Delta Waterfowl Adds an R3 Coordinator to Boost Hunter Recruitment Efforts

Grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Waterfowl Research Foundation support a new position   

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — The number of waterfowl hunters in North America has declined dramatically since peaking at 2.5 million in the early 1970s. Currently, there are about 1.2 million waterfowl hunters in the United States and Canada, and many of them are likely to stop hunting soon as the “Baby Boomer” generation ages out. Recruiting new duck and goose hunters is more critical than ever to secure the future of waterfowl hunting.

Delta Waterfowl has been working tirelessly to recruit, retain and reactivate (an effort known as R3) waterfowl hunters since the early 2000s, when The Duck Hunters Organization launched First Hunt, the largest waterfowl hunter recruitment program in North America.

Now, bolstered by generous grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Waterfowl Research Foundation, Delta’s hunter recruitment programs will have even more impact.

In May, Delta hired Stephen Sowell as R3 coordinator. Sowell, a Washington native who previously served as R3 program coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will focus on growing Delta’s First Hunt and University Hunting programs.

“We simply must recruit new waterfowl hunters to replace those who are hanging up their waders and calls,” said Joel Brice, vice president of waterfowl and hunter recruitment programs. “Our goal is to increase the number of Delta Waterfowl chapters that host First Hunt recruitment events, as well as to rapidly expand the University Hunting Program. Hiring Stephen (Sowell) to coordinate Delta’s efforts is a key step to increase the number of waterfowl hunters in North America.”

Delta’s First Hunt, which is delivered by hundreds of dedicated volunteers from the organization’s local chapters across the United States and Canada, has introduced more than 68,000 people to waterfowl hunting since 2003. Last year, Delta chapters hosted 263 First Hunt events with a total of 12,367 participants.

“So many of Delta’s chapters have done a great job of hosting First Hunt events,” Brice said. “We plan to build on those successes to get even more new waterfowl hunters into the fields and marshes — focusing especially on recruiting people who are 20 to 30 years old.”

Delta’s University Hunting Program was launched in 2017 to address the growing number of wildlife management students who have little or no exposure to hunting. Delta works with university professors to expose these future wildlife managers to the important role hunting plays in conservation. Hunts were held by five universities in 2018, and the goal for this fledgling program is to expand to 15 universities this year.

“We greatly appreciate the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Waterfowl Research Foundation to push Delta’s hunter recruitment initiatives to new heights,” said Dr. Scott Petrie, Delta’s CEO and chief scientific officer.

For more information, contact Joel Brice at (701) 222-8857, ext. 5225  or

Delta Waterfowl is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and secure the future of waterfowl hunting in North America.