The effort to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters can’t leave out this important segment of the U.S. population
In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report that showed 6 percent of the U.S. population participated in hunting. Within that group, 97 percent identified as white, and 90 percent were male. The data indicated that Hispanic and Latino participation accounted for just 3 percent of all hunters, while the 2020 U.S. Census data shows that Hispanics account for 19 percent of our population.
The TRCP wanted to better understand why the Hispanic and Latino communities in the U.S. participate in hunting at a reduced capacity. To do this, the TRCP partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to facilitate two roundtable meetings, where Latino participants could share what barriers, they face when trying to participate in hunting.
Fourteen members of the community—from lifelong, multi-generational hunters to beginners who want to learn more—joined TRCP and CPW staff in addition to facilitators from the Meridian Institute and were compensated for their time. This resulted in the creation of a toolkit that is being shared with other state wildlife agencies on how to better engage diverse communities in hunting.
Here’s how state agencies can serve these hunters better.
Establish Trust and Sincerity
Roundtable participants believed that establishing trust is essential when trying to connect with all communities. Efforts that don’t feel sincere can create further irreparable damage between communities and perpetuate the lack of trust. Agencies can build sincere relationships by identifying and working with trusted partners that already exist in the Latino community, being open and ready to modify programs based on community feedback and ensuring that programs are sustainable and not one-and-done.
Examine Messaging and Whose Stories Are Told
In the roundtable meetings, participants indicated that the messaging around hunting often makes it seem like a white space in the eyes of people of color, and many had encountered discrimination and profiling when they were out in the field simply trying to participate in outdoor activities. Storytelling was suggested as an avenue to change that.
Many of the participants were multi-generational hunters and had strong familial connections to hunting—but their stories were rarely told in outdoor media. If stories from the broader Latino hunting population were amplified by state wildlife agencies, it would create the narrative that Latinos are welcome and respected in the hunting community. It would also ensure that there is not an erasure of their history as hunters and conservationists.
Additionally, participants flagged certain terminology that could promote bias. Terms like “huntsmen” or “huntmasters,” for example, can be exclusive of women and people of color, reinforcing the narrative that hunting is a white, male-dominated space.
Similarly, each state agency should get to know its Latino and Hispanic communities and dial in the terminology for addressing these groups—“Hispanic” and “Latino” are very broad terms that encapsulate people of many backgrounds and heritages. When possible, roundtable participants indicated that they’d much prefer the use of terms for specific communities and regional identities, such as Chicano, Mexican American, and Tejano.
Use Data Collection and Monitoring to Improve Engagement and Outreach
Participants thought that it was important for state agencies to collect demographic data and that it be available to the public. Collection of demographic data should be done in a clear and concise manner that has its intent clearly explained. This would better identify who is participating in hunting and how broader participation could be achieved at a state and regional level. Demographic data collection would then help to further design and facilitate engagement and outreach programs for women and people of color. Programs that meet communities where they are important for the future of conservation and hunting. To have the best chance of success, state agencies should partner and co-host hunting education programs with organizations that are already serving Latinos and other communities, such as Hispanic Access Foundation and Latino Outdoors.
Feedback from roundtable participants indicated that it is easy for people to get discouraged and disenfranchised when they are enthusiastic about participating and learning to hunt but repeatedly fail to draw tags. Agencies must provide clear and concise information about the unbiased draw process and publicize other opportunities to participate in hunting when you don’t draw tags, such as over-the-counter or novice licenses.
Why This Work Is Important to TRCP
Our public lands and outdoor access are valuable to people of all backgrounds and demographics. Our public lands can be healing for individuals and our nation. By taking steps to welcome prospective hunters from Latino and Hispanic communities, we can change the narrative and ensure that all people have the opportunity to participate in the outdoors and share in the responsibility of conservation.
Top photo courtesy of Gregg Flores.