It has been about one year since the COVID-19 pandemic started and states began shutdowns and public health restrictions. Whatever your personal feelings on the pandemic and state responses to it, everyone’s life has been affected in some way. One of the more interesting things that has happened is the increase in people participating in outdoor pursuits. Hunting licenses, campground rentals, bikes, boats, and everything else related to the outdoors have seen increases in purchases since March of 2020. The simplest explanation is that with fewer things to do and many people working remotely, being outdoors has never looked so good.
It is fantastic to see so many people getting outside and fishing, hunting, and camping. We have known for years that these pursuits beat anything the busy city has to offer. In many ways, this is exactly the result we have working towards. Hunter numbers have dwindled in recent years. This has caused funding shortages and an overabundance of game in some areas. In short, we desperately needed an influx of new outdoorsmen and women. This is not without some drawbacks, of course. Trying to find ammo for your hunting rifle is next to impossible right now. As is buying a new bowstring for your compound bow or buying a canoe. Demand for these items has skyrocketed and it may still take another year for the market to catch up and demand to settle down. Space to enjoy the outdoors has also been hard to come by. Trying to get a campsite in Pictured Rocks or other popular Michigan areas was difficult last year. You also may have noticed more trucks at the public land parking lots during deer season in 2020. I can’t remember a time in recent years that so many bowhunters were out during early October.
As states begin to loosen restrictions and more people are vaccinated, time will tell if the newcomers will stick around or lose interest. While it may be a bummer to deal with increased crowds at popular outdoor spots and long waits to buy new gear, keep in mind that we need this influx of people into our sport. Getting hunter numbers across the United States back up to 10% of the adult population would be the surest way to ensure the continued existence of hunting and fishing for our children and grandchildren. In a world where certain groups want nothing more than to say that we are irrelevant and our traditions should end, showing growth among the population sends a strong signal that we are not going anywhere. Do what you can to help encourage the new group of outdoorsmen and women that were born from the pandemic. Take someone new out hunting or fishing. Offer to be a mentor and give advice when needed. Share stories of what the outdoors means to you. Our survival depends on it. Stay safe, and spend as much time outdoors this year as possible.