NDA Members Optimistic that Fall Seasons Will Proceed as Planned

May 11, 2020 | by National Deer Alliance

In two recent issues of our weekly On Watch newsletter, we asked National Deer Alliance (NDA) members their thoughts regarding upcoming fall hunting seasons with respect to the many uncertainties still revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we were interested in hearing if members anticipated new rules and regulations for fall hunts, or if they have given up the idea of travelling to hunt this fall altogether. Here’s what NDA members had to say.

First, we asked members if they were optimistic that fall hunting seasons will proceed as planned. Overwhelmingly, 92% of responding members are optimistic that they will, while about 6% are unsure.

“In the middle of (the pandemic), turkey season was largely unaffected,” said Sean from Indiana. “Yes, non-residents in some states were banned, but other than that not much changed.”

Josiah from West Virginia echoed those thoughts: “In both NC and WV (the states I hunt), turkey season has been unaffected, so I imagine fall hunts won’t be either unless there’s a major upwards swing in infection rates.”

Still, some responding members noted that they expect it’s too early to determine the status of fall hunting seasons, or if seasons will proceed with certain modifications. “I think there will definitely be social distancing in place, but the season will open,” said Will from Indiana. “I think being able to butcher your own game would be a plus, for sure!”

Stephen from Maryland added: “I feel that the results of testing and research will have a strong bearing on our ability to increase activity to our normal levels.”

Next, we asked members if they planned on hunting out-of-state this fall if non-resident hunting can proceed as normal. Just over half (56%) said that they are not planning on hunting outside of their home state regardless of any impacts to fall seasons. About 35% of responding members do plan on hunting out of state this fall. For those not hunting out-of-state this fall, about 65% said that COVID-19 did not influence that decision. Rather, these members don’t typically hunt out-of-state, or other life influences prevented hunting travel this year. Still, some members (about 30%) noted that COVID-19 did, or could, influence their fall hunting plans.

For instance, Jake from Ohio is “only planning close trips this year as opposed to a longer trip out West (Ohio to Colorado) like last year.” He also bought his tag early so he doesn’t miss out if states discontinue sales of non-resident tags like some did for spring turkey seasons.

Others are even more cautious. James from South Carolina said he won’t travel to hunt until a vaccine is available. Allen from Virginia had plans to hunt out of state but canceled early so he wouldn't lose his deposit if the virus was still a factor.

But some hunters are planning on hitting the road this fall to explore other states and areas. Michael from New Jersey drew a tag in Montana, and he plans on heading west this fall to fill that tag. We asked Michael and other hunters with out-of-state hunting plans this fall if they are worried about the logistical or personal impacts that COVID-19 may pose. Almost 69% aren’t worried, while 31% are.

“Sure, I'm concerned,” Michael wrote. “I will have to go through an airport and get on a plane.”

Dean from Michigan expressed some concern regarding new obstacle’s and differences in lodging and dining accommodations between home and the destination, but he’s hopeful that hunting out-of-state this fall won’t be impossible.

Even though uncertainties remain around COVID-19 and fall hunting seasons, one thing is certain: hunters will find a way to pursue their passions as best they can. “I will take things as they come and deal with it,” said Robbie from Georgia. “That’s hunting and life, right?”

“Concerned? Yes,” said Paul from Illinois. “Willing to adapt and overcome? Definitely.”