For many, November 15 is circled on the calendar every year because it’s the beginning of Michigan’s firearms deer hunting season. With gyms closed during the pandemic, there’s been a surge in outdoor activities that allowed people to participate and maintain proper social distancing.
For example, golfers have flocked the fairways, bicycles are nearly impossible to find and boat sales have flourished. And this month you can add firearms hunting to the list.
In recent years, deer hunting has been on a decline, but data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources indicate that’s changing. When bow season began In September, deer hunting was already up nearly 27 percent over last year. Counting all seasonal hunting, which includes waterfowl and turkey, participation in hunting overall is up more than 120 percent, year over year.
Female participation has increased more than 34 percent compared to nearly 20 percent for men. I mention this in a financial column because hunting and fishing are a huge and often overlooked component of our state’s economy. In fact, together they generate more than $11 billion per year for our economy, according to Michigan United Conservation Club estimates. That’s a substantial sum of money.
Not only do hunters spend plenty on gear, supplies and travel, their activities help keep thousands of people employed and the wheels of our economy turning.
Nearly all outdoor activities and sports have an element of risk, but with hunting the risk is elevated. You don’t just show up in the woods with a firearm and expect positive results. That’s why firearms safety is imperative and the Michigan DNR has mentoring programs to help the young learn about safety and hunting.
I think it's safe to assume that most readers aren’t aware of the Michigan High School Clay Target League. It’s a co-ed activity that emphasizes fun and safety and provides a great way to get students outdoors and learn about firearms. Breaking a fast moving target the size of a small dish takes a lot of teaching, practice and skill.
Locally participating schools include Oxford, Romeo and Utica. Romeo and Utica use the facilities of the North Macomb Sportsmen’s Club, which is located near Stoney Creek Metro Park. Yes, I’m a member there.
The volunteer coaches, also members of NMSC, are retired auto executives that are dedicated, patient and enthusiastic in their teaching of the students.
The bottom line is that hunting in Michigan is a vital part of our economy. In addition to Michiganders being avid hunters, a lot of our tourism can be attributed to people coming to Michigan to hunt. Outdoorsmen bring a lot of money into the state coffers and hopefully this will continue in the years ahead.
Because of its relevance to our state’s economy, I think it’s not only important to teach firearms safety, but also how to be good stewards of our natural resources.
Many have lost their income as a result of the pandemic. For them, a successful hunting season may be a bit more important this year. A stronger economy could certainly help them feed the family.
It’s estimated that some 700,000 people will take to the woods this season. They will help the DNR cull the deer population, put food on families’ tables and keep our Michigan economy moving.