GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- With the Great Lakes, 11,000 inland lakes and nearly 10 million acres of land open to public hunting, Michigan's outdoor gaming industry should be booming. But according to statistics from both Pure Michigan and The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, it isn't.
Licensed anglers and hunters have decreased steadily in recent years, and now Governor Snyder is proposing an increase in license fees, forcing local sporting goods stores to have cause for concern.
One of those stores is Al & Bob's Sporting Goods in Grand Rapids, which has been in business for 54 years.
"We are sportsmen serving sportsmen," said Scott DeVries, who is the assistant manager of Al & Bob's. "We love what we do."
Despite all the success Al & Bob's has enjoyed in recent decades, the popularity of hunting and fishing in Michigan has declined. The DNR says Michigan's participation currently ranks 3rd in the nation, with nearly 800,000 certified. Fishing participation ranks 5th, with a little more than one million certified.
According to Pure Michigan, from 1986-2006, Michigan fishing was down 35% and hunting was down 32%. Those percentages haven't budged much in the past seven years.
"I really don't have an answer why," said DeVries. "We're getting swamped with fishing licenses and swamped with hunting licenses."
DeVries says that hunting and fishing in Michigan could absorb another setback if Governor Snyder's proposal to increase hunting and fishing license fees gains more traction.
"I just hope they don't do it," added DeVries. "The economy is so fragile right now."
Officials estimate the proposal could generate $18 million more dollars for the DNR to spend.
Despite the challenges the last 25 years have brought to the industry, DeVries believes the future looks bring in terms of interest from the next generation of hunters and anglers.
"The number of kids I see involved in youth fishing tournaments and hunting outings is good," said DeVries. "They get good numbers of kids, and that's what's going to keep us going."