Michigan sees 95% increase in new hunters since March

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MLive file photo (Nic Antaya | MLive.com)

LANSING, MICH. — Michigan is seeing its biggest spike in new hunters in at least two decades.

Hunting license sales for first-time hunters have surged 95% since March, echoing a national trend that’s led more people to pursue outdoor recreation as a safe, socially distant option for activity during the pandemic.

“We have seen a record increase in license sales that we haven’t seen in 20 years,” Shannon Lott, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said in a release. “This is definitely the year that everyone wants to get outside.”

The DNR reports that 440,780 people purchased a hunting license through Oct. 12. More than 64,000 of those buyers were first-time hunters — 31,000 more new hunters than at the same point last year. Women and youth hunters are among the demographic groups propelling that increase. People ages 10-16 drove a 144% increase in license sales across all hunting species, while the number of female hunters has risen nearly 25%.

Michiganders also bought 9% more fishing licenses this year, with the total number of new anglers rising 42%, said Dustin Isenhoff, DNR marketing specialist.

These numbers are a sharp contrast to a downward trend in hunting license sales both in state and nationwide over the past several decades, as baby-boomers are spending less time hunting, and younger generations opt not to pursue the sport.

But this year, all types of outdoor recreation got a boost. Parks and trails across the state have been reporting record visitor numbers, as camping, hiking, bird-watching and kayaking joined hunting and fishing on the list of activities enjoying a sudden surge in popularity.

The DNR and sporting groups are thrilled by Michigan’s new interest in hunting and fishing and are considering ways to encourage participation in the years to come, Isenhoff said.

In Michigan, hunting license sales generate about $61 million annually for wildlife and natural resources conservation projects, with an additional $32 million coming from a federal levy on hunting and fishing equipment sales, according to the Michigan Wildlife Council.

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