This past Saturday, December 1st we attended the Nebraska Game and Parks R3 Summit at Eugene Mahoney State Park. This state park is between Lincoln and Omaha just off the interstate. The facility overlooks the Missouri River to the north with a beautiful view of the landscape.
The event was well attended by Nebraska Game and Parks Officials, partners, business owners, and dignitaries from across the state and beyond. The R3 Initiative is a nationwide movement focusing on strategically increasing and diversifying participation in and support for hunting, fishing, and shooting sports. The goals for Nebraska are to increase and reactivate participants, retain participants, and maintain support for conservation and outdoor recreation.
Here are some of the takeaways from the sessions we attended.
Game and Parks Summit
Throughout the sessions partnerships with other organizations were emphazied and that the R3 initiative is dependent upon this. The R3 Initiative started in 2007.
Here are the successes discussed after year one in Nebraska:
Boating Success-Zach Horstman
There were visual inspections completed of how many boat ramps we have in our state and where they are located this past year. They know what we have now after completing this project. As for boaters 14% own a motorized craft while 15% are in a kayak or canoe. Motorized craft are used the most on our waters. Next steps include compiling data to move forward and find opportunities to move the needle. It was mentioned that paddle craft are more difficult to find.
Boat Ramp and Fish Station Development-Bill Oligmueller
Parks Division ADA Field Sueprvisor
Some of the primary boat ramps being renovated are Enders, Wagon Train, and Indian Cave State Park. There is also some work being done to keep Brownville and Nebraska City open on the Missouri River. Gallagher Canyon and Midway are also seeing some work with Phillips Canyon getting some development as well. Fish Cleaning stations are being installed at Branched Oak, Conestoga, and Lake Minatare seeing two installed. Kayak launches are being developed at the Danish Alps area.
Fishing Success-Larry Pape
Participation dropped in 2021 after the rise during the pandemic. In 2022 there were 40 programs that contacted 10,000 people. In 2023, there were 250 active programs documented with 15,000 participants. Of these programs 75% were facilitated by certified youth instructors. Fishing instructors are vital for this success. Emphasis has been placed on partner and volunteer outreach. They have 40 new recruits. Community fishing efforts were mentioned.
Hunting Success-Michael Addison
There were great strides made in the hunter education program. They used surveys for conducting workshops in the future. There are youth mentor hunts with one major event happening at Ponca this past weekend. Their main goal is to get kids more connected in 2024. There was some information given on the open fields and waters program.
Parks Division Success-Jeff Fields
A major accomplishment here was was that 80 campsites were added. There are two new campgrounds at Sherman and Box Butte. The Kearney Outdoor complex upgrades were mentioned. There was an exhibit renovation at Fort Adkisson. A lot work was spent with foundations who support our parks. Access opportunities added two areas of which Midway is one of them.
There is continued progress on the venture parks with a bounce village being installed at Louisville. Much has been done with trail developments including a new equestrian trail. There has also been much mountain bike trail work. There was inventory and assessments made for ADA improvements. An “On Track” program for wheel chair users. A new event includes the “International Dark Sky” at Merritt Reservoir. Millions are being allocated for capital maintenance, shower facilities, etc. Roads are always under construction. They are maintaining support with conversation and will let us know about the successes happening. There is an emphasis to educate visitors on capital. There will be continued effective use of private and public partnerships.
Shooting Sports Success-Jeff Rawlinson
Federal funds are used to help these programs. Percentage of funds used was 76%. Nebraska just hired the best shooting range coordinator in the country. They will conduct a range survey to better understand constituents. They learned a lot about anglers, shooters, and park goers. They learned why some people don’t use shooting ranges. It was learned that 40 miles is the furthest people are willing to drive to use them. Also, competing with other interests. Everything is a partner driven effort. They have reached 25,000 to 30,000 kids with programs. There are many positive things happening.
Nebraska Bowhunting Education Foundation Information-Marilyn Bentz
They work with 4H programs. Crossbow safety is being developed in Ohio
Over 300 kids went through the pilot program. Two states require bowhunter safety, Alaska and Maine. There is a third project that will tie into R3 efforts and increase participation. There is also an effort to increase the diversity of people participating.
And an effort to recruit more volunteers.
Nebraska Ladies Outdoor Cohort-Julia Plugge
Showing the path for women in the outdoors. Female participation in the outdoors was emphasized. 32% of all shooters are women with most using handguns. They are exploring R3 needs with an emphasis on hunting and retaining women in hunting activities.
Information was giving on the most important reasons women hunt, and participate in archery activities. It’s a healthy source of protien, spending time with kids, enjoying solitude and peace, and being close to nature.
Top constraints keeping women away from hunting is lack of time or health, age, access to land and support, safety concerns, crowding, intimidation, harassment, and that others know what to do and they don’t. Social media can sometimes be a contributor keeping women away from hunting as well.
For shooting sports some of the constraints include lack of time, ammo cost and availability, access, and health.
There is a ladies hunting cohert which is a new program. A lot has to with helping them become comfortable in the hunting environment. The goal is to have them eventually go out on their own. Women can join the group, ask questions, and share their experiences with others. They can also invite friends, create meet ups, and even post a recipe. The goal is to encourage, learn and engage. We need to provide access and support for women with hunting.
There is a Nebraska Ladies Hunting Cohort on Facebook. There are seasonal quarterly gatherings, organized trips, an annual camping trip, social media platform discussions, and even mentoring for new hunters. They can invite a new person on an outdoor experience as well. You don’t have to be an expert to participate.
Partner R3 Success Stories
Quails forever and Pheasants forever.
Youth Mentor Hunt Days are being held and hosted by local chapters ages 12-17. There is a half day introduction to conservation, dog training, archery, safe firearm handling, and blue rock.
Increase the mentoring opportunities beyond a one time hunt.
Grow the “Women on the Wing” program. They will expand this program next year. They need help with mentors hunter education courses, youth mentor hunts, chapter volunteers.
Fishing Fish and Wildlife– Daryl Bauer
Gave information about the The Nebraska Fish and Game Association which has been around since 2006. There is an outdoor forum on the web and this is a very active community. It is a private group. They have 129 fishing line recycling bing set up across the state with volunteers who pick up the line and take care of the bins. The bins are sponsored by individuals.
They also run the Branched Oak Lake “White Perch Tournament” which involves hundreds of youth each year. It also emphasizes the control of invasive species.
NEFGA recognizes the importance of conversation especially with the forum. If you wish to collaborate with them on projects you can email them at email@example.com
National Wild Turkey Federation R3 Effort-Michael Addison-Hunting and Shooting Sports R3 Coordinator
National outreach efforts have been established with a “Jakes for Youths” focus. Also with “WITO” (Women in the Outdoors) and the “Wheelin’) SJakes-for youth focus
Wito Women in the outdoors and the “Wheelin’ Sportsmen.” They will provide opportunities for recruitment retention and reactivation and impact through local chapters.
New and Upcoming Efforts
“Hunt for Good”
Highlights all the good things about hunting.
There was a short presentation on the NRD’s and development there. A discussion was had on access to rivers which is a concern for paddlers across the state.
There were a few breakout sessions and the one we found very interesting was about a Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit study on the number and size of our lakes with emphasis harvesting data and their performance as a fishery. (More on that later!)
In conclusion we found this summit very beneficial in learning about the efforts of our Nebraska Game and Parks with the R3 Initiative. There are numerous avenues for outdoor enthusiasts with an active effort to increase the participation and retention of people in the outdoors.
About the author: Marty Hughes is an avid outdoorsman and kayak angler who is passionate about growing the sport of kayak fishing across the country. He has competed in hundreds of kayak fishing tournaments along with running a kayak fishing guide service in Nebraska. He is most known for his legacy in the growth of the sport of kayak fishing.
Advertise here! Message us for details! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org