The state of Vermont is seeing the highest registration for hunting and fishing licenses in three decades, and it’s due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
If anything good has possibly come of the current pandemic, it’s a mass return to the outdoors. As social distancing became the norm in 2020, millions of Americans returned to nature in order to entertain themselves via the original form of social distancing. While this shift saw thousands of outdoorsmen and women returning to pastimes they already loved, it also saw thousands more take to the wilds for the first time.
Vermont’s Staggering Increase in Hunting & Fishing: The Numbers
The latter is particularly true for the state of Vermont. Within 2020, literally thousands more citizens were fishing and hunting in the state than at any time in the last three decades. Vermont saw an increase of fishing licenses sales totaling around 16,000 more than 2019 for 2020. This brought the state’s total number of registered anglers from 71,000 up to 87,000 Vermonters.
Vermont is seeing the same trend for hunting, as well. Residents purchased 141,000 hunting licenses in 2020 alone. This is a large jump from 120,000 the previous year. That’s 21,000 new hunters in one state for a single year.
Unlike with fishing, nonresident (out of state registers) hunting licenses also saw a rise. 3,000 more out-of-state hunters came to Vermont for 2020, bringing their total to 15,000 in 2020 over 2019’s 12,000.
The numbers, which come courtesy of Vermont state news website VTDigger, are pretty incredible. And to put it simply, “The pandemic [got] more people to get outdoors,” says Vermont’s Louis Porter. Porter, who serves as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, adds that mass unemployment also factored into a return to outdoor hobbies alongside social distancing.
“Uncertainty and difficult times were leading people to think about what they really wanted to spend their time doing this year,” Porter adds. “Being with family in nature, doing things that are safe during a pandemic, like hunting and fishing, fit that extremely well.”
Outdoors Get Vermont Citizens Through COVID Pandemic
One such individual new to the outdoor lifestyle in Vermont is resident Danielle McEnany. Once a West Coast surfer, McEnany held a negative opinion of fishing her entire life. Growing up, fishermen’s hooks would get caught in her wetsuit. “It was a real nuisance, so I never thought fishing would be on my radar,” she reports to VTDigger.
That opinion would change drastically over the course of 2020, however. “Fast-forward to this past summer, we probably went out fishing three to four times a week,” McEnany continues. “It replaces a lot of what we’d normally do.”
“Instead of dinner dates with hubby, we’d rent out pontoon boats and fish on Lake Champlain for hours,” she adds of her family’s expeditions on Vermont’s famous lake. “Normally we’d do trips to Montreal and Massachusetts, and instead we did a fishing charter. It’s become an obsession.”
Thousands of others joined the McEnanys in taking to the outdoors for the first time in 2020. In addition, Vermont Fishing and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter clarifies that this is due to the state government’s work in clarifying quarantine and social distancing regulations so citizens knew what the could and couldn’t do.
“I’ve spoken to many people who aren’t going to their camps because of Covid, or they’re splitting time at camp among families,” Porter adds. “We advised that if you’re going out with a hunting partner not in your household, not to share a vehicle, that kind of thing.”
Congruently, the state saw “a major spike in sales of guns and ammunition”, as did the entire country. Porter, however, attributes that increase “more to social and political unrest than the interest in hunting.”