“People are realizing that during COVID, getting out either hunting or fishing has been a way to socially distance and be responsible while also enjoying time with your family outdoors being physically healthy and mentally healthy," said Nick Buggia.
This firearm deer season, there are more hunters out than usual.
The season started on Sunday, Nov. 15 and Buggia, a chairman with the Michigan Wildlife Council, as well as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources believe it's likely due to COVID-19.
Firearm deer hunting licenses aren't the only ones up this year. In fact, this entire year has seen an increase in hunting and fishing sales across the board according to the DNR.
Here is a look at the numbers through Sunday, Nov. 15 from the DNR:
- The number of total hunting customers is 632,607, which increased 5.4% over last year at this same time.
- The number of deer hunters is 574,359, which increased 5.1% over last year.
- The number of fall turkey hunters is 28,680, which increased 16% over last year.
- We have seen a 71% increase in new hunters compared to last year, with a total of 102,366 new licensed hunters and counting.
According to the Michigan Wildlife Council, the largest increases were in hunters between the ages of 10-16 as well as female hunters.
"Recognize that you are part of a 400-500 thousand person movement," said DNR Deer Biologist, Chad Stewart. "There’s a lot of people in the state of Michigan doing the same thing you are over the next couple days and this has been in Michigan’s history now for over 100 years.
Ed Goulder, a spokesperson for the DNR, says those numbers could still go up.
On Saturday, Nov. 14 the agency experienced a problem with the vendor that manages it's retail sales system and because of that, many people were not able to buy a deer hunting license.
Opening Day Eve is typically the biggest day for deer hunting license sales.
For comparison, on Nov. 14 in 2019, there were 71,229 hunters who bought licenses. In 2020, just 53,590 bought licenses which is a 33% decline.
"Even with that technical problem on this very busy license sales date, we continue to see an over-all increase in the number of hunters in Michigan," said Goulder.
The DNR and Wildlife Council say this increase in license sales is huge for the state, especially since Michigan has lost about 300,000 hunters in the last 20-years.
That loss in hunters has allowed the deer population to grow and become harder to manage.
License sales also generate about $61-million dollars a year for conservation projects.