a more popular sport in high schools and he says it is something that can get kids to move into hunting. “Certainly yeah, I think are data shows the we do have some transition there. The archery in the schools program and trap shooting is probably the highest we’ve ever seen it as far as schools go,” Bogenschutz says. “What we’re finding in some of the surveys and stuff — if you don’t come from a hunting family, even if you are exposed to that kind of stuff  — you don’t just go do it. They kind of need friend to take them or family member.”

Bogenschutz says they are trying to respond to that survey information by offering more mentor-type programs. “Taking those first time people hunting two or three times in a season, four times. And then they get some comfort level with it and then they’re willing go out on their own or  invite a friend,” Bogenschutz says. “So those are showing a lot more.When you give them that kind of environment they are much more likely the next year to buy a license and go out hunting.”  

He says there have been plenty of birds out there to support more hunters, and they just need to continue working on increasing the hunter base. 

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