Americans have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for the vast majority of 2020, and depending on what state one lives in, the impact on daily life has varied from relatively benign to approaching draconian. Regardless of how any particular governing authority has responded, everyone in our country has had to make some sort of adjustment to how they operate day-to-day.
While the message of social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding indoor activities have permeated the nation, it seems that many are choosing to break the bonds of being isolated—whether voluntarily or by virtual government mandate—in their own homes.
The great escape? Hunting.
Getting out in nature, where one is naturally socially distant, to hunt game is one of our nation’s oldest and greatest pastimes. And now it appears to be seeing a resurgence, as Americans decide to either explore this activity as a new experience, or decide to renew their interest in a part of their past they let lie fallow.
According to some reports, several states are seeing a spike in the sale of hunting licenses. Along with the unprecedented increase in the sale of firearms this year, it would appear that there is a rebirth in the interest in our great hunting heritage.
Clearly, much of the increase in firearms sales is due to concern over personal safety during uncertain times, but an increased interest in hunting has also contributed to the rise in America’s ownership of firearms.
In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources reported a nearly 10% increase in hunting licenses as of November 11, when compared to the same time last year. Even more impressive, there was an 80% increase reported for licenses acquired for the first time in five years—and many of those are likely first-time-ever licenses. Licenses for female hunters are up 20%, and up 18% for those aged nine or younger.
Zane Goucher, a Michigan resident, hunted as a child in Maine with his father, but had not taken to the field in 22 years.
“I’d been meaning to get back into it but never did,” he told the AP. COVID-19 led to a number of changes in daily life, including seeing his four children having to undergo online schooling, so Goucher decided to get back into hunting, with the pandemic’s impact giving him “that boost to make it happen.”
Zane recently took to the field again, along with his 12-year-old daughter, as Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season opened. Along with getting his kids into the great outdoors, the impact on Goucher was “a reawakening, kinda gets me back to my roots.”
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has seen similar increases. Archery hunting licenses are up 12%, and firearm hunting licenses have seen a 9.5% increase.
Is this a national trend? It’s hard to say, as many states will not have numbers to report until the end of the year. But for many of those states where numbers are available, it appears the interest in hunting is on the rise. Maine, for example, has reported deer hunting permits have set a new state record, while Nevada and Vermont have also experienced a significant rise in hunting.
Getting out of the house, after months of isolation, is certainly a good thing to improve your mental and physical health. But getting out into nature, and taking part in our great hunting heritage, has even greater benefits; and not just for the individual hunter.
Hunters are not just integral to sound wildlife management practices, but they also help those who are less fortunate. Programs like NRA’s Hunters for the Hungry have long helped those who may have difficulty feeding themselves or their family. By contributing meat from their successful hunts to food banks, generous hunters help the needy. During times like these, that generosity may be more important than ever. Of course, COVID-19 has impacted such programs, so any hunters that wish to donate their harvest should check local operations to be aware of any new rules that may apply in order for them to assist those in need.
We may not know until next year if an increase in the interest in hunting this year is a truly national trend, and a bright spot in a tumultuous 2020. Initial reports, however, look encouraging.