Nov 5, 2020

Hunting license sales up in California

Hunting license sales are up 9% over this time last year, according to data from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The increase more than makes up for the sharp drop in sales last year, which corresponded with two major changes in laws affecting hunters: the beginning of ammunition background checks, which left literally tens of thousands of law-abiding gun owners unable to purchase ammunition because of the law's arcane requirements, and the final phase-in of the lead ammunition ban, which left hunters scrambling (and often unable) to find legal ammo for upland hunting.

Graphic showing hunting license sales trends in California

The increase in sales in California is part of a nationwide trend that corresponds with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn – high unemployment means people have more time to hunt, and reduced income can provide more incentive for people to hunt to put meat on the table.

In California, 14% of people who've bought a hunting license in the past year are first-time California license holders, likely new hunters, but also potentially existing hunters who just moved to California. Eleven percent are people who've held a license before, but not in the previous year. The rest are people who were licensed in California the previous year.

While no hunter loves having more competition for resources, increases in license sales are good for conservation because the additional license revenue supports the maintenance and acquisition of habitat. They're also good for political clout: The more of us there are, the harder we are to ignore or dismiss.