Hunting has long been a pastime on the decline. Fewer and fewer people venture out into the woods each year, which causes some problems when it comes to state conservation efforts. After all, hunting supports those efforts since they’re funding by hunting and fishing permits.
In fact, sometimes it seems the only people still hunting are politicians who say, “I’m a hunter, but…”
Yet all is not lost. Hunting has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the era of COVID-19.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of hunters across the country were continually declining each year. Gaming and social media has a way of keeping many folks anchored inside these days, and it seems more and more people lean towards the convenience of buying their food already prepared and sealed in plastic. On top of that, you have hunters who struggle to make it back to the woods each season due to age, and fewer young folks are stepping in to fill their places.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service details the decline in hunting numbers in their National Survey of Fishing and Hunting. They point to the fact 13.6 million American hunters in 2011 fell off to 11.4 million in 2016.
Here in my home state of Michigan, the number of hunting license sales from 2013 to 2019 also reflects this trend. According to data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there were nearly 125,000 fewer hunting licenses sold in the state during those years compared to this season.
Michigan Sees Spike in Hunters Due to COVID-19
With all that being said, it appears more hunters in the mitten state have been hitting the woods since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the DNR reports 440,780 people purchased a hunting license through October 12. Over 64,000 of those buyers were first-time hunters – 31,000 more new hunters than previously recorded at the same time last year.
It’s unlikely that this is isolated to Michigan.
The question asked at the end of that article, though, is will it last?
That’s probably the most important question. After all, a one-year spike in hunting isn’t really going to do much to keep the sport alive, now is it? What’s needed is a sustained effort, an increase in hunting year after year.
So, will it continue?
That’s one of those unknowable question, but we need to first think about why people started doing it this year in the first place. After all, with COVID a concern, why would people take up hunting of all things?
The answers probably vary depending on who you ask, but part of it may have been fear of food shortages as producers were unable to pick crops and processors shut down due to infection risks. For some, it might have simply been a matter of finally having time to hunt. Another may simply have been that it was an activity you could leave the house for. When you’re stuck inside all day long, it’s easy to get a little stir crazy, so hunting let people leave home for a little while without fear of being harassed or arrested.
Those conditions won’t continue indefinitely.
What will, however, is the enjoyment someone can get while hunting. That’s the thing that matters more than anything else. People have to get something out of it. Since game animals are downright elusive, so getting meat isn’t always going to be enough. That means enjoyment. And yeah, hunting is fun, even if you don’t see a damn thing. I mean, there are worse ways to spend a morning than sitting in the woods enjoying nature, right?
If these new hunters agree, they’ll likely be back. If not, they won’t. It’s just that simple.