Published since 1946
Increasing Number of Midwestern Hunters Purchasing Archery Deer Season Licenses
A small survey of six midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) showed that sales of licenses to be eligible to participate in the 2020 archery season are up significantly for this time of year. Although each state offers licenses for sale beginning with a standard license year and ending after hunting seasons close, sales of licenses are usually most brisk during the week before a season opener. October 1 is the opening date for many states, and we compared sales by October 1, 2020 with sales by October 1, 2019. The number of unique customers who purchased licenses to become eligible to archery hunt was up 16-32% across the reporting states by October 1.
These data, collected through personal communication by the Wildlife Management Institute, are only valid as a trend indicator as there are some problems with tracking season-specific participation. We attempted to obtain information about the number of unique license holders that could participate in the archery season. In some states, archery licenses are not an available license type but rather hunters are able to purchase deer hunting licenses that can be used in multiple seasons. Other states offer a combination hunting/fishing license, although the expectation is that hunter may not participate in all available seasons.
The growth in archery license sales follows trends of increased participation seen this year in fishing, turkey hunting, and other outdoor recreation activities. COVID-19 may have boosted participation in outdoor recreation this year as people seek out things to do while maintaining social distancing.
Retailers also report brisk sales of equipment for outdoor recreation, including hunting gear. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearm industry, updated retail survey-based estimates and concluded that nearly 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the very first time in 2020. The resulting Pittman-Robertson funds, combined with an increase in state license sales, are welcomed by the conservation community.
Although COVID-19 has had wide-ranging impacts on the economy, the reversal of the long-term trend in declining hunter numbers is one encouraging aspect. This statistic is likely impacted by both reactivation of lapsed hunters and recruitment of new hunters but overall is seen as a boon for state agencies working in the R3 arena. Of great interest will be whether these new and reactivated participants will continue to hunt in future years or whether 2020 is a short-term phenomenon that will last only until COVID-19 is resolved.