States Closing Hunting Seasons to Non-Residents | Morning Musings

During yesterday’s Friday Morning Coffee Chat, a friend asked about my thoughts regarding Nebraska closing their turkey hunting season to non-residents. Since coffee chat is at 6:00 am for me, I’m not always completely awake, but I like how the questions get my mind going.

The closures to non-residents, and not to mention residents, stayed on my mind most of the day yesterday. I gave some of my thoughts during the live discussion, but it’s a tough question to answer.

I don’t like it but I get it.

I don’t care to see any states put restrictions on hunting. When we see restrictions put in place, there is always that chance that what is taken away won’t be put back. As hunters, we know that we distance — Distance is key to being successful in many of our hunts.

To ensure that hunting remains free of restrictions, you can join SCI’s action and advocacy center. You’ll receive notifications of issues in your state and links where you can take action, asking your state’s legislators to keep hunting seasons open during COVID-19.

Nebraska isn’t the only state where these types of closures or limitations have been implemented.

I think I first heard of Illinois‘ closures when a photographer friend ranted about it on social media. Their closures weren’t just to hunting and fishing, but “closed” to the public in some areas. While she’s a hunter, she also takes many amazing pictures during this time of the year. The access limitations limit her work.

In Alaska, the Department of Fish and Game had announced they will be closing the spring bear season for both non-residents and residents. After considerable backlash, the Governor reopened the spring bear season for Alaskan residents while maintaining the cancellation for non-residents or anyone from outside of the state.

In an attempt to follow their Governor’s social distancing rule, South Carolina has canceled all 2020 turkey lottery hunts on Wildlife Management Area properties. I’ve not hunted in the state, but hopefully, you’ll have private property or other locations to access for turkey hunting. They had also closed their lakes to fishing from the banks but have since re-opened several lakes. They’re asking that people still maintain their distance from one another in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

As a result of the stay in place order issued by Washington‘s Governor, spring bear hunting, youth turkey hunts, and recreational fishing have been closed. The state’s regular spring turkey hunt doesn’t begin until April 15th and it is said that they’ll reassess the situation to determine if that hunt should also be cancelled. The state does have other restrictions, so if you live there make sure you do your research before you head outside.

Those are a few examples of what’s happening across the country. In Colorado, hunting seasons (turkey season begins on April 11th) and fishing are still open. However, campgrounds and parks offices are closed.

In both Colorado and New Mexico, there were hoaxes on social media, which wound up being reported as news on local news channels. The hoaxes indicated that the states were shutting down their hunting seasons as well. This is not the case, and both states have put out press releases to let people know that they are still open to hunting.

Now, I mentioned that “I don’t like it but I get it,” but I haven’t told you why I get it. I understand some of these restrictions because we don’t know who we’re encountering as we travel. We don’t know who’s been there before us. We don’t know who may be a carrier of the virus and aren’t yet showing symptoms.

Hunting generally occurs in less populated areas. These smaller communities may not be equipped for an outbreak. Their medical centers don’t host a huge staff. If one or more staff members contract the virus, the entire area will not have access to care; having an outbreak can be hugely devastating to those rural areas. Our main goal is to flatten the curve so it isn’t the entire community who is sick at one time.

We don’t want huge surges of COVID-19 cases, so distancing, washing hands, wearing a mask, and other CDC recommendations are important. Attempting to keep the curve low is why in some states the Governors have called for hunting, fishing and other outdoor access restrictions. My hope is that we won’t have too many people sick and that we’ll still have access to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities for years to come.


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Mia Anstine
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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, keynote speaker, and a range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to outdoors, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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