COVID-19 pandemic drives more Texans outdoors


Many Texans explored activities outdoors they may not otherwise have made time for as the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns across the state and nation.

“From an outdoor recreation perspective, we have seen a huge uptick in interest in outdoor-related trends—hunting, fishing, boating, camping and kayaking,” Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), said. “People, particularly in the cities, were very anxious to get outside, really for their mental, emotional and psychological health, if nothing else.”

Fishing license sales rose 25 percent year-over-year.

“I think many people were confronted with either shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders or the choice of going fishing, and going fishing they chose,” Smith said.

The fishing and hunting license year runs Aug. 15 to Aug. 15.

So, the increases in fishing license sales at the start of the pandemic shutdowns in Texas are included in the prior license year.

“Last year, we had about a nine percent increase in hunting and fishing license sales over our prior record year, which was in 2017,” Smith said. “We were a little anxious to see what was going to happen with the advent of duck season and whether or not we’d see the trends continue with people buying licenses in mid-to-late August in anticipation of the first of September.”

People continue to head outdoors.

“Our license sales to date are about nine percent above where they were last year,” Smith. “We feel really good about people getting out and bird hunting and planning to get out and hunt.”

Smith noted Texans were not deterred when some stores closed and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offices closed to the public.

“We’ve seen around a 70 to 75 percent increase from last year in the internet purchase of our hunting and fishing licenses,” Smith said.

That reflects the increased use of smartphones and TPWD’s efforts to make agency-related offerings smartphone friendly.

“The legislation that was passed last session allowed for people to be able to show, essentially, digital proof of a license in the field to our game wardens if they didn’t need to tag a deer or turkey,” Smtih said.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased on the TPWD website, by phone or in-person at more than 1,700 retailers across Texas.

Funds from hunting and fishing license sales directly fund conservation efforts and recreational opportunities.

An administrative fee of $5 is assessed when buying a license online.

Due to the pandemic, fulfillment of licenses purchased online may be delayed.

Hunters and anglers who don’t need tags can show the receipt from the license purchase to law enforcement, if needed.

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