Images courtesy of the White House.
Images courtesy of the White House.
My wife, Stephanie, and I just spent the weekend Christmas shopping in Chicago. Our annual trip through the aisles of Michigan Avenue and State Street is a fun change of pace from the streak of hunting and fishing trips that usually dot my calendar throughout the year. While in many ways I would consider Chicago a great American city, my perception of our third largest city took a few body punches on this trip. In my opinion, Chicago is suffering.
We saw marches, boisterous demonstrations from disenfranchised youth, leagues of tired, stressed-out workers, and in general observed a city of people with their bolts over-tightened. Hundreds and hundreds of police officers, visible in the photo above, lined the streets in an effort to maintain civility. Life is complicated everywhere, but have we stooped so low that we’re willing to accept this as “normal” in one of our greatest cities?
Our work at Powderhook is about getting people into the outdoors. Fundamentally, we believe a connection to the natural world helps people gain a sense of place and perspective, and helps them learn to value the world around them. Certainly the outdoors can be one vehicle for exposing people to a value system, but in a place like Chicago it is flat difficult to access those experiences. The war on traditional values is alive and well.
According to Census Data, nearly 2/5 children in America is growing up in a single-parent household. Of the remaining 3/5 of American kids, two-thirds are members of dual-income families, leaving Moms and Dads of any household less and less time to lead a family. Only 17% of Americans attend religious services each week, the lowest number ever recorded, eroding the value systems taught by our faith-based institutions. As our melting pot urbanizes, gains weight and hustles to make a living, must we accept that our values are changing? Or, is there something we can do to preserve the important things as the superfluous tides roll in and out?
Chicago, and all of America, needs more Boy Scouts. Along with groups like Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, FCCLA, and others, these organizations exist to teach fundamental values that can be tough to find in other places. They seemed really tough to find last weekend in Chicago.
Read this excerpt from the Boy Scouts website. To me, this sounds the America we once knew and wish to see once again:
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” I think he’s right. Time to go get my kids signed-up.
Our country has a huge problem. Mass killings are disgusting and we need to investigate every possible solution to reversing what is a growing trend. According to some sources there have been over 300 mass killings in the last 300 days. In our great nation, innocent people should not be dying in their schools, movie theaters, places of work or at their finish lines. That much is very simple and a fact on which we can all agree. It’s pathetic.
Let’s say we completely ban guns. Continue reading Let’s say we completely ban guns
My cares fall off amongst the cattails and cornrows
The air somehow different here, crisp with a hint of harvest
Whiskey smoother, too, me and Grandpa think
Finally away, though connected to time and place
Memories rush back, as we repeat them anew
My heritage alive with family, friends and pheasants
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. – John Muir
By Eric Dinger, co-founder of Powderhook
Life with three kids and a new business can be pretty busy. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found yesterday there was nothing on the family calendar and I was going to be able to leave work in time to make it out to my favorite dove hunting spot. Time to take advantage of one of the best parts of living in a place like Lincoln; you’re never more than 15 minutes from a dirt road!
As I worked my way through the day, a thought hit me. Today would be the perfect day to take Reagan, my four year-old daughter, on her first hunt! The weather was right, there wasn’t going to be a big group and she didn’t have any plans.
I’m always excited to get outdoors, something I think I come by naturally. In fact, almost every year my Dad says something to me along the lines of, “I’m 54… 5… 6… years old, and I’m still as excited to go hunting as I was when I was a kid.” Having now hunted for the first time with Reagan, I’m witness to a new level of excitement. Maybe that was the simple joy of a little girl and her Daddy spending time doing something together. But, I think there was more to it. Here’s a glimpse into our evening together. I hope you’ll use it as a reason to take the young people in your life out with you next time you go.
Leasing your land is a balancing act of risk and reward for most landowners. Sure, you can make some extra money, but between finding the right group, covering any liability, and figuring out who’s doing what on your property it can be a bit of a hassle. Here some of the hidden benefits of leasing your land for hunting.
1) After setup, it’s almost completely passive income
2) Your lessees are likely to become family friends
3) Most people are happy to share their game with their landowners – ask for jerky and backstraps!
4) It’s not out of the question to ask your lessees for help with the things you need done, whether that’s spraying thistles, trimming trees or throwing bales
5) Having your ground leased cuts down on trespassers because you’ll have extra eyes and ears who care about your property
6) It’s your ground so it’s your rules, most hunters are happy to abide by your wishes, no matter what you have in mind
7) Your hunters will not only help you manage game populations on your property, but money from their licenses and gear funds nearly 80% of all conservation efforts in the United States
8) If you don’t hunt, they’d love to teach you, your kids, your grandkids, friends or pretty much anyone else to love and appreciate the outdoors
Lastly, if you are about the access problem, and that’s a strong possibility if you’re a fan of Powderhook, here are a couple things to keep in mind. 1) Traditional leasing can lock up your property such that only a few people can hunt it, thus consider allowing your lessee to sub-lease it to people you both approve during times or seasons they’re not using it. 2) Remember that many states have programs for leasing your land directly to your local fish and wildlife agency for the purpose of opening your land up to public hunting.
If you have any questions regarding leasing, or other forms of access, please don’t hesitate to reach out via the form found here: www.powderhook.com/lease
According to the experts at World Bank, the planet needs to produce 50% more food than we do today in order to feed the 9 billion people who’ll live here by 2050.
How can that possibly happen? Increases in efficiency are part of the answer. Lower food quality and artificial dietary supplements are, too. But the only real answer is our planet needs to build more farms, ranches and orchards.
Where will that happen? Drive out in the country sometime, or imagine for a minute your last trip. Do you see places where there could be farms, but instead native grasses or trees are growing? Now envision a similar dynamic in every country on every continent. Picture a growing quantity of agriculture and a declining quantity of truly wild places. In order to build a new farm, is there any option but to plow up a wild place?
See, hunting and fishing are about so much more than an angry tweet over the life of a lion. Hunting and fishing play a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth. All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve all of creation – the left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the plants and animals in our way.
If you don’t hunt or fish because you love animals or don’t want to see them killed, you are holding on to an ideal that is some parts fantasy and all parts unsustainable. Something will die today so that you can live. Whether you kill it or someone else does it for you, it must die for you to live.
When we plow up native grass to plant corn, when we cut down trees to build strip malls, we are removing the only home a wild animal has. And, once it’s gone, we’ll almost never get it back. When a person buys a fishing license, a hunting license, or pays a premium for the life of a living thing via some exotic hunt, they are actively preserving the wild places that sustain the animals we all love. Humans have developed no other model that works at scale. If you love animals you must support direct participation in the food chain via hunting or fishing, or you must take responsibility for your role as the surrogate killer, the politically correct accomplice in the true crime against wild animals and places.
About the author:
Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips, groups and events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his timeless 1949 classic, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold famously wrote, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” I recently came across a video (found below) that highlights a very real fear I have for my kids – the danger Leopold prophesied over 65 years ago.
My teenage daughter is a pretty normal 15 year-old kid. At any moment she’s a monster cookie of sweet and salty, wit and sarcasm, delightfulness and delinquency. Monster cookies are wonderful, if not unpredictable. But, this cookie comes with one constant: her phone. My goodness she loves her phone. It’s more than a communication device; it’s her hobby, her companion and her lifeline to the minute-by-minute updates she holds so dear.
Generational differences aside, her compulsion for omni-connectedness worries me. Perhaps ironically, it’s my perception of her lack of connection to the tangible world around her that scares me. Much of how we perceive the world comes to us through the conditioning and learning we experience when we’re young. For people like me, those lessens were earned outside. My daughter and many of her friends, normal small town kids, largely view the outdoors as the mundane gap between their indoors – the stuff you drive through on the way to your hockey game. When I rode long distances as a kid, I would count the duck species I saw or try to figure out how many minutes it would take us to get to the next exit. Now, we flip on a movie and ride quietly as our kids stare blankly at one device or another. Gone are the hours of unstructured play, the exploration and outdoor discovery that defined my childhood, in favor of new forms of the same with names like Netflix, Spotify and Instagram. Telling your teenager to go outside and play has become the equivalent of saying “go use your phone where I can’t see you.”
My desire isn’t that my kids grow up to be like me, but rather that they explore, think critically and problem solve. Can these foundations be learned via a screen? My daughter consumes almost every form of content she values via her phone. She need not be curious about the world around her because Google has answers. (with pictures!) Exploration looks a lot like Wikipedia. She knows beef comes from cows, because that’s easy to read on Gawker. But, does she value the farm… the farmer… the cow itself? She’ll cry foul at the site of a feedlot, a judicious member of her outrage culture, but will she care enough to try to understand the complexity of raising enough beef to feed our developing world at a price point they can afford?
In my brief time as a parent I’ve come across only one antidote. Feed your kids fish they catch. The whole process is importantly unscreened. It’s tough to fish with a phone in your hand. Still more difficult to avoid the beauty of a sunset from a quiet boat, the enormity and fragility of nature on full display. (Enter phone for #sunset pic.) Neither Instagram nor Google will tell you how to catch those pesky late-July walleye. After all, if you’re gonna be there you may as well catch a fish! Maybe a parent’s experience with #walleyeprobs can be the start of a richer conversation.
That something must die so you can live is a fundamental of our existence, yet ditching the supply chain in favor of active participation in the food chain can be an emotional experience. It’s complicated to watch a living thing make its way to your plate. The entire lake-to-table experience encapsulates Leopold’s wish for us – that we pay attention to the places and living things around us, and that we are thoughtful about our role as apex omnivores in a fragile ecosystem. As I strive to raise curious, critical-thinking problem solvers, the time we spend fishing has become the one screen through which I’m confident I can connect.
I believe deeper relationships with the world around us are key to the changes we hope to see in every generation. Whether you garden, fish, hunt or forage, take the time to include your kids and maybe you’ll both find that connection.
About the author:
“A simpler, more open and transparent way of doing business across our industry is the only way we can ensure the future of our way of life.” – Eric Dinger, co-founder and CEO, Powderhook
In a little under two years of work on the access problem, Powderhook has gained several important insights. Included in this story are five things we’ve learned and a call to action for the hunting, fishing and shooting industry. Examples from other industries are provided as a means to rationalize each argument. It is our hope this post can serve as a springboard for new ideas and better solutions.
Powderhook’s mission is Access for All. That means access for new hunters, anglers and shooters; for parents and their children; for neighbors who haven’t been out in the field for years; and for you. Powderhook works with the nation’s leading conservation organizations, retailers and manufacturers, bringing our industry together to solve some of its most important problems. We’re building a one-stop shop, like “Expedia for the Outdoors.”
It could be said that Powderhook is one of the nerdiest outdoor companies. Our team of 7 technical individuals employs a skill-set somewhat unique to the outdoor industry. We build software solutions for the challenges we believe are most integral to the future of our way of life. Our platform is used to create, market, find and acquire access.
When we first started Powderhook, we understood our mission to mean the average person needs a place to hunt, free or paid. Thus, we built one of the most complete data repositories for huntable and fishable lands information, both public and private, ever created. Our data come from upwards of 17 sources, and we have over 650,000 places to go. Very few organizations have ever built a lands database as far-reaching and comprehensive. This data can be viewed, free of charge, by visiting www.powderhook.com/map.
Over time, we have come to understand the access problem at a much deeper level. By speaking to hundreds of people on both the “have access” and “need access” sides of the equation, we have gained several important insights. In keeping with our values, we’ve decided to share these well-earned lessons with the industry.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Most days, people aren’t looking for places to hunt or fish. One day they might be looking for a tournament in which to fish; they may be interested in attending an NWTF banquet; or they might just want to find a range to sight in their rifle. The access problem is bigger and more complicated than simply finding someone a spot. For that reason we introduced group, event and trip management functionality.
To present our user an accurate picture of what they could do outdoors in their area, we started to think of our business as a social marketplace. We began to build a one-stop place to find groups, events, spots and trips for the hunter, shooter and angler.
In adopting this wider agenda, we have encountered several challenges we believe the industry must solve to propel itself forward. These problems are larger than what any company or single organization can change. They are as endemic and deeply rooted as their solutions are imperative. Challenging as they may be, they are also exacerbated by a generation of consumers, the future of our industry, who will, almost exclusively, purchase through their phone and have a low tolerance for inconvenience.
The key insights presented below represent, in our view, a cultural shift in thinking for our industry. For the future of our way of life, we must collectively adopt a simpler, more open and transparent way of doing business.
The Industry Must Create a Marketable Commodity Out of “Access”
Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to book a hotel room? You can book the same hotel room across dozens of websites. Knowing that, have you ever really asked yourself why it’s so hard to find a duck blind to sit in, a place to hang your deer stand, or the upcoming 3-gun competitions in your area? The fundamental underlying issue is our industry lacks a standard tradable good — an inventory, like a room-night for hotels.
“Access” means several things, and somehow nothing all at once. It could mean a lease; a trespass fee; a role on a shooting team; a seat in a blind or a spot in your friend’s truck. We believe the industry, in the interest of creating a marketable commodity, will come to define “access” as a seat for a period of time — effectively, our version of a room-night. This is a natural conclusion given we buy, sell and trade periodic access to all kinds of things, including movies, concerts, vacation rentals and cars. It is our belief that an industry-wide adoption of this “seat” or “inventory” creation approach is integral to the perpetuation of our way of life. In doing so, we can create the opportunity and incentive for private industry, public/private partnerships and individuals to get to work marketing, giving, trading, buying and selling our collective access assets, regardless of who owns or creates them.
Powderhook has created the acronym G.U.E.S.T. to help serve as a moniker for this line of thinking. No matter what you do in this access or R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) arena, you are in the business of helping people find and consume Groups, Users, Events, Spots and Trips. Because license buying is an imperative, we believe selling a license is a bi-product of selling your audience on one or several of the components of G.U.E.S.T. Examples of which include:
Agencies and NGOs Should Think of Themselves as Wholesalers of G.U.E.S.T.
The key holders of inventory must push us forward by creating an economic incentive for others to help with access and R3 problems. Private industry needs to be able to make money by directly aiding the process of getting people outdoors. Cabela’s should be selling access at retail. I should be able to sign-up for fishing tournaments on the Bass Pro Shops website. GunBroker.com should be selling Ducks Unlimited banquet tickets. Expedia should be booking campgrounds. Airbnb should be adding fishing licenses onto their lakefront home rental transactions. MidwayUSA should be taking registrations for 3-gun competitions.
The travel industry serves as a great model for us to observe. Hoteliers, rental car companies and airlines all allow direct consumption via their individual websites. You can buy a United flight on United.com. In much the same way we’re advocating the outdoor industry evolve, those same companies allow hundreds of other websites to make money from booking their inventory. You also can buy a United flight on Travelocity.com. Travelocity makes money, United makes money and more people travel more often. That economic incentive has lead to billions of additional dollars spent in marketing, advertising and product development. In a time when our industry desperately needs to recruit new people, adding additional private sales channels is a must.
While we’ve only been in the industry for a couple years, it has become our belief that our agency and NGO friends face nearly impossible odds in changing the tide in our industry. The agencies we’ve gotten to know are running dozens of different lines of business, from marketing agency and publisher to range operator and event planner. Because of this construct and the built-in inefficiency, resources become strapped, and effectiveness and innovation are swapped for status quo in the interest of just plain getting the work done each day. We believe a simplification of the agency and NGO business model through the adoption of the “wholesale” mindset can have a drastic impact on the output of these organizations and the effectiveness of their role in the broader industry.
The Industry Needs a Common Repository of Geographic Information
Powderhook has invested several hundred thousand dollars in the creation of our map. No one should have to do it again. Our map, or one like ours with considerably more input from the industry, should exist as an open standard for hunting- and fishing-related geographic information. With an open standard, all public agencies, NGOs, private companies and individuals could access a common tool and update a related data asset. Currently geo information exists in hundreds of data silos. Several fish and wildlife agencies have invested heavily in their mapping infrastructure. Others have not. Each has done it in their own way, making for a significantly higher cost for an NGO, private company or individual who may be willing to invest in their own version of R3. When a park closes on a fish and wildlife website, it should also reflect as closed on Powderhook, Google Maps and any other place people might seek that information. When a new hunting land is added from a private access program, it should be visible across the entire industry. An open environment, welcoming of user contributions, such as www.openstreetmaps.com, is how we make it happen.
We Must Manage our Collective Reputation
To do so, we need to commit to a national hunter, shooter and angler registry. Each person in the registry should receive a unique identifier they can use to manage their reputation as they move throughout the industry. This common identifier would allow for simplification of the licensing and tag application process. It would enable people to register, sign-up, purchase and participate more efficiently. In addition, it would enable the R3 movement to measure the behaviors and outcomes of their programs. Strangely, this already exists under our noses. Facebook uses your common identity to allow you login to countless websites. In doing so, they’re able to track your behavior across your web behaviors in much the same manner our industry needs to do.
The idea of a national license or registration program is an old one. There may never be a day when a person can purchase a license in one state and legally hunt another state; however, a common identifier will enable technology similar to Foursquare’s “check-in” to make licensing across multiple states a simpler and more open process.
Your common identifier would know you are an active member of Ducks Unlimited, which may gain you access to DU programs or hunts not available to the general public. It would know your Hunter Safety Number, eliminating the frustration and pressure of materializing this form of identification for each new place a person hunts or fishes. Further, landowners cite wanting to know who is on their land and what they’re doing as the number one reason they deny access. A common identifier could aid sportsmen and women in that communication process.
We Need a Marketplace
Have you ever thought about what makes ebay so special? The magic in ebay is that there aren’t two ebays. If you’re looking to sell something used online, you go to ebay. Because of that, if you’re looking to buy something used online, you go to ebay. People sell on ebay because people buy on ebay, because people sell on ebay. This phenomenon is something referred to as the “network effect.” Simply defined, network effect refers to the notion that each additional buyer and seller added to a marketplace makes the marketplace better for each existing buyer and seller.
Our economy is in the early stages of a new type of revolution. Economists refer to this new way of doing business as the peer-to-peer or share economy movement. Using a marketplace business model, companies such as Lyft, StubHub, Uber, GunBroker, Airbnb, Homeaway, Etsy and many others are changing the way in which things are bought and sold. It can be said they’re systematically deconstructing fixed and mature industry one efficient, peer-to-peer transaction at a time. Last night, Airbnb was the second largest hotelier in the world, yet almost none of their sellers are even businesses. A marketplace, like those mentioned here, is part of the future of nearly all industries. We believe the adoption of a single marketplace is a key component of the future of the hunting and shooting industry.
According the U.S. Fish and Wildlife data from 2012, Americans spent $10.1 billion on access. Yet in spite of this immense demand, there is no single point of entry or simple process for consuming this “access.” Just to get started, our industry requires hours of research, earning of a certificate, wading through vast regulations to procure a license. With license in hand the process of securing a place to hunt or fish may be just as daunting. If we are to be competitive with other outlets for our customer’s time, this simply isn’t good enough.
Why don’t we have a marketplace already, if it’s such a good idea? Dozens have tried. Powderhook is working on it. But, the outdoor industry is very different than others. The level of fragmentation, the desire for hunters and anglers to preserve their spots, the lack of a fundamental commodity, the extremely high cost of seller acquisition, and the deep role of government, licensing and regulation will require the builder of a marketplace in the outdoor space to have immense staying power. Things that may move quickly in other industries simply cannot in the hunting, fishing and shooting space. But, rest assured, if our industry is to make it into the next generation of hunters, anglers and shooters, a marketplace will be a key component of how it all works. Our children won’t stand for the inefficiencies. They’ll just play soccer or video games instead.
Will our children hunt? Will they care about the second amendment? Will they value our beloved North American Model of Wildlife Conservation? Or, will the race of an urbanized lifestyle; the relative torture it takes to earn a hunter-ed certificate; the traveling soccer teams; the two income households; the need to make time; the hassle of finding a place to go; the pain it takes to figure out permits; the anti-hunting noise — will the pressure finally erode our base and crack our foundation?
Fixing these problems for the next generation is impossible for you to do, no matter who you are. Powderhook is no exception. From a technical standpoint, Powderhook can build some of the solutions our industry needs. As one of the first for-profit companies to burrow into the access problem, our brand is positioned well to get it done; however, a nice brand and the technical ability to do something will get our solutions only so far. As industry leaders, we must get busy empowering individuals and private industry to make the changes we need by ensuring our every investment makes our collective offerings simpler, more open and transparent.
About the author:
Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips, groups and events. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The following letter was written by Powderhook CEO, Eric Dinger, to the Nebraska State Legislature. Please join Powderhook in working in your state to strike down anti-hunting, senseless legislation like the permanent ban on mountain lion hunting proposed by radical Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers.
My name is Eric Dinger. I live in Senator Bolz’ district here in Lincoln. Please include my email in the testimony presented at tomorrow’s committee hearing on LB 127.
Our company, Powderhook, operates an online hunting and fishing industry marketplace. We work with folks all over the country to find places to hunt and fish, access outdoor events and plan trips.
I’m writing today to tell you that I’m concerned about our mountain lions. More than just the mountain lions, I’m concerned about the precedent LB 127 would set as it relates to the management of our wildlife and wild places here in Nebraska. Continue reading A Letter to the Nebraska State Legislature