Following decline, DNR 'challenges' hunters to recruit, offers discount to new hunters

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - A major part of Wisconsin's economy is looking for a boost, which could increase job numbers.

The Department of Natural Resources said Baby Boomers are keeping their rifles and blaze orange gear at home, so it's pushing a new campaign called the "Hunters Challenge," asking current hunters to recruit new ones and are offering licenses to first time hunters for just $5.

"(The Baby Boomer population is) starting to drop out of hunting participation, we don't have the younger, equally sized population moving in to fill in behind them," D.N.R. District Wildlife Supervisor Jeff Pritzl said.

"We're actually asking the hunting communities ... To do their part to try to bring more people into the hunting community and they can track their performance from year to year," he said.

Staff said the Eau Claire Gander Mountain has seen a slight decrease in hunters coming through, but that youth numbers are rising especially with the D.N.R. offering the discount to first time hunters.

"Getting a license for only 5 dollars is enticing a lot of the younger generation. Hunters safety classes are going crazy too, a lot of demand for that in the area," Gander Mountain hardline manager Peter Baldus said.

Eau Claire's Rod and Gun Club is seeing its highest membership ever, with a strong influx of youth and women joining in recent years, according to board of directors member Doug Burrows.

"The future is bright, with the kids coming up into it. They're discovering it's fun, it's fun to be outside," Burrows said. "This is really encouraging to see the family get together whether it be for hunting or just target practice."

The D.N.R. said it's seen the same increases, along with new health conscious hunters, but the challenge is to keep them active in the sport.

"The question is when they become in their 20s, and their lives get busier, will they continue?" Pritzl said.

The D.N.R. said every 28 hunters support one job in Wisconsin in license and permit sales.

Gun deer hunting season starts Nov. 17.

For more information on the challenge and how to track your county's numbers, visit the D.N.R.'s website at:

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