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Deer firearm season expected to boom this year

After less popular seasons saw an increase in participation this year, the most popular one is just getting started.

MICHIGAN, USA — So far, 2020 has hunting trending upward in Michigan. The most popular season, the deer firearm hunt, is expected to follow that trend when it starts mid-November.

For the first time in over 22 years, according to the Department of Natural Resources, the state is gaining hunters. From 1998 to 2018, the state lost over 300,000 hunters and was estimating another 100,000 to leave in the next decade due to active hunters ageing out and not being replaced. 

"But then a pandemic happened," said DNR's Marketing and Outreach Division Specialist Dustin Isenhoff, who spoke with us back in October.

Isenhoff credits the hunting boom to "folks' reallocation of time." He stated that national surveys credit lack of time and access as the top two reasons for people no longer hunting.

RELATED: On eve of deer hunt, problems reported with license system

"There's still the same amount of time in the day now as there was in 1996, but there is more stuff competing for people's time," Isenhoff said.

The first boom the sport saw this year was during the spring turkey season, which experienced an increase of 27% participation. Early data shows that women hunters is up over 30% this year and youth is over 110%, according to Isenhoff.

Hunters Pete Williams and Mike Smith are two Michiganders who love the sport.

Both finished a trip out of state only to get back home to regroup and head back out the next day, to start the firearm season with some friends locally.

"We just left a deer camp, and the other day the news mentioned, 'Don't go to deer camp and socialize with people outside of your home,' but we were in a camp ground, we stayed to ourselves and when you hunt you're distanced out," Williams said.

"I usually do a morning and night hunt every once in a while," Smith said. "Every once in a while I'll sit all day but that all depends if you're seeing a lot or not."

Credit: MI Dept. of Natural Resources

RELATED: Michigan hunting numbers for 2020 on the upswing, bucking a 20-year decline

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the food, weather, and population conditions are on track to meet or exceed the 2019 season, according to their Nov 9. News Digest letter.

Hunting also benefits the Michigan economy with licenses ranging from $10 - $100 for residents and more for non-residents.

The economy also benefits from the gun and ammunition sales the firearm season produces.

Flashpoint Firearms, a local, woman-owned gun shop off of Alpine, had a steady stream of customers the day before deer firearm season started.

RELATED: Changes to expect during firearm deer season

The owner said the store is following the national trend of running low on certain ammunition after a prosperous amount of sales this year. 

Ammoland, N.I.C.S and even Walmart cited record gun sales in March, crediting the pandemic; June, crediting the riots; and a small bump in October as the country headed toward the national presidential election, though gun sales usually spike during election years.

To learn more about where you can hunt, how to get a license or any other facts about hunting, you can check out the Michigan DNR website here. 

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