Meghan Marchetti / DWR
One of the unexpected silver linings of the past year has been a marked increase in participation in outdoor activities. Activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing saw a remarkable growth in numbers of people getting outside to recreate. Hunting, notably, also saw a dramatic shift, as many states in the United States showed an increase in numbers of hunting licenses purchased for the first time in recent memory—with Virginia being among those states. While we all know that these license sales provide dollars for conservation, just as valuable is the introduction of new hunters to the outdoors and the reactivation of those who may have participated in the past. We hope that these trends will continue into future years as we preserve our passions for wildlife and associated recreational opportunities.
Even more encouraging, market research shows that many first-time hunters were female, and the largest growth in sales of hunting and fishing equipment came from the 18 to 34-year-old age group. Some were looking for a COVID-safe activity, some were seeking to source their food locally, and some were drawn to try something new. Whatever the reasons new hunters found their way into the woods, fields, and marshes, we hope to keep them there!
There’s room in the outdoors for everyone, so hopefully if you encountered a new hunter, angler, or wildlife viewer, you shared your knowledge and helped them learn new skills. Mentorship is one of the keys to keeping new hunters engaged and informed, so if you’re an experienced hunter, try reaching out to help others. If you’re new to hunting, find someone to guide you as you learn. Check out https://dwr.virginia.gov/hunting/help-for-new-hunters/ for resources.
Through all of the means by which you engage with wildlife, we hope that the outdoors allowed some escape during this difficult past year. Know that your efforts to introduce others make a difference—interest in outdoor recreation can often spark an interest in conservation, as outdoor participants learn how to appreciate and protect the resources of wildlife and wild places. Put simply, the more people who enjoy the outdoors, the more work we can do to protect the outdoors. The outdoors truly are better together.
Ryan Brown, Executive Director, DWR