All posts by Eric Dinger

On Winning a SHIFT Award

On Friday night, Powderhook was awarded the 2017 SHIFT Award for Technology. It’s exciting to be recognized, and knowing what our team has gone through to deliver said technology, I think this award is something to be proud of.

SHIFT is a festival (conference) filled with conservation-minded thinkers and doers. While attending, I learned a lot, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of the more prescient tidbits with you.

  1. The outdoor industry has what appears to be two completely separate “sides.” To put it bluntly, there seems to be the politically progressive version of conservation, led by brands like Patagonia and organizations like the Sierra Club, and the politically conservative version of conservation, led by brands like Bass Pro Shops and organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation. If my observation is true, I can’t even begin to describe to you how big of a waste this is. The SHIFT Festival was dominated by progressive-leaning people and organizations. That they chose Powderhook as an honoree tells me there is at least some appetite to work together more closely.

    The author participates in a panel discussing growing hunting among urban-dwelling participants.
  2. The two sides use almost the same language and want many of the same things. Common ground topics include our love of public land, our desire for healthy ecosystems, our need for clean air and water, and our enjoyment of and desire to conserve wild places for wild animals. Political hot-button topics such as climate change, global warming, herd management (population control), and guns rights divide us in avoidable ways. Can’t we stop focusing on these big political issues and start talking more about the stuff we can individually do something about? Conservation’s message is most compelling when it affects the places people recreate. Let’s start bridging the gap by focusing on local parks, green spaces, access programs, habitat projects, and experience-driven events.
  3. Progressive-leaning conservationists need to consider helping create an excise tax on the gear they use, like the conservative-leaning organizations helped create in the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. They need to find ways to fund local work without having to win ballot initiatives, and without relying on massive donors. And, they need to consider hunting and fishing access foundational to their view of a successful conservation project.
  4. Conservative-leaning conservation groups need to learn from progressive-leaning groups in how they include new people and ideas, value change, attract stakeholders in urban areas, and strategically diversify their constituencies. And, boy, could we learn how to tell our story from these groups. The new economy is about gaining and keeping people’s attention – to do that we need to connect with people on a more emotional, less “science-and-numbers-driven” story arc.
Former National Parks Director, Jon Jarvis, presenting his keynote “A Unified Vision for Conservation” at the SHIFT Festival in Jackson Hole, Wy.

The above slide was taken from a SHIFT keynote given by Jon Jarvis, former Director of the National Park Service. His presentation was entitled, “A Unified Vision for Conservation.” Mr. Jarvis has started an institute to teach his vision at the University of California at Berkeley. Do you notice what’s missing? I did, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Organizations and professionals from the fish and wildlife community, along with recreational users (hunters/anglers/hikers/climbers/campers, etc.) have a massive influence on conservation, yet they were nowhere to be found in this presentation. He called their absence, “an oversight.” Maybe that’s what it was, but this slide clearly says to me that conservative-leaning conservation organizations badly need to exit their echo chamber and get busy building bridges.

Photo credits: Powderhook

Tackling SHIFT

I was the new guy… the one in the orange hat. For the first time in awhile, I knew almost no one walking into a conference the size of SHIFT.

SHIFT is an annual gathering of conservation-minded leaders from around the country. They gather in Jackson, Wyoming each year to tackle tough issues. In ways I’ve never been part of before in the outdoor industry, they work to build bridges across political and ideological lines – though it helps that the topic of this year’s SHIFT was Preserving our Public Lands, an issue that unites nearly every conservationist.

There are around 350 people here, and on the surface, you could draw the conclusion that many are “anti-hunting” or at a minimum, “hunting agnostic.” But, time and time again we’ve had great conversations about the role hunting plays in conservation. We’ve discussed what it really means to be a hunter, we’ve spoken about the threats a declining hunting population poses to the source of many of their budgets. I’ve explained the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation at least a dozen times to people who make their living in conservation. Almost every conservation has been concluded with positive takeaways.

Representatives from Sitka, First Lite, Patagonia, and REI are pictured here on the same stage talking about conservation advocacy from a brand perspective. Despite being very different, the need to protect public lands unites these brands. SHIFT leadership seems to have gone out of their way all week to introduce hunting, talk about hunting, feature hunting, and show the hunting community they’re welcome.

There is very little camo here, and perhaps because of that, some really cool things happened. Here are some examples.

Upon my arrival, I sat with two women from Boulder, Colorado who described themselves as “not-anti-hunting, but definitely not hunters.” They asked questions. “Does the NRA represent all hunters? Do hunters realize the image they’re portraying to people like us when they brag about the size of the deer they shoot? I hear hunters care about conservation, but I totally don’t get how that can be true.”

Later on the first day, I was at a table discussion with a woman whom I think would consider herself “anti-hunting.” She voluntarily takes Hispanic families in the Pacific Northwest on outdoor adventures. And, she recently took a job with the Sierra Club. I came away thinking she was brilliant. She articulately shared her concerns, and we concluded that her perceptions of hunting and her concerns about hunting aren’t incorrect, but that perhaps they fall short of the whole story. Like nearly everyone I spoke with this week, I found her open-minded and willing to have a real conversation. I didn’t get the impression she’d ever personally become a hunter, but I absolutely believe she thinks of hunting differently than she did when she arrived in Jackson.

A man who works for the Wilderness Society went out of his way on a couple occasions to seek out a conversation with me. He was eager to tell me the Wilderness Society is absolutely inclusive of hunters. Though he doesn’t hunt, he wanted me to know that he feels his organization does important work that hunters don’t know about or give them credit for.

I heard an elk hunting story –  a real, not-everything-goes-as-planned, pull-no-punches hunting story from a woman leading a new woman’s hunting organization from the National Wildlife Federation, called Artemis. It brought me to tears because I could relate, and it made me so happy SHIFT included her story in their event. For some of the over 150+ people in the room, I imagined it to be one of the first authentic hunting stories they’d ever listened to. There was some uneasiness as Iooked around, but as the storyteller said, “to a fault, we hunters tend to hide the feeling in our stories.”

I learned that diversity in the outdoor industry is actually a thing. There were brown people here – hunters, campers, hikers, climbers, bikers, and leaders. It was so refreshing to hear their perspective and to enter thoughtful conversations on hard topics with them. A woman from Japan taught us a Japanese gesture of reverence before a meal. It’s pronounced, “Ita-daki-mas” and there are no direct English translations, though it loosely translates to “I’m taking, and I don’t take it for granted.” As she described the word in English she perfectly narrated the way many hunters feel after they shoot a big game animal.

My notes from the conference are as follows:

  • General
    • If we want to grow hunting, people participating in other forms of outdoor recreation are a great place to start. But, they often don’t think about it the way a traditional hunter might.
    • We need to invite people who think differently to attend our hunting industry conferences. There are hundreds of them here. REI has 16 million members… just saying.
    • Individuals inviting people is the only way we’ll create new hunters at scale.
    • A yoga instructor told me hunting was just like yoga for her – meditation and relaxation. Haven’t heard that before…
    • The Emerging Leaders program at SHIFT is something many other organizations and conferences need to think about replicating. They added a lot of energy, good ideas, and unique perspectives.
  • On appealing to urban residents
    • Make them aware they own 640 million acres of public land
    • You gotta invite the family unit
    • Treat urban access, likes parks and ponds like it’s part of nature
    • Hunting dogs are a tremendous tool for appealing to urban youth.
    • Inviting a young person from an urban family to do something once is a waste of money unless you invite their family or someone else who can help them go again
    • Local protein has near-universal appeal
    • You  can’t say you want people of color involved, you have to go to where they’re at with opportunities designed around their lives
    • All 4th-graders in the US Public School System got a free public lands and parks access pass – but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it – this is a great place to start a conversation with the family
    • Many Latino people love the outdoors, but they’re scared to death of the government. Making them enter their social security number to get a license all but prevents them from doing it – a cultural truth for Latino people. Begs the question, why do we need a social security number to get a fishing/hunting license?
    • Food sovereignty is a term I hadn’t heard before – and one that means a lot to lower-income urban residents. It’s the root of things like community gardens – and could be the basis for recruiting more hunters from urban areas
  • On bridging the gap between left and right-leaning conservation organizations
    • Avoid trigger words/phrases like global warming, herd management, long-range shooting, etc.
    • We need to invite people who don’t look and think like us to our conferences.
    • Focus on what makes us similar – love of public lands, clean air and water, wild animals, wild places and most certainly FOOD
    • Ask more questions than you make statements
    • Hunters need to know that what they put on social media informs the opinion of people who don’t hunt and/or don’t like hunting – be thoughtful about what and how you share
    • Many environmentalists I spoke with talked about their respect for how well hunters know the animals they pursue and the land on which they hunt – What do we hunters respect about environmentalists?
      • Many are really tuned into the political issues.
      • Many use emotion in their stories I seldom hear from hunters.
      • Many are intentional about inclusion and diversity.

It was good to see fellow hunting brands like Sitka, First Lite, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in attendance. It would be a good thing for that list to grow.

PS – Remember the name, Robbie Bond. He’s 10, and he’s gonna be the face of conservation in this country inside of a year. You heard it here first!

Photo: Courtesy – Jared Frasier – 2% for Conservation

Photo: Courtesy – SHIFT

Conservation Demands Innovation

Humans are an over-populated, invasive species.

That sounds harsh, but the evidence is overwhelming that man’s consumption is negatively affecting the biosystems of our planet. Our cities lurch into wildlife habitat. We plow up grasslands to plant crops, or we graze them bare to grow protein. Mines, forestry operations, farms, ranches, dams and more are changing the ecology of our planet at a pace plants and animals simply cannot adapt to fast enough.

As conservationists, it’s not good enough to dig our heels in and say we don’t like that this stuff is happening. There’s little to nothing we’re going to do to stop these trends… unless we innovate.

For this reason, I believe conservation-minded people of all types need to take innovations like algae farming seriously. Take a look at this video. Try and set aside any political leanings you might have and listen with a conservationist’s ears.

Progressives and conservatives alike should hear some things that could make sense in a project like that. “One acre of algae farm can produce what 40 acres of traditional agriculture can produce.” I know so scarcely little about algae farming that I’m certainly not in a position to advocate for this specific solution. But, it sounds to me like an innovative way to keep 39 more acres of wildlife habitat.

Sure, we can scoff and say this is a government-backed, global warming, liberal long-shot. But, wild things and wild places don’t care much for human politics. They need conservationists to conserve. To conserve we must innovate. That’s not progressivism, that’s not conservativism, that’s a fact.

Photo: Kaleb White

The Gun Conversation: A Hunting Company’s Take

By Eric Dinger, founder of Powderhook

Nearly everyone at Powderhook and nearly everyone with whom we work owns a gun. We’re 2nd Amendment supporters and concerned citizens who value life, safety, justice, and freedom. And, we are sad, just like you, about the shootings in Las Vegas, Chicago, Lawrence and throughout the country.

Because our work involves encouraging people to safely own and use guns, lots of people from media to Facebook acquaintances, family, and lifelong friends have asked me for my “take” this week.

Their questions are most often about guns. My question is, ‘Why does this keep happening?’

We have gun laws in this country we struggle to enforce. When we uphold them, we give people overcrowding-shortened sentences at prisons designed to fail. What if, for the sake of having a different kind of conversation, we stop talking about guns long enough to investigate whether there are other, more addressable-by-you-and-me factors at play? What if there is something each of us can and should be doing to slow the growing trend of mass shootings in this country?

The mass shooters I’ve researched have all struck me as isolated, eternally lonely people. And they’re always men – usually white men – which means we gotta discuss why white men are so much more likely than others to commit these crimes.

During a sermon at my church a few Sundays back, I remember distinctly my pastor citing a survey on friendship. When asked by the surveyor how many true friends the respondent has, sadly, the most common answer for an American male was zero. In the study, the term friendship was defined as a trusted person with whom you can openly, reciprocally share feelings. So, late last night, triggered by an article on Medium, I began Googling, and here’s what I found. “Of all people in America, adult, white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends.”

I have close, trusted friends. So I began to ask myself, ‘when do we actually get time to take things beyond the superficial text chain or the two-minute catch-up phone call a couple times a week?’ The answer? Hunting trips. Sure, I’d love to say that hunting trips are the answer, but that’d be self-serving and short-sighted. It’s what happens during those hunting trips that holds an insight. While hunting, we’re away from our daily pressures, we’re in nature, and we’re together for long periods of time. Periods of time that allow for real conversation and connection. In a way, we’re playing. People do all kinds of things with their play-time, but that same Google session turned-up something interesting.  Humans, especially adult American males, don’t play together as much or for as long as they used to. Would you be surprised to find someone makes their living studying play?

According to Dr. Peter Gray, a person who makes his living doing just that, “Over the past half-century, in the United States and other developed nations, children’s free play with other children has declined sharply. Over the same period, anxiety, depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism have increased sharply in children, adolescents, and young adults… The decline in play has contributed to the rise in the psychopathology of young people.”

Would it be too much of a leap to say that lonely people don’t get a chance to build meaningful friendships in adulthood through play?

About 15 years ago I graduated from college and stuck around Lincoln, Nebraska, the place I still live today. I remember clearly what I now describe as an awkward transition phase. In the years following college, most of my friends moved away, and the lifestyles of the friends I had around town began to change from the relatively care-free college days to the family and career phase. Like it was yesterday, I remember the first few weekends where no one called to make or hear about my plans on a Friday night. I felt isolated, and I feared I had done something wrong, or worse if something about me made no one care to hang out (play) anymore. I felt shame.

In time, I made new friends, and old friends moved back, but I’ll never forget that isolated, lonely feeling. Could the long-term effects of this feeling be causing the form of “mental illness” we so often hear about following these shootings? Is it possible that white, American males who feel isolated and lonely — who have no one to talk to about their feelings — who live in a culture that values male machismo — who don’t get time away from their stress — feel deep, dead-inside shame? Could it be that long-term, dead-inside shame is at the heart of the problem?

If so, can we talk about what each of us can do about it?

Photo: Christopher Burns

An Open Letter to Hunters

Fellow Hunters,

It’s never been more clear that now is the time to act. The hunter numbers are in, and they’re not good.  Preliminary findings of U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation indicate a 5-year fall-off of over 2 million hunters. Since 1980, hunter numbers have fallen from nearly 18 million to the current count of 10.5 million. The preliminary findings are summarized well here. The future of conservation in this country relies heavily on our collective ability to reverse a devastating trend in hunter participation.

But what can we do about it? Continue reading An Open Letter to Hunters

POLITICAL ACTION ALERT: PR Modernization

Occasionally there comes along federal legislation we feel it’s important for sportsmen to know about. The Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act, now in committee in both the House and Senate, represents one of those times. Please take a moment to write your elected officials in support. You are welcome to use this letter as a template, or just as a helpful starting point for your own letter.

Remember to change the words in bold and parenthesis – (BOLD). 

—-
I’m writing today to ask for some help with a bill I think is very important to the people of (YOUR STATE).

Census data will be released in the next few weeks that indicates hunting license sales are down by over 16% nationally since the same survey was taken only five years ago.

In my opinion, hunting and other outdoor recreational pursuits are the lifeblood of tourism in (YOUR STATE). As you know, many small towns rely on the influx of hunters and the money they bring with them each year. Our business is one of hundreds based in the state that benefit when hunter numbers to grow, and suffer when they shrink.

There is a bill, S. 1613 , in the Environment and Public Works Committee, that would change what can be done with funds earned by Fish and Wildlife Agencies through what’s called The Pittman-Robertson Act. The funds are earned through an 11% excise tax placed on hunting-related gear, and they’re distributed back to the states to fund the activities of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and related NGOs. Pittman-Robertson money cannot be used to promote hunting, and we need to change that.

I would like to ask Senator (YOUR SENATOR’s NAME) to consider sponsoring this legislation. You are welcome to use this letter as that ask, or I’d be happy to meet with in (YOUR STATE), or at a time that makes sense in DC, to discuss it.

Here’s what I like about this bill: No congressional mandate. No new money. Fish and Wildlife Agencies still control the money. And, it aligns Pittman-Robertson funding with its sister legislation The Dingell-Johnson Act, which taxes fishing-related gear. (YOUR STATE FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCY), and all other recipients need to “play offense” to grow hunting, and this bill is a step toward helping them do that.

Here’s what I don’t like as much about this bill: Besides Fish and Wildlife Agencies or NGOs, no entity can do the work of conserving wild places for wild animals. Hunters need wild places, and non-hunters need wild places, so it’s important the money intended for wild places is used to sustain what we have and create more. However, the hunter funds this model, and without more hunters, the “habitat” money will dry up – ultimately leading me to write this letter.

Thank you for considering, and please let me know if it makes sense to meet.

Powderhook Events API Now Available

 

Powderhook PRO users can now implement the Powderhook Event API, a first of its kind, nationwide, outdoor event dataset.

R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) has become a hot topic in the outdoor industry. And while events play a significant role in the adoption sequence, it’s not often that outdoor events are visible in places new people think to look. According to Powderhook CEO, Eric Dinger, the Events API is a step toward solving this problem. “Fundraising banquets, family fishing nights, and countless other types of events are great ways to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters. But in order for events to reach their potential as an R3 tool, we have to get outdoor events into the mix of other things people can do with their time. Through this API the outdoor industry is now able to list their events alongside things like concerts, plays, sports tournaments, and other options. And, because of its open architecture, any brand, fish and wildlife agency, or organization can begin promoting all the events in their area, rather than just their own.”

In total, over 9,000 hunting, shooting, fishing, and conservation events are accessible via the API. Event hosts include major NGOs, such as Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation, state agencies, and businesses. New events are added every day via integrations with our partners, scrapers, and APIs. Once the API is implemented, no additional development time or support resources are required to keep it up-to-date.

There are many uses for the Powderhook API:

Web developers can implement a calendar containing events from hundreds of sources.

State agencies can map all the events happening in their state as part of their R3 effort.

Businesses can create a calendar of events happening near their location(s).

Non-government organizations can aid their members in finding other things to do in their local area.

More information is available here: https://powderhook.com/events-landing

To view the events on our map simply navigate to: https://www.powderhook.com/map

Next up we’ll announce a fully self-contained calendar widget, giving our partners the ease of configuring/copying/pasting our events calendar into their website.

Please email us with questions.

How Powderhook Makes Money

We’re betting the company on a completely unique way of making money. If it works, everyone wins.

A Letter from our founder, Eric Dinger

Eric and his daughter, Reagan.

If you’ve been a part of Powderhook for awhile, you know we’ve set out to build something transformative in the name of our mission, “Access for All.” Figuring out how to do that in a way that’s good for everyone, and pays the bills, has been the challenge of a lifetime. Today I want to share with you the vision we believe gets to the heart of solving the outdoor industry’s most significant problem.

What’s the right lure to use to catch walleyes at Oak Lake this afternoon? I want my son to catch his first fish, where around town should we go to have the best chance tomorrow? Who’s the best person to talk to in the Cabela’s archery department? Are the turkeys responding to calls today? Anyone know when the next field day is happening for hunter safety?

No matter your experience level, these are the questions that stand between you and a better day afield. Discipline-specific, local, and current information – that’s the stuff that can help you have a better day as a hunter, angler or shooter. It’s why we stop at the tackle shop when go fishing, and it’s the reason hunters scour local message boards for a tidbit before a hunt. Having better days afield is the best predictor of more days afield – if it’s fun you’ll do it more. And, more days afield solves the 887 billion-dollar outdoor industry’s biggest problem; a shrinking percentage of the US population hunt or fish, and those that do go less often than they once did.

It sucks to be new to the outdoors. 

And, no matter your experience level, it’s hard to know where to go in a new area. It’s annoying to get access when you can’t pay; it’s tough to figure out licensing; it’s difficult to time that day off of work; and it can be intimidating to kill, process, and cook an animal you’re not familiar with. Each step in the process adds friction, and there’s less hassle in just about any other activity someone could choose to do with their time.

The future of conservation as we know it depends on tapping the goodwill of the individual sportsmen. No other approach can yield the kind of numbers we need.

For years we’ve heard hunters, anglers and shooters won’t help each other. You may have even said it yourself.  But, we’ve found that to be fundamentally false. Sure, some won’t, but Powderhook brims with thousands of examples of people who don’t know each other who are sharing tips, spots, directions, and advice. So much so, we’ve come to believe there’s a big difference between a hunter/angler/shooter and a sportsman. Fundamentally, the sportsman understands their pursuit isn’t about them, but rather the animal, the habitat, and their legacy as a contributor to the lives of the people around them. Unlocking the goodwill of the individual sportsman holds the keys to the future we desire.

So, how can we do that and make money?

Thousands of sportsmen have built their livelihood in the outdoor industry, and almost every job ties to our collective ability to get more people out more often. Powderhook taps the local knowledge held by individuals who work for outdoor industry brands, businesses, agencies, and organizations through a business model we’ve never seen anywhere else. We believe our model aligns the incentive of the industry expert with the needs of the person seeking information. Think of Powderhook like a local message board, filled with a community of people incentivized to help each other out.

You may have noticed a few ads popping up here and there on Powderhook. Those ads signify you’re getting an opinion from someone affiliated with an outdoor brand. These members of the Powderhook community represent businesses, agencies, and organizations who pay us a flat fee for access to Powderhook PRO, the platform we purpose-built to incentivize them to help you. With Powderhook PRO, our industry partners earn an ad each time one of their employees, pro staff, or ambassadors offer their discipline-specific, local, and timely expertise by posting on Powderhook.

With Powderhook PRO, brands are creating meaningful relationships with customers by helping, rather than strictly advertising to them. The more people they help, the more their ads show up. We call our model “Earned Native Advertising.” Today, the average post by a Powderhook PRO earns 202 impressions and a .8% click-through rate. Each impression and click are counted and attributed to the individual who earned the ad, making Powderhook PRO a uniquely high-touch, measurable approach to local marketing.

We’re betting Powderhook’s future on the idea you’ll appreciate brands whose representatives help you have better days outdoors.

Fresh air awaits,

Eric

PS – Interested in your brand going PRO? Here’s a link.

Bucks of America Gear Giveaway

 

Want to win a sweet gear package from our friends at Bucks of America? Of course you do! Would it be better if the gear package was from a state you’re passionate about hunting? We think so.

Click on a state below and have a look at what you can win. All you have to do is enter your name and email address so Bucks of America can contact you if you win. No cost, no catch, just a chance to win some sweet gear branded with the state you love. The package includes a short-sleeve shirt, hoodie, 8″ decal, and a hat.

Don’t see your state? Stay tuned. We’ll be offering more great Bucks of America giveaways down the road.

Example gear package for the State of Nebraska. 

BUCKS OF AMERICA
ENTER TO WIN GEAR FOR EACH OF THESE STATES