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

More people are buying hunting licenses in Michigan this year, with sales of deer hunting licenses up nearly 11 percent over the same period last year.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The sale of deer hunting licenses in Michigan is up nearly 11% this year, and sales are expected to spike ahead of Sunday’s opening of firearm deer season.

“This year is really unique and sort of an anomaly,’’ said Chad Stewart, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  “We’ve seen an uptick in license sales.’’

The state through mid-week logged more than 474,000 deer license sales. That number reflects more first-time hunters, more female hunters and more youth hunters.

“So, we’re seeing a lot more people jumping into the sport this year or coming back after lapsing for quite some time,’’ Stewart said. “We do expect a lot more participation and more activity.’’

Stewart says the number of hunters has been declining about 2% to 4% annually for 20 years. The change this year, he says, is welcome.

It’s encouraging to see people getting back outdoors,’’ he said. “You’re also helping some of those small businesses. It’s more important now than ever.’’

Indeed, deer hunting provides an economic boon to Michigan’s economy.

A report by Michigan United Conservation Clubs says the annual statewide impact of Michigan’s hunters, notably deer hunters, is $8.9 billion. This includes the purchase of gear and clothing, hotel rooms, meals and other expenses. The MUCC report is based on 2016 spending data.

Among the beneficiaries is Barb’s Deer Processing north of Grand Rapids.

Gina Zeigler is the owner’s daughter. She says more deer have been dropped off during the archery season and she anticipates the 16-day firearm deer season will be similar.

“We've been doing it for over 65 years,’’ Zeigler said. “And we've seen these older people with their kids, and now their kids are bringing their kids.''

Gordon Pickerd of Algoma Township has been hunting deer since the late 1960s. He says getting afield is a great way to bond with friends and family and get in touch with nature.

“It's healthier to be outside in the environment, out in the woods than sitting in a house or playing games on your devices,'' he said. “It is a wonderful tradition.’’

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