As hunters, we initially thought the history-making COVID-19 pandemic would have little impact on the outdoor lifestyle we live.
After all, we were told to work from home and stay home from school. It honestly seemed like a dream opportunity for the spring-time hunter of turkeys and black bear.
But now, with precautions tightening up even more, we’re seeing a different story. We’re now seeing how COVID-19 is shutting down a number of hunting opportunities across the country.
Alaska Shuts Down Spring Hunting Seasons
On April 1, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Dough Vincent-Lang directed the Division of Wildlife Conservation to close all black and brown bear hunts statewide for both resident and nonresident hunters, effective now through May 31. According to a press release issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the decision is related to measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will be reevaluated as necessary.
The Department is working with the Board of Game to identify future options for sportsmen who had planned to hunt in Alaska this spring, says the release.
“Expect to hear more from the department in the near future and please be patient with the department as they identify ways to minimize the impacts of this decision,” reads the release. SCI members with booked hunts should remain in close contact with their outfitters and frequently visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wcnews.main).
No Nonresident Turkey Hunting in Nebraska
I had a text pop up on my phone the other day regarding turkey hunting in Nebraska. Because I’ve hunted there in the past, I received an automated message by phone stating that Nebraska’s nonresident spring turkey season had been suspended.
According to the state’s website, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is suspending the sale of nonresident spring turkey hunting permits in a proactive effort to prevent the potential for the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This is being done by the Commission in coordination with Gov. Pete Ricketts Executive Order No. 20-11 to help protect the health of Nebraskans by discouraging unnecessary travel.
Game and Parks will stop selling 2020 nonresident spring turkey permits effective immediately. Nonresidents who have purchased permits will be able to use them, but will not be able to purchase additional permits. Nonresidents with Nebraska turkey permits will be contacted by Game and Parks through email in the next week with additional information, including potential refunds. (outdoornebraska.gov)
No Turkeys for Me in Texas
I was supposed to travel to Texas this next week with friends for a turkey hunting roadtrip.
We’ve been looking forward to it for months. However, state officials have said no congregation of groups beyond family members is permitted. And this goes for outfitters.
These guides and outfitters can’t accommodate the clients they’ve booked hunts for through lodging at their facilities. It’s a sad story for one of the top turkey hunting destinations in the country.
No Going Public in Illinois
Justin Zarr, Bowhunting.com GM and Illinois resident hunter, chimed in on the effects he’s finding regarding public land in his home state.
“Illinois has closed all state-owned parks and game lands, which means no public hunting for turkey hunters,” says Zarr.
“A lot of these spots are special draw permits and they said they aren’t issuing refunds for tags.”
IDNR Director, Colleen Callahan, wrote:
The IDNR is working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office to monitor the situation and assess when we can safely reopen Illinois’ outdoor and historic sites.
Presently, the Department is forced to cancel all upcoming scheduled events at state sites including, but not limited to, hunting and fishing on state-managed or -owned sites while state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas and historic sites are closed.
Our current administrative rules prohibit the issuance of refunds or transfer of permits. We understand the problems these stipulations create for our sportsmen and women and are reviewing all possible solutions.
However, hunters and anglers who wish to hunt or fish during the ‘Stay at Home’ order may do so provided they have the appropriate licensing and permits and are hunting or fishing on private property or at sites which are currently open to the public. We ask our hunters and anglers to help their fellow outdoorsmen and women by following all public health directives, including staying at least six feet away from other sportsmen and staying home if they’re exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19.
Washington State Halts Hunting & Fishing
The Department of Fish & Wildlife in Washington State have made some aggressive moves to halt hunting and fishing across the state as well.
The youth turkey hunt set for April 4-5 was canceled, says the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Spring bear hunting that was scheduled to open in six areas on April 1 also will not start.
On April 6 the department will reassess opening the impacted hunting areas, in addition to other upcoming hunting seasons, including spring turkey and additional spring bear hunts planned to open April 15.
The department’s concern is travel.
“Every stop for gas, food or a restroom break can introduce the virus to areas it hasn’t yet reached,” said Kelly Susewind, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It was a tough decision, but we want to ensure that people are properly encouraged to stay home at this time.”
Nearly 90 percent of spring bear permit holders in northeast Washington travel from outside the area.
Youth who were planning to hunt April 4 or 5 can still use their tags in the spring turkey season, if it opens, and the fall turkey season.
No fishing has been allowed in Washington state since midnight March 25 to at least 5 p.m. April 8 to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
NRA's Message to Governors
The National Rifle Association, along with other pro-hunting organizations, sent a letter to governors of all 50 states on Friday urging them to keep public lands open for hunting and fishing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, perhaps more than ever, families need access to hunting and fishing grounds so they can put food on the table for their families,” said Jason Oumet, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. “There is no reason why people should be prohibited from spending time alone in America’s wide-open spaces. At its core, hunting is the original social distancing.”
The NRA teamed with the Dallas Safari Club, Hunter Nation and Safari Club International in the effort. The letter outlines the reasons why keeping public lands is crucial during this period while strongly supporting efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing.
In part, the letter reads:
“Closing these areas significantly limits the ability of our nation’s millions of sportsmen and women who take to our woods, waters, and wild lands every year to pursue their passion for the outdoors — an activity that is, at its core, America’s most tradtitional form of “social distancing.” Further, given the economic effects of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to allow hunters and anglers access to healthy and inexpensive sources of food to support their families.”
The letter was sent to governors of all 50 states Friday morning.
What About You?
How has the COVID-19 mess impacted you personally? What about your hunting opportunities?
Be sure to comment below and let us know what things look like in your home state.
And most of all, let’s pray for a quick end to this virus and its impact on people across the country.