Hunting seasons starts Sept. 1 with more than 50,000 licenses issued

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 08-31-2023 12:34 PM

New Hampshire’s fall hunting seasons start rolling out Sept. 1 amid signs that a decades-long decline in the number of hunters has finally ended.

The state sold 50,599 hunting licenses to residents in 2022, about 11% more than the pre-COVID year of 2019 and slightly above the figures of 2020 and 2021. Sales of hunting and fishing licenses jumped in 2020 as people sought outdoor activities during COVID-19 lockdowns and there was speculation that the enthusiasm would fade as the pandemic ended. So far, however, that does not seem to have happened.

Hunting has been in decline for 30 years throughout much of the United States, a reflection of growing urbanization and an increase in entertainment alternatives. The only bright spot has been an increase in hunting with archery or muzzleloaders, but that was not enough to overcome the decline in hunting with rifles. 

In New Hampshire, the peak was 1988 when the number of hunting licenses sold in the state hit 97,000, following years of growth that paralleled the state's population rise. The figure fell steadily, dropping below 50,000 in 2017 but seems to have risen and leveled off in the past five years. 

New Hampshire’s fall hunting seasons kick off Friday, September 1, with the opening of black bear and gray squirrel seasons as well as a statewide resident season Canada geese. Archery seasons for turkey and white-tailed deer get underway September 15, hunting of snowshoe hare and ruffed grouse starts Oct. 1 and the tiny but highly publicized moose hunting season runs Oct. 15 to 23.

Hunting of white-tailed deer with rifles, by far the most popular hunting season, runs from Nov. 8 through Dec. 23 in most of the state, although it differs slightly in a few areas.

One change for hunters this year is that bear kills can be registered at one of nine stations, including The Barn Store of New England in Salisbury and Morse Sporting Goods in Hillsboro. Bear kills must be registered within 24 hours and previously hunters had to find a Fish and Game conservation officer or state regional biological staffer to do it.

Most states require many species to be checked in during hunting seasons as a way to keep track of the health of the herd. In New Hampshire, officials take weight and other data from deer, bear and species – including some teeth which are analyzed to reflect the health of the animal.

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