The coronavirus pandemic isn’t keeping America’s outdoorsmen and women from visiting their favorite hunting spots.
The number of hunters across the nation has been dwindling for years. Gaming and social media keep many people occupied indoors these days. Additionally, much of our food comes already prepared and sealed in plastic.
Further, older hunters are aging out of the sport and fewer young people are stepping in to take their place. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing and Hunting details the decline in hunting numbers. They note that the number of American hunters dropped from 13.6 million in 2011 to 11.4 million in 2016.
Numbers from Michigan also show hunting license sales dropping from 450,000 in 2015 to just over 390,000 in 2019.
Hunting Numbers Surge in Michigan Due to COVID-19
However, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be putting that trend on pause. Beginning in March and April earlier this year, COVID-19 spread across America and has led to a surge in firearm sales that hasn’t been seen before.
According to retailer survey data, more than 5-million of the 13-million gun buyers in 2020 were first-timers. Hunting activities were one of the main reasons for buyers to head to the gun store.
Even through all the uncertainty and unrest in cities around the country, America’s hunters are heading outdoors. Early reports suggest the increase can be attributed to COVID-19 lockdowns and, as a result, fewer entertainment options. Moreover, unsettled work conditions and family traditions also play a part in the rise in numbers.
For example, a month out from the opening day of Michigan’s whitetail deer firearm season, hunting license sales have surged to almost 446,000 — 13 percent higher than 2019. Meanwhile, deer tags sales are up 16 percent over last year.
There are several other encouraging signs as well. According to Kristin Phillips of the Marketing and Outreach Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, state shooting ranges are seeing unusually high use.
DNR representatives also note a 92-percent increase in new customers — hunters who have not purchased a license in at least five years. There’s also a 141-percent increase in licenses purchased for hunters ages 10-16.
With millions of new Americans buying firearms for hunting and purchasing hunting licenses, the pastime of American hunting and recreational shooting is growing.
Early reports across the nation are promising. However, state officials have to wait to see if the increase in interest continues in the seasons following COVID-19.
An influx of new and returning hunters has the potential to revive the sport. In addition, the increase in license sales will provide funds to manage state lands and wildlife populations.