With turkey seasons in full swing across the country, many of my afflicted turkey-hunting buddies are dreaming or planning their swing across multiple states to chase the famed game bird.
During the turkey seasons through COVID-19, when many folks worked remotely, being in the warm sunshine seemed to make sense, and traveling by car was many people’s preferred method of travel, I was getting reports that the public land areas appeared to be very popular with hunters with the same idea.
The chatter seemed to die down a bit this season thus far, and I was curious as to why. Getting a straight answer from turkey hunters can prove to be difficult, as they are known to be tight-lipped about their hunting grounds, especially if they have the place to themselves.
In my research for data — I am a data nerd, after all, when it comes to hunting and fishing statistics — I ran across this bit of news from The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports that may help to shine some light on the subject.
Attendees of the 88th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference recently got the first look at the results of the Hunting License Sales 2021-22 report that documented a 3.1% decline in hunting license sales in 2022.
“We continued to track hunting license sales as one indicator of participation, and our results indicate that the impacts of COVID on getting people outdoors may be waning,” said Swanny Evans, the council’s director of research and partnerships, as he addressed the Hunting and Shooting Sports Committee in St. Louis. “Hunting license sales are settling back to pre-pandemic levels.”
The study was a follow-up to the past two years’ studies from the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports that documented a 4.9% increase in hunting license sales from 2019 to 2020 (otherwise known as the COVID Bump) and a 1.9% decrease the following year from 2020 to 2021.
To continue monitoring sales trends in the wake of the pandemic impact, the council revisited this study in early 2023 to identify ongoing changes and emerging trends in hunters’ rates of license purchases.
Working with Southwick Associates, the council collected monthly resident and nonresident hunting license sales data from 46 state wildlife agencies to quantify and compare 2022 to 2021 sales. Among the 46 reporting states:
Overall, hunting license sales decreased by approximately 3.1% in 2022 compared to 2021. Coincidentally, resident and nonresident license sales each were also down 3.1%.
Just six of 46 states saw an overall increase in the number of licenses sold in 2022 compared to 2021.
License sales were down overall in each of the four geographical regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West), with percentages ranging from –2.4 to –4.8%.
The only months that saw overall increases in license sales — and slight ones at that — were February and September.
The surge in nonresident license sales seen in 2021 receded in three of the four geographical regions, with the only increase seen in the Northeast.
The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports is supported by the Multistate Conservation Grant Program as awarded by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. His book “Hunting, Fishing and Family from The Hills of West Virginia” is available at www.wvbookco.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.