BIG RAPIDS – Attendees recently during the National Wild Turkey Federation’s state convention in Big Rapids learned about efforts taking place to increase hunter numbers in the state and nationwide.

Steve Sharp’s role as the R3 coordinator “is to develop and implement a plan that engages state agencies and other stakeholders to increase the effectiveness of outdoor education and mentored hunt opportunities for people of all ages, genders and abilities.

“The NWTF recently partnered with the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports, Wildlife Management Institute and numerous other organizations, to put together a national plan to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts,” the federation’s website said.

“The creation of Sharp’s position was provided through a partnership between the NWTF, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Glassen Foundation and Pheasants Forever.”

“This position is confirmation that reversing the ongoing hunter decline is not just a passing topic of discussion, but a serious challenge that the NWTF and our partners have committed to tackling. With his passion for hunting and the shooting sports, Steve is a perfect fit in the first step to reversing the decline,” said Jason Lupardus, NWTF conservation field supervisor for Michigan in a statement.

Sharp has served as an NWTF regional director for 21 years, conducting more than 600 fundraising banquets in support of the NWTF mission.

“We’re in the fifth year of our 10-year Save the Habitat Save the Hunt initiative,” he said. “My primary job is the second half of that initiative, the Saving the Hunt part. We do mentored hunts, learn to hunt programs. We set up different learn to hunt programs across the state, trying to encourage people to take up hunting. We want to recruit more hunters. There’s fewer hunters out there and less revenue going into habitat programs and things like that through the license fees.

“We’re basically trying to recruit more hunters so we can help with the conservation efforts. Turkey hunting is maintaining or increasing a little bit. So are women hunters. We’re seeing an increase in the numbers of women taking up hunting. But overall, in 20 years, we’ve seen a pretty substantial reduction in the number of hunters. It’s kind of a scary thing. If we don’t have that revenue, it doesn’t create the habitat that has that wildlife. If we don’t have the wildlife, we’ll have fewer hunters.”