All posts by Eric Dinger

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


 

 

Donald Trump Jr. on Hunting

By now you’ve probably heard that Donald Trump Jr. enjoys hunting and fishing. But, to hear him speak so eloquently of our traditions, of our way of life, is a thing to behold. This video is an excerpt of his keynote at the 2016 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo.

Said Trump Jr., “I know the benefits I got from being in the woods, in the duck blind, in the deer stand at 5 in the morning. It kept me out of so much trouble I would have gotten into in my life. I want to make sure that lifestyle, those great American traditions, are there for my kids.”

No matter who you voted for, Trump Jr.’s message hits home for the sportsman. Let’s hope his influence can be felt in policy decisions throughout our government in years to come.

Donald Trump Jr. at the 2016 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo from Sportsmen for Trump on Vimeo.

Video: Sportsmen for Trump via Vimeo

The Question That Will Save Hunting

It’s been well documented hunting license buyers are declining as a percentage of the US population. Beginning around age 65, license sales begin to plummet drastically, as hunters begin to have physical, financial, geographic, or other limitations. While the overall decline in total licenses sold has been very slow, the largest cohort of hunters, the Baby Boomers, are nearing the proverbial license buying “cliff.” Alarmingly, the cohort of Millennials who must replace them appears to be significantly smaller. Analyzing the data in the video below can lead one to some grim conclusions for our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Video and Data Credit: Dr. Loren Chase, Arizona Game and Fish

 

Hundreds of entities including businesses, organizations, and agencies, as well as individuals in positions of leadership in the hunting industry have turned their focus to this very real threat. But can their concerted efforts do enough, fast enough?  No one knows, but what we do know is our industry needs the help of the individual sportsman and woman.

The one sure way we can change is to engage people at the local level in affecting this trend in their own lives. No single program, no marketing campaign, no app, or website can do what the readers of this story can do by stepping up and getting involved. It’s up to us as individual sportsmen and women to do the work.

So, here’s the big question: Do more people hunt because of you, or do fewer people hunt because of you? If everyone you hunt with, and everyone they hunt with could answer “more,” we will secure our collective hunting heritage long into the future.

Let’s start asking.