KDWPT: Nearly 160K Kansas residents bought fishing licenses in 2020, but hunting licenses fell hard

Hunting license sales mostly down in Kansas during pandemic

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
Anglers flock to the banks of Perry Reservoir in Jefferson County during the crappie spawn in May 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic didn't hurt fishing license sales in Kansas, and may have even actually helped them.
  • Apprentice hunting licenses on the rise in Kansas
  • More senior licenses sold in 2020 than previous year
  • More nonresidents purchasing hunting/fishing licenses

In a year marked by social distancing orders and quarantines, perhaps it is no secret why many wanted to head outdoors in 2020.

But while fishing license sales soared to new heights in 2020, hunting license sales largely lagged during the pandemic in a year that also saw sales of out-of-state turkey hunting permits canceled by an executive order from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly this past spring.

In total, 159,813 Kansas residents purchased fishing licenses in 2020, according to the latest numbers provided to The Topeka Capital-Journal by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. That is up drastically from a down year in 2019 that saw heavy flooding prevent fishing at state reservoirs for most of the spring and summer. But it's also up dramatically from 2018, a relatively normal year, which saw 125,949 people purchase licenses.

As a note, resident fishing license and combo license numbers reported by the KDWPT this week are notably lower than the numbers reported in a previous story in November. The previous story included multiple sales to the same person for a total number of licenses sold, while this week's numbers represent the total number of people who purchased licenses.

Nonresidential fishing license sales also saw a large jump in 2020, up to 16,167 from 11,828 people in 2018 and 11,018 in 2019. Likewise, trout permit sales hit a three-year high, jumping to nearly 13,200 licenses sold after finishing below 11,000 in 2019. Three-pole permits also hit a three-year high, with more than 20,300 people securing a permit to fish with three poles at a time compared to 16,565 in 2019 and 17,747 in 2018.

One of the few fishing permits that actually dropped in sales in 2020 was the tournament pass for black bass, likely because of canceled and delayed competitions throughout the year. That number dropped to 809 after hitting 966 sold in 2019.

Decline in hunting

Though fishing licenses hit high marks in 2020, participation in hunting was down substantially, according to the KDWPT's license numbers.

The state sold 38,857 people residential hunting licenses in 2020, down nearly 10,000 from 2018's numbers (48,573) and more than 3,500 from 2019 (42,367).

Nonresident hunting license sales also were down by a large amount, dropping from a three-year high of 68,170 people who purchased licenses in 2018 to just 55,596 in 2020. 

Combo licenses do well

While Kansas hunting license sales saw a decrease in 2020, at least a small portion of that was the result of an increase in combination hunting/fishing licenses.

More residents purchased combo licenses in 2020 (28,935) than in the previous year (26,773), but that number was still down from 2018's total (34,989). However, nonresidential combo licenses hit a three-year high in 2020, up to 4,207 people who purchased licenses from 3,089 in 2019 and 2,711 in 2018.

Senior participation up

Residential combo license sales to seniors also jumped up a bit, with 653 people purchasing a combo license in 2020 compared to 526 in 2019.

More people aged 65-74 purchased residential fishing licenses in 2020, as well, with 5,912 licenses purchased compared to 4,629 in 2019 and 5,119 in 2018.

Residential hunting licenses among that age group also climbed from 2019, with 724 licenses sold in 2020 compared to 697 the previous year. However, both numbers are down from 2018, which saw 912 residential hunting licenses sold to seniors.

Bird farms take hit

The pandemic may have taken a hit on hunting preserves and game farms in 2020, as well, as controlled shoot hunting license sales dropped to three-year lows. 

Sales fell to 8,607 people in 2020 compared to 10,530 in 2018 and 9,732 in 2019.

These licenses can be used in place of a regular hunting license in order to hunt upland birds at Controlled Shooting Areas, such as Ravenwood Lodge, Cokeley Farms and Muddy Creek Game Birds in the Topeka area and Eckman Hunting Preserve in Douglas County. Examples of CSAs in central Kansas include Clay County's NCK Outfitters LLC and Midwest Whitetail Adventures LLC and Kingman County's Bluestem Hunting Preserve, while examples in western Kansas include Western Kansas Pheasant Hunts in Gray County, Heft & Sons LLC in Kiowa County, Old School Outfitters and Pheasant Farms Inc-1 in Pratt and Pheasants Galore Hunting Service in Haskell.

These areas, which are privately managed, provide an extended upland bird hunting season that runs from Sept. 1 to March 31 for customers. Hunter education certification is not required to purchase a CSA license.

Apprentice licenses gain popularity

However, one of the lone bright spots during the pandemic for hunting license sales may be encouraging as far as attracting youths and new hunters to the sport.

In 2020, apprentice hunting licenses hit three-year highs for residents and nonresidents alike in Kansas. The state sold  residential apprentice hunting licenses to 2,371 people in 2020, compared to about 1,400 the past two years, while nonresidential sales jumped to 1,000 after hitting 858 in 2019 and 628 in 2018.

These licenses were made available in 2007 after being signed into law by another Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius. The law allows people 16 and older who have not already taken a hunter education course to hunt when accompanied by a licensed adult.

Wayne Doyle, who served as the Hunter Education Program coordinator at the time, said the license was intended to recruit new hunters.

"It will allow hunters to try hunting before they invest in the time required to take a hunter education course," Doyle said in a news release when the bill was signed into law. "If they enjoy their experience and want to hunt the following season, they must take hunter education."

That bill, SB 192, also eliminated the requirement for bowhunter education for youngsters 14 and younger.

KANSAS LICENSE SALES FOR 2020

Note: Numbers indicate total number of people who purchased each license

License ... 2018 ... 2019 ... 2020

Resident combo ... 34,989 ... 26,773 ... 28,935

Resident fishing ... 125,949 ... 116,129 ... 159,813

Resident hunting ... 48,563 ... 42,367 ... 38,857

Nonresident combo ... 2,711 ... 3,089 ... 4,207

Nonresident fishing ... 11,828 ... 11,018 ... 16,167

Nonresident hunting ... 68,170 ... 64,943 ... 55,596

Nonresident Jr. hunting ... 2,677 ... 2,524 ... 2,364

CSA hunting license ... 10,530 ... 9,732 ... 8,607

Trout permit ... 11,475 ... 10,813 ... 13,186

Three-pole permit ... 17,747 ... 16,565 ... 20,306

Tournament Bass Pass ... 883 ... 966 ... 809

Resident apprentice ... 1,402 ... 1,453 ... 2,371

Nonresident apprentice ... 628 ... 858 ... 1,000

Senior resident combo ... 669 ... 526 ... 653

Senior resident fishing ... 5,119 ... 4,629 ... 5,912

Senior resident hunting ... 912 ... 697 ... 724

Source: Jessica Mounts/Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism