by Troy Bishopp
ALBANY, NY – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos reported that DEC “is experiencing record-breaking sales of hunting and trapping licenses for the upcoming season.” That’s good news for local communities and renewed opportunities for farmers and landowners via hunting leases. If you’re wildlife, you may be providing sustenance to a family sooner rather than later.
“Sales for big game hunting and trapping licenses and Deer Management Permits (DMPs) were nearly triple prior years’ sales on opening day, more than double on the second day and nearly double the first two weeks. On the first day of big game sales this year, DEC reported $922,444 in sales, compared to $347,103 in 2019. Over the first two weeks of license sales, sales have reached more than $6.2 million compared to approximately $3.5 million for the first two weeks in 2019,” according to a Sept. 9 DEC press release.
“With New Yorkers looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing tremendous interest in outdoor recreation and in the sports of fishing, hunting and trapping,” said Seggos. “DEC’s efforts to make sure hunters and anglers are able to purchase fishing, hunting and trapping licenses and take hunter safety courses from the comfort of their homes are making the outdoors even more accessible and we will continue to offer our new online courses as we transition back to offering in-person courses.”
DEC transformed the Hunter Ed program at the onset of the pandemic to offer online certification, resulting in a dramatic 105% increase in participants completing the course compared to the traditional in-person courses offered in 2019, with more than 76,800 people registered for the online Hunter Ed course and 40,278 completions.
Nearly 70% of those completing the online course are 21 or over, and almost 40% of participants are women. The new online Bow-hunter Ed course has seen more than 20,980 registered participants (10,934 completions). Both courses can be accessed at DEC’s website. The online courses have been extended indefinitely.
As all of New York has now entered Phase 4 of reopening, in-person Hunter Ed, Bow-hunter Ed and Trapper Ed courses are resuming. While the popularity of the online Hunter and Bow-hunter courses has been unprecedented, some potential new hunters want to take the traditional course, which offers a field day component. Social distancing, health and safety and disinfectant protocols have been put in place to ensure courses are conducted in a way that minimizes risk to participants. The online courses will remain available for those who prefer an online course.
DEC launched the state’s new automated system for selling sporting licenses in July, and on Aug. 10, the system was activated for big game license sales and DMPs. The new DEC Automated Licensing System (DECALS), at decals.licensing.east.kalkomey.com, includes user-friendly information to help locate vendors, receive instant copies of a license, enter and view harvest information and more.
Per the DEC, New York’s hunters and anglers contribute an estimated $4.9 billion to the economy in spending, which supports more than 56,000 jobs and $623 million in state and local taxes.
According to Brian Pierce of Base Camp Leasing, “Hunting leases have not slowed down at all. We currently have 260 hunters actively looking for properties to lease in New York. Many landowners are realizing the value of leasing hunting rights on their land for an additional income stream and property security. They are looking for the experience and benefits of hunting lease companies who have the natural resource and agriculture experience to arrange mutually beneficial agreements.”
“A hunting lease is a great alternative to guided hunts and hunting outfitters. Hunter benefits include: Implementation of your own wildlife habitat management program, viewing aerial photographs to access potential hunting quality, properties inspected and reported upon by an avid hunter, personal property inspection prior to lease, potential trophy-quality game, locations close to home, abundant game densities, exclusive hunting privileges, safety, professionally written lease that protects both you and the landowner, less expensive than purchasing land or using hunting outfitters,” according to Base Camp Leasing.
With an average lease ranging from $20 to $35/acre, according to WoodWise Land Company LLC in Scottsville, NY, there are many opportunities for landowners and cash-strapped farmers to consider. HLRBO (hlrbo.com) also connects hunters with landowners and farmers. The site touts a “Lease Rate Calculator” and online tools where you can list your property to more than 20,000 hunters in three easy steps with no fees or commissions.