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Michigan hunters continue to decline, but out-of-state licenses increase

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Michigan hunting and fishing has been in steady decline for the last couple of decades, but licenses purchased from out-of-state have increased by 4% from the previous year.

Conservation groups say they hope more nonresident hunters will counteract the decades-long decrease in license sales. 4% might not seem like a huge increase, but the difference can be significant, as out-of-state licenses can cost up to ten times more than those for in-state residents.

Nick Buggia is with the Michigan Wildlife Council. He said he’s not entirely sure what’s driving the increase, but he hopes it signifies a new trend that can make up for a decline in resident hunters.

“We’re hoping as things settle down, we're able to look at how many folks we retained after COVID [and whether this will be consistent],” Buggia said.

Buggia said hunting and fishing licenses - not taxes - are the largest source of revenue for the state’s conservation efforts. In 2021, licenses generated $65.5 million dollars and hunting and fishing equipment sales contributed $32 million to Michigan’s Game and Fish Protection Fund.

“[Hunters and anglers] sometimes don’t necessarily get labeled as conservationists, but that's, that's not really accurate,” Buggia said. “We provide a majority of the funding for those habitat projects. With declining numbers, not only is it something that threatens the future of the sport that we enjoy, but it also threatens conservation.”

Buggia said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has stepped up efforts to attract more people - like women and minorities - who haven’t traditionally participated in hunting.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.