R3 College-Focused Practitioner's Guide and Academics Afield Toolkit

Executive Summary

This R3 College-Focused Practitioner’s Guide and Academics Afield Toolkit contributes to the national R3 Initiative to recruit, retain, and reactivate individuals to hunting and shooting sports. This practitioner’s guide was developed after years of R3 programming, research, and refinement. Recommendations included have only been made possible by the support of dozens of conservation professionals and academics across the country. This guide is broken into two sections. The first supporting the conclusion that college R3 programming efficiently reaches diverse audiences (e.g., women, people of color, young adults from urban areas). The second section outlines the Academics Afield curriculum and program implementation advised to create life-long participants. 

Over the past several decades, declining hunting participation across the United States has raised concerns about interest in outdoor recreation and the sustainability of a conservation system that relies heavily on hunting and shooting for financial support. Efforts to recruit, retain, and reactivate (R3) diverse hunters has therefore become a high priority across the wildlife management community.  

A study of more than 17,000 U.S. college students across 22 states revealed that 26% were active hunters, 22% were potential hunters (i.e., current non-hunters who were eager to try hunting) and 3% were lapsed hunters who hunted before college but stopped (Vayer et al. 2021). With nearly 20 million students across the country, this equates to almost six million college students who have expressed interest in learning how to hunt. Roughly 60% of college students surveyed approve of legal regulated hunting compared to 77% approval of Americans in general. This demonstrates the opportunity and the pressing need to target college audiences with R3 efforts. 

Collegiate learn-to-hunt programs target a group of promising individuals that otherwise may not be familiar with or may not pursue hunting due to lack of knowledge, lack of skills and lack of support. R3 efforts that focus on college students benefit from the dynamics of a young adult’s lifestyle including their flexibility, openness to exploration, and propensity for building social bonds. Introducing a new activity at this time in a person’s life can lead to the creation of life-long identities. The unique characteristics of this target audience in combination with dedicated implementation of a tested curriculum will produce quality program outcomes. 

Recent R3 projects that focused on college students, such as Academics Afield (AAfield) and Getting Started Outdoors (GSO), have demonstrated success at increasing approval for hunting and recruiting new hunters from non-traditional backgrounds.

From 2018-2020, GSO programming was offered to nontraditional college students in 16 states across the country. The GSO model focuses on knowledge and skill development hosting sessions typically 1-2 days in length. The workshop’s purpose was to teach students basics of hunting, to highlight broader benefits of hunting, and to inspire students to adopt positive hunting-related beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. 

About the same time, AAfield was founded in Georgia in 2019 to provide a reoccurring program that walks a non-traditional college student through the steps of learning how to shoot and hunt. Participation in an AAfield workshop is a 2-4 day commitment with institutions hosting 3-4 workshops per year. AAfield has been replicated at 12 colleges across the southeast. The AAfield model attempts to generate peer-based mentoring and help students develop the confidence necessary to self-identify as hunters.

Both programs utilized partnerships with conservation organizations, wildlife management agencies, and emphasized the role of hunting in conservation. Thorough evaluation and analysis has been conducted for both programs. Across both multi-state samples, the hunting workshops resulted in increased intention to hunt, approval of hunting, and confidence in hunting. 

These projects were supported by grants from the Multi-State Conservation Grant program of the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jointly managed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WSFR# #F21AP00678-00, #F18AP00171 and #F19AP00094) National Shooting Sports Foundation, North Carolina State University, Georgia Wildlife Federation and the Georgia R3 Initiative including GA DNR Wildlife Resources Division, National Wild Turkey Federation, Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International and Ducks Unlimited. 

Table of Contents

  • Project Information
  • R3 Background
  • College Students
  • What do college students think about hunting
  • Hunting Market Segments


Why Academics Afield?

  • Setting up Academics Afield
  • Evaluation and Tracking Efforts
  • Finances
  • Equipment Requirements
  • Academics Afield Coordinator
  • Workshop Design
  • Participant Recruitment
  • Student Coach Recruitment and Training
  • Liability and Media Releases
  • Introduction
  • Classroom Training
  • Firearm Training
  • Game Meal
  • Collegiate R3 Case Studies
  • Chronicles of Academics Afield
  • Appendix A: Letter of Intent from Partners
  • Appendix B: AAfield Applicant Screening Questionnaire
  • Appendix C: AAfield Pre-Program Survey
  • Appendix D: AAfield Post-Event Survey
  • Appendix E: AAfield Post-Program Survey
  • Appendix F: AAfield Follow-up Survey
  • Appendix G: Memorandum of Understanding
  • Appendix H: Funding Options
  • Appendix I: Intern Job Description
  • Appendix J: Intern Training
  • Appendix K: Program Styles and Schedules
  • Appendix L: Participant FAQ
  • Appendix M: Example Flyer
  • Appendix N: Recruitment Efforts Communication Templates
  • Appendix O: Registration Example
  • Appendix P: Coach Recruitment and Training
  • Appendix Q: Liability and Media Release Waiver
  • Appendix R: Firearms Training – Rifle
  • Appendix S: Firearms Training – Shotgun
  • Appendix T: Venison
  • Appendix U: Welcome to Academics Afield Outline
  • Welcome to Academics Afield
  • Deer
  • Ducks
  • Dove
  • Squirrel

To download sections of the Toolkit or the Toolkit in its entirety, please fill out the information below. If you have additional questions regarding R3 programming or Academics Afield, please reach out to Bre Bashford or Coral Minchey.

Academics Afield is Funded with Support From:

Program Accomplishments


Bre Bashford
R3 Coordinator

Coral Minchey
Academics Afield Facilitator

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