The Missing Link in R3: Making Mentorship Work

The Wildlife Management Institute recently teamed up with Southwick Associates and D.J. Case & Associates to examine the practice of “mentoring” in both the hunting and shooting sports. The R3 community has long assumed that using existing hunters and target shooters to introduce potential participants in an apprentice-like relationship, whether by personal invitation or programmatic paring, is key to producing new hunters and target shooters when family or friends support is not available. 

However, there are many critical questions that still need to be answered about these mentoring-type programs. Key questions include “What characteristics differentiate mentoring from other R3 effort-types?”, “Where do we find people willing to mentor and how large is that population?”, “What motivates mentors and mentees?”, and many more. The purpose of this research was to begin identifying and quantifying the factors most critical to creating mentoring programs that work at scale.

Significant Findings: 

Through a series of online focus groups, surveys, community input and analysis, the results are extensive and too much to present in detail here. For full results, please visit https://www.southwickassociates.com/making-mentorship-work/.  Below is a quick synopsis of some high-level takeaways:

1. There is a substantial opportunity for both mentoring efforts and increased hunting and target shooting participation: 

Nearly 10% of U.S. residents indicated at least a moderate level of interest in becoming a potential hunting mentee in the near future while over 18% are at least moderately interested in becoming a target shooting mentee. To be counted, respondents had to express interest in learning from an experienced participant versus teaching themselves. These individuals currently do not participate in hunting or shooting, respectively. 

Group  Percent of Population People Interested in Being a Mentee
U.S. Population Age 18 or Older 100.0% 255,200,373 
Potential Hunting Students (Mentees) 9.7% 24,754,436 
Potential Shooting Students (Mentees) 18.4% 46,956,869 
Potential Student of Either Activity 19.8% 50,546,396 

2. Prospective students do not like the term “mentor.”

Focus group participants and survey respondents strongly indicated that “mentor” should only be a term that a participant bestows on an instructor after a relationship is built. Simply put, the title of “mentor” should be earned and granted, not assigned from the start.

Recommendation: R3 practitioners should no longer identify an R3 effort as a “mentor” or “mentoring” program. Instead, “mentoring” programs should be referred to as “personal instruction” programs since “instructor” is strongly preferred by prospective students.

3. Hunters and target shooters find instructing novices more appealing if a trusted organization facilitates their introduction to prospective hunters and shooters.

Having an organization handle the logistics of finding, screening, and match-making potential students may incentivize more individuals to become instructors.

Recommendation: Organizations vested in R3 should consider “brokering” relationships between potential instructors and students and provide a process and venue for instructors and students to meet and bond before formal instruction begins.

4. Many beginning and intermediate-level hunters and shooters are interested in introducing new participants but feel unqualified or too limited in experience to be considered an instructor.

Respondents indicated that checklists of skills to teach, gear to purchase, and knowledge to impart would be instrumental in their decision to become and remain an instructor. Other helpful resources include a service to handle background checks, and an established instruction curriculum or instructor guide.

Recommendation: R3 practitioners should actively recruit, encourage, and support instructors from hunters and target shooters with ALL levels of experience. However, they must also provide needed resources and guidance to encourage those with self-assigned lack of experience or lack of confidence in their ability to instruct.

Additional research is now underway to further explore the mentoring concept and how mentorship-based programs can increase their success. Results are expected in late 2021.