MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - For the past couple of decades the number of people spending time outdoors hunting or fishing has seen a downward trend, according to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
This coincides with more people moving to and residing in more urban areas, among other factors, according to David Lucas with DNR.
But the great outdoors is starting to make a comeback.
For fiscal year 2020, DNR saw an increase of at least 20% in license purchases by South Carolina residents across three out of four of its main license categories: freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and combo hunting and fishing.
Only resident hunting licenses saw a slight decrease.
Like many other facets of living, recreation activities like hunting and fishing were negatively impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first half of the calendar year, the total number of hunting and fishing licenses purchased dropped, according to DNR.
South Carolina’s turkey season took a hit as travel restrictions early on in the pandemic kept many out-of-state hunters home. Lucas says that caused sales of non-resident hunting licenses to drop this past spring.
All three categories of non-resident licenses saw a decrease for the 2020 fiscal year, with hunting licenses seeing a 20.85% drop year-over-year.
However, hunting and fishing lend themselves to social distancing, and from July through October, the three main license categories DNR sells - hunting, fishing and combination hunting/fishing - all saw an increase in purchases compared to the same period last year, according to Lucas.
“The assumption is more people are doing outside activities because of COVID, there is a higher level of interest in people getting hunting and fishing licenses because they’re going out and doing those kind of activities because people want something to do that’s outside. But we don’t really know that for certain; we have not surveyed new license holders,” Lucas said.
DNR officials said they sold more than 1,000 hunting licenses, more than 3,800 combination licenses and more than 24,000 fishing licenses between those four months than were sold during the corresponding 2019 timeframe.
Hunting and fishing is part of South Carolinas DNA, so much so that when Gov. Henry McMaster suspended many outdoor activities back in the spring, he made a point to make exceptions for fishing along the state’s waterways.
At this point it’s unclear what impact the increase in license sales will have on the department’s annual revenue. Lucas said the sale of licenses not only has a direct impact on DNR’s operating budget but indirectly as well.
The state also receives federal grant funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife management programs, but the distribution of those funds in part depends on the number of licenses sold within a state.
Lucas suggests a simple way to contribute to wildlife management in South Carolina and other related programs, even if for those who don’t hunt or fish, is to purchase a license.
For in-state residents, individual hunting and fishing licenses are $10 annually. The combination licenses are $25 annually.