IHEA-USA: Leading The Charge

In “Growth Mode,” IHEA-USA Is Building Programs to Mentor Hunters and Promoting Safe Shooting Practices in the U.S.

The IHEA-USA works tirelessly to develop and implement R3 programs to effectively
train, engage and build the foundation for a lifetime of hunting and outdoor activities.

Editor’s Note: The following is the first in what will be a three-part series highlighting the IHEA-USA’s efforts to expand hunter education in the U.S. (Editorial provided by the IHEA-USA.)

The IHEA-USA has been chiefly known for overseeing the standards for Hunter Education in all 50 states, which allows for hunting reciprocity. This is a 52-year-old responsibility they’ve led, including tracking hunting incidents to adjust course curriculum and training law enforcement to investigate those incidents effectively.

Today the IHEA-USA is leading the charge in R3 (Hunting and Shooting Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation) through program development designed to effectively train, engage and build a foundation that creates a lifetime hunter. Its model is to do the necessary research to find gaps in getting people into the field and then take action based on the research findings. In other words, they act to improve the situation rather than simply identifying challenges for others to solve.

In July 2021, a collaborative grant study by Sportsman’s Alliance Foundation, Southwick Associates and the IHEA-USA titled “Increasing Participation in License Sales for Hunter Education Graduates” was challenged to understand why so many people were taking Hunter Education, yet not purchasing a hunting license upon graduation.

The study revealed one-third of students did not go on to purchase a hunting license upon completion of Hunter Education. Of those, only 5% did not intend to hunt; rather, they took Hunter Education instead of a Firearm Safety course or simply accompanied another to the course. The remainder of those Hunter Ed students felt they needed to be better equipped to get out and hunt, a problem IHEA-USA immediately began to address.

Getting More Hunter Ed
Students Into The Field

Consequently, in 2022, the IHEA was awarded two grants by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. These grants addressed the need to get new Hunter Ed students into the field and the growing need for more accessible firearms training through the IHEA-USA to the average firearms owner.

With the estimated 7.5 million new firearms owners through COVID, it was clear there was a need to address both of these challenges. So, the IHEA-USA went to task and developed two programs in response to these needs: Firearm Fundamentals, an online firearms safety course, and Learnhunting.org, an adult mentoring program designed to get new adult hunters straight into the field from the Hunter Ed classroom.

Alex Baer, Executive Director of the IHEA-USA, commented, “The IHEA-USA is in growth mode. I like to say that we are a 50-year-old start-up. Yet, never in the history of IHEA has there been so much drive to support R3 initiatives and state fish and wildlife agency partners with aggressive programs that allow them to access Pittman-Robertson funding. We are extremely proud of our progressive efforts to do more than just research — actually to deliver programs that make a difference.”

The timing has never been better to support the state agencies and their partners in conservation with fresh ideas to create new hunters and retain them. This is primarily due to the over $1.2 Billion in Pittman-Robertson excise tax contributions available for conservation from the massive amount of recently sold firearms and ammunition. The IHEA-USA is committed to helping these states and their partners garner this funding to support their conservation programs by creating a collaborative education network for new hunters to experience success in the field.

IHEA-USA’s leadership in this area is commendable, as they work tirelessly to develop and implement R3 programs that effectively train, engage and build the foundation for a lifetime of hunting and outdoor activities. Through these efforts, IHEA-USA is helping to create a sustainable future for wildlife conservation, which is essential for the health and well-being of our planet and for the future of hunting.

For more info, visit ihea-usa.org.