New laws cause sharp decline in hunting license sales
By JIM MATTHEWS
Hunting license sales have declined dramatically this year and are on pace to be at least five percent lower than in 2018, which was the worst year on record for hunting license sales, and nearly 10 percent below the average annual sales for the past 10 years, according to data released by the Department of Fish and Wildlife this week.
The DFW compared hunting licenses sales through Sept. 3 for each of the past nine years on its ALDS computer system. At that date in 2018, the state had sold 200,379 licenses and the license-year total was 269,277. This is the lowest total number of hunting licenses ever sold in California. This year on Sept. 3, the state had only sold 190,060 annual licenses, over 10,000 fewer than last year for a 5.2 percent decline.
The DFW said the decline in sales was likely attributable to the transition to non-lead ammunition statewide for all hunted species and the new ammunition registration/background check requirement. The Sept. 3 date was selected because it was after the Sept. 1 dove season opener, and this was the first year non-lead ammunition was required statewide for doves.
There were shortages of non-lead ammunition in the days running up to the dove opener, and many hunters did not understand the new background check law for the purchase of ammunition.
“While the availability of non-lead ammo may have contributed to the decline in license sales, we suspect the new, July 1 ammunition purchasing requirements – background checks, proper identification, whether hunters had purchased a firearm since 2014 and were therefore in the Department of Justice system and able to purchase ammo [for a lower fee and less waiting time than a full background check] – largely were responsible for the decline in licensing sales,” said Peter Tira, a public information officer with the DFW in Sacramento.
“We will continue to track these numbers closely moving forward, but we view this decline as a situational event rather than a harbinger of a new long-term trend,” said Tira.
However, the data shows that new laws that went into effect this year are dramatically worsening a long-term trend in declining hunter numbers – along with the revenue that comes from license sales.
The most optimistic projection for end-of-year hunting licenses for the existing 2019-20 license year is 255,000, this will be 14,000 fewer than last year’s 269,000 number. It is also 27,000 less than the 10-year average of 282,000 – a nine percent decline. When compared to the peak hunting license sales years in the 1970s, when sales averaged over 800,000 annually, the decline is over 60 percent.
“Before this season, we would characterize our sales figures for both licenses and the upland game bird validations in the previous years as stable or increasing,” said Tira of the sales numbers through Sept. 3, which actually looked promising until this year. There was an increase in hunting licenses by Sept. 3 in five of the last eight years with the numbers up from the 10 year average.
However, the Sept. 3 sales comparison was in contrast with end-of year-sales, which have shown steady declines since 2013, and hit their lowest level ever last year.
There is also growing concern that this year’s sales will not tract at the same level as previous years because of the non-lead requirement and ammunition background check laws, and that end-of-year totals could be as much as 10 percent or more less than last year. However, the DFW is keeping its projections at just over a 5 percent decline for now.
Tira said the DFW would continue to monitor this information and increase its efforts to inform and educate hunters on the new rules. This year shortages led to many last-minute hunters being unable to find non-lead dove loads. This combined with the ammunition background check law that began being enforced July 1 caused nightmares for many hunters. The DFW is hoping there will not be a repeat of these problems around the waterfowl and general quail and chukar season openers later this month.
Road closures in Angeles National
Forest finally being lifted this month
The Angeles National Forest announced this week that a number of roads on the forest that have been closed for as long as four years will finally be opening over the next two to three weeks. All of the road closures were made because of major damage caused by rains over the previo
“The good news is that we are almost there,” said Jamahl Butler, the district ranger on Los Angeles Gateway Ranger District on the Angeles National Forest (ANF). “The majority of the contract work has been completed and the roads crew has made an impressive dent in the portion they have taken on.”
In the Sawmill-Liebre mountain region, Butler said that road work has been completed on 7N01, 7N05, and 7N08 (Maxwell Road). Maintenance has also been completed on 12.1 miles of 7N23 (Liebre Mountain Road), and that the washout repairs on the west end of 7N23 near the Old Ridge Route would be completed by Nov. 1, if not sooner.
This comes as welcome news to D11 deer hunters whose season will run from Oct. 12-Nov. 11. Hunters and other visitors should call the Gateway Ranger District office at 818-899-1900 to check the status of 7N23.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.