It’s safe to say that 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in recent memory. The global pandemic that shut down businesses and schools in March is still disrupting daily life as we head into fall, and even those not directly affected by the COVID-19 are feeling its effects on the economy and society at large. That was followed by riots and raging wildfires, and we’re now heading into one of the most contentious election seasons in decades.
It’s been a rough year. If you’re a hunter, this fall will be unlike any before. I suspect many of us will appreciate the peace, solitude and familiarity of the woods this year more than ever—that is, if your fall hunting plans weren’t derailed by the pandemic. But even if they were, there is one silver lining in all of this—now may be the best time ever to book the hunt of a lifetime. When you do, you’re not only making your own hunting dream come true, but you’re helping support hunting professionals and wildlife populations. Here are the four primary reasons why 2020 is the right year to book your dream hunt.
1. You’re Helping Guides and Outfitters Survive Lean Times: Travel bans and restrictions have effectively shut down business for many hunting professionals, and that means the outfitters who had a full slate of clients booked in 2020 may not be able to maintain their business through 2021. Through no fault of their own, these hunting professionals have become a financial casualty of COVID-19, and without forward-thinking clients who are willing to book hunts now they may not be operating next year. This is particularly true of foreign countries like South Africa, where travel restrictions made it impossible for them to receive overseas clients.
But hunting doesn’t just support hunting professionals. Small business owners, cooks, hotel owners, mom and pop sporting goods stores, and other business stake their livelihood on a successful hunting season where dollars generated by out-of-town sportsmen and women help keep the doors open. A handful of hunters might be enough to keep these businesses afloat during these hard times.
2. You’re Helping Conserve Habitat and Protect Wildlife: Hunters have always made a positive impact on wildlife and habitat by providing much-needed funding to help support conservation initiatives. Since the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, hunters have contributed over $14 billion to protect America’s wildlife, but the money raised through Pittman-Robertson is just a fraction of the funds generated by hunting licenses and tags over that same period.
What does that money go toward? Habitat restoration, the establishment of parks and reserves, field research, wildlife law enforcement and much more. It also provides public access for hunters, and this offers more opportunities to enjoy our sport. In some areas, hunting license sales have increased, and that’s been a huge benefit for wildlife. But in other areas, hunter numbers are down, and this creates added financial stress on departments that are already stretched thin.
The problem is worse in other parts of the world. In Africa, for example, hunter dollars support the majority of anti-poaching efforts, and the presence of hunters deters commercial poachers. Human-animal conflicts increase, and opportunistic commercial hunters move into these areas to take advantage of the absence of licensed hunters.
By hunting this fall, either at home or abroad, you are helping support and protect wildlife.
3. The Price of Your Dream Hunt Will Never Be Cheaper: If you’ve been waiting for a bargain hunt, now’s the time, as prices will likely never be the low again. Sure, you may have to deal with some added travel hassles, but in most areas, you can safely travel without excessive restriction. In an effort to motivate clients and make the most of shortened hunting seasons, guides and outfitters are offering exceptional deals. What’s more, many outfitters who aren’t fully booked can offer flexible hunting dates which would be very rare under normal circumstances.
Airline fees and services have also been reduced, and that makes this an even more affordable time to hunt. At the very least, this is a good time to discuss your hunting plans with a guide or outfitter. They can help you navigate travel issues and may be willing to cut a deal for a last-minute hunting opportunity. In some instances, outfitters have reduced prices by a third or even half, so if you’re waiting for a better deal, it’s not likely to come around.
4. The World is Unpredictable: I don’t think any of us dreamed that 2020 would develop the way it did, but this year has offered a new perspective on the world. I never dreamed that my fall hunts would be sidelined by a global pandemic that would close borders and bring my hunting plans to a halt, but here we are. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the world is an unpredictable place. If, as experts suggest, this is just a once-in-a-century event, then odds are a pandemic will never derail our hunting plans again. However, we can’t know that for sure. This year shows us that plans change, so if you’re looking forward to one big hunt, you should book it sooner rather than later. Don’t put off what you’ve always dreamed of doing. You never know what the future holds.