Officials remain optimistic about hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania despite declining license numbers

Officials remain optimistic about hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania despite declining license numbers

PENNSYLVANIA, USA – Officials are optimistic about the state of outdoor recreation in the commonwealth following the release of the 2023 annual reports of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Fish and Boating Commission submitted their annual reports to the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee last week. Among the highlights, new data included in the report also indicated that hunting and fishing license sales were down from previous years.

Pennsylvania issued more than 790,000 hunting licenses and sold nearly 845,000 general hunting licenses in the last fiscal year. These numbers are low compared to the levels seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, where fishing licenses rose slightly and fishing licenses peaked at more than 934,000 in 2020.

It’s a downward trend that states nationwide are facing. However, according to officials, the numbers are deceiving here in Pennsylvania and are not alarming.

“Even though the trend across the country is that hunting licenses, fishing licenses, all of those things are trending down, here in Pennsylvania we are actually flat and above pre-pandemic levels,” said Mike Parker, Penn State’s director of communications. Fish and Boat Commission.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says they were able to capitalize on a spike in fishing interest during the pandemic and actually surpassed 2019’s pre-pandemic number of 777,000 licenses.

“People are flocking outside, (to do) fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, camping, things that people can do to get outside and recuperate,” Parker said. “Once they dip their toes in the water, we find that people really enjoy it and stay there for a long time.”

For the Pennsylvania Game Commission, changes to key hunting dates including moving the opening day of gun deer season from Monday to Saturday, and implementing online hunting license sales last year, got Pennsylvania back on a positive path.

“We started the year at a much faster pace,” said Travis Lau, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission. “We have had a much larger number of hunting license sales much earlier in the sales season than we had previously.”

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, this fiscal year has already surpassed last year’s number of hunting license sales with six months remaining in the season.

They hope to continue these efforts to attract both old and new hunters to get closer to the peak of 1.3 million hunters Pennsylvania saw in 1982 and ultimately keep this important Pennsylvania tradition alive.

“You have to do everything you can to recruit new fishermen and retain existing fishermen,” Lau said. “Anywhere we can make a positive change, it goes a long way in keeping the rank strong and preserving our strong hunter heritage here in Pennsylvania.”

Although the hunting trend is down compared to previous years, Pennsylvania is still second only to Texas in the entire country in terms of the number of hunters in the state.

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