Plenty of New Yorkers will take to the woods this fall for regular deer season. The startling news of record hunting license sales on Day 1 – three times the number sold on Day 1 in 2019 – follows a notable increase in the number of people registered for the hunter education course this year – “nearly double the total number that took the course in 2019,” according to the Times Telegram.
But does that mean an uptick in new hunters or just hunters with more time to hunt?
“There is anecdotal evidence that more people are hunting this year,” said Kelly Stang, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY-DEC) Wildlife Biologist and Hunter Education Course coordinator. “License sales for a number of resident hunting licenses were up this past spring over the same time period last year. What we don’t know yet is if they were new hunters or hunters who just had more time this spring to actually get out turkey hunting.”
Due to the pandemic, NY-DEC switched its hunter safety course to a virtual class, eliminating the in-person field/range day typically required for online course instruction. Hunter safety instructors point out that means those who take the current iteration of the virtual course do not receive in-person firearm safety instruction – a way to ensure newer hunters are prepared to take to the woods safely.
“Who exactly is taking the class?” said Glen Adams, a NY-DEC certified hunter safety instructor. “And we usually have the range day portion where we have students hand off a gun properly when crossing an obstacle. And then we learn to track animals … That’s the fun part, where we help more people get through it.”
According to the Times Telegram, by Aug. 10, there were 71,108 people registered to take the course and 37,004 who had completed it, resulting in “more New Yorkers…certified to hunt big game in the first eight months of 2020 than in all of 2019.” Further, the first day of regular deer season hunting licenses sales totaled $922,444 – a significant jump from first day of sales in 2019 at $347,103.
“All outdoor recreation is on the rise in the state during the pandemic, and with greater interest in obtaining local food it would make sense that more people are interested in starting hunting or getting back into hunting for the same reasons,” said Stang.
While the push behind more hunting sales could be pandemic-driven (self-sufficiency, grocery store shortages of meat, etc.), NY-DEC plans on surveying license holders to understand “the motivation” behind the “surge,” according to the Times Telegram. And, going forward, NY-DEC will continue the virtual class option despite reinstating the in-person hunter ed courses earlier this month.
“It’s rather refreshing that folks are … getting back to nature,” said Russell Welser, Senior Resource Director at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County. “That’s the positive of the pandemic, if there is a positive.”