January 20, 2021
By Gordon Whittington
Earlier this year, many wildlife officials feared sweeping lockdown measures put into place to reduce COVID-19 would threaten their workplaces — and not just over the short term. Licenses and permits for hunting whitetails are the principal revenue sources for nearly all wildlife agencies east of the Rocky Mountains. Thus, any reduction in deer hunter interest, opportunities or access was of great concern.
Fortunately, despite ongoing lockdowns around North America, nearly all whitetail opportunities have been salvaged. And it appears hunters have responded enthusiastically.
While not all the numbers have been crunched, license sales have shown hunters were eager to get back outdoors. And even with higher unemployment and ongoing concerns over land access, a huge number of hunters were willing to spend for the privilege.
New York is a great example. At this writing the state remains under tight lockdown of many public areas and workplaces, but hunting license sales have been through the roof. In fact, nearly three times as many licenses and deer permits were sold on the first day of availability this year as last year.
And the spike continued from there. The Department of Environment Conservation sold over $6.2 million in licenses in the first two weeks they were available, an increase of 77 percent over the $3.5 million in sales for the same period last year.
“With New Yorkers looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing tremendous interest in outdoor recreation and in the sports of fishing, hunting and trapping, including record sales of big-game hunting and trapping licenses,” notes DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Anecdotal evidence from many other states and provinces reflects a similar trend. Some people might not yet be able to go back to work, and there continue to be restrictions on large public gatherings, but they still can go to the woods — and millions want to do so. Meanwhile, wildlife agencies are continuing to receive the funding needed to manage game species, along with other types of wildlife and fisheries for which they are responsible.