Living the R3 initiative

Much has been made this year about the national R3 plan, which is recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters and recreational shooters. This hunting season, I saw the culmination of this plan and all three attributes within my own hunting party. I’m excited for the future of our hunting group, known as the Iron Sight Gang.

As much as I’d like to take some personal credit here, and even give much of it to my hunting partners, I have to say that most of it has just simply happened. It’s fate.

I’ll start with my cousin Christian, who is now 19. Christian is the youngest of three brothers who are the sons of one of my cousins. His father, myself and another cousin have been the core of our hunting group for the last 30 years. For a while it was only the three of us in the woods, along with my uncle. But our hunting party has swelled in the past decade and Christian is the epitome of that.

Like his older brothers, Christian followed his dad through the woods as a beginner and took hunting pretty serious once he got a real good taste of it. Ducks, squirrels, geese, grouse – you name it, this kid hunted for it as a youngster. And he still does.

Naturally, he became a deer hunter and this year got his finest buck to date, a dandy Adirondack 8-pointer that we pushed out of a deer drive. Christian is also working at a local gun shop and studying to be a machinist. I believe he is hooked on hunting for life and is thus retained.

On the flip side, we have a hunter in our group named Jack who is a very young 77. Jack’s brother, Mike, hasn’t hunted much in recent years. That changed this year when Mike’s 16-year-old grandson, Paul, decided he wanted to hunt. So, in a sense, Mike is a reactivated hunter and Paul is a recruit. It was great to have them both along this season and I look forward to hunting with them more in the future.

A few years ago, my other cousin, Ed, rejoined our group, seeking the adventure and camaraderie of wilderness group hunting as opposed to a farm country treestand. He has since brought along his wife, Patty, and daughter, Katrina. That’s recruitment right there.

Things may have reached a peak over Thanksgiving weekend when Christian’s friend, Adam, who is 18, joined us for some deer drives. Adam was raised in a sporting family and I put him on one of our most productive deer watches. Thirty minutes later he shot a 7-point piebald buck as it came out of the drive. I had seen this deer two years ago as a fawn and Adam said he thought it was simply a buck covered with snow.

The excitement of taking such a unique animal, along with tagging his first Adirondack buck, was certainly a thrill for Adam, who along with Katrina, Christian, Paul and even a few others are hopefully the future of the Iron Sight Gang.

Recruiting, retaining and reactivating – I am proud to say I saw all of it this season.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Dan Ladd, Whitetail Deer

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