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Coronavirus Good for Camping, Hunting, Fishing in South Dakota

South Dakota’s parks and campgrounds probably won’t see a lot of business today (although, hey: any day is a good day get outside and play, if you just have the right gear), but coronavirus brought a year of good business to our outdoor recreation venues:

Despite waiving entry fees and not collecting visitor information for almost two months at the start of the pandemic, state park visitation in 2020 has been roughly 31% higher than it was in 2019, said Al Nedved, deputy director of the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department’s parks division.

“It was pretty evident early on that the outdoors were going to be a place where people could exercise or just relax or whatever they like to do and do it safely,” Nedved said [Nick Lowrey, “Outdoor Recreation in S.D. Sees Big Boost During Pandemic,” South Dakota News Watch, 2020.12.22].

Interestingly, according to the Game Fish and Parks Commission’s agenda packet from December 7, the state park that saw the smallest increase in visits was Bear Butte:

Division of Parks and Recreation, November year-to-date state park visitation, from Game Fish and Parks Commission agenda packet, 2020.12.07.
Division of Parks and Recreation, November year-to-date state park visitation, from Game Fish and Parks Commission agenda packet, 2020.12.07.

Bear Butte seems an undervisited destination compared to other state parks. It saw more visitors like every other park except Lake Moreau, but only a 7% increase. The parks and recreation areas in Districts 6 and 7, around Sioux Falls—particularly Palisades, Lake Vermillion, Newton Hills, Lake Vermillion—saw the biggest jumps in visits.

Governor Kristi Noem was flailing about looking for a way to get more people outdoors killing things; it turns out the pandemic she declined to take seriously helped her meet that policy goal:

In South Dakota, the sale of fishing licenses in 2020 outstripped the state’s three-year average of license sales by more than 33,000. In all, South Dakotans bought more than 170,000 fishing licenses during 2020; the three-year average for resident fishing license sales was 137,012.

Meanwhile, resident small-game hunting license sales beat the three-year average by more than 4,700 for a total of 87,319 licenses sold in 2020. The three-year average for resident small-game hunting license sales was 82,597. The number of deer hunting licenses South Dakota issues is preset based on deer populations and does not fluctuate due to hunter demand [Lowrey, 2020.12.22].

Now dogs have twice the reason to wish coronavirus would never go away: the pandemic keeps more of their masters home with the pack all day… and when the masters do go out, they’re more likely to go hunting, which is even more happy time for our canine companions!

Here are the detailed numbers on crittercide license sales:

SD GF&P, Hunting and Fishing License Sales Totals as of November 30, 2020, from GFP Commission agenda packet, 2020.12.07.
SD GF&P, Hunting and Fishing License Sales Totals as of November 30, 2020, from GFP Commission agenda packet, 2020.12.07.

Mostly unchanged by the pandemic is the percentage of hunting and fishing licenses snapped up by visitors to our fair state. Nonresidents purchased 48.59% of our hunting and fishing licenses this year, up slightly from the preceding three-year average of 46.84%.

This additional socially distanced recreation has netted Game Fish and Parks $6.87 million more this year, a 41% increase over 2019:

SDGFP, November YTD 2020 Revenue by Item, GFP Commission, 2020.12.07.
SDGFP, November YTD 2020 Revenue by Item, GFP Commission agenda packet, 2020.12.07.

Our state parks saw 26% more camping; our relatively mild November weather drew triple the number of late fall campers last month compared to November 2019:

SDGFP, 2020.12.07.
SDGFP, 2020.12.07.

8 Comments

  1. Gus 2020-12-23

    has more to do with the weather than our governor. last year was raining and flooding all the state parks. also the farmers couldn’t get the crops out so out of state hunters stayed home last year…..but let’s blame covid like everything else

  2. Tim Rangitsch 2020-12-23

    Mount Rushmore National Monument visitor numbers

  3. happy camper 2020-12-23

    yeah – everybody loves 55 mph gusts

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-12-23

    You bet—nothing better than a 55 mph gust to reduce the viral load!

  5. Mark Anderson 2020-12-23

    Well Union Grove attracts Monarchs every year.

  6. grudznick 2020-12-23

    There is some French Math going on there with the motorcycle bike band sales increases, or else the government is fudging their numbers to make it look like the Rally was a giant success.

    Nevertheless as long as most of these people were South Dakotans getting outside, this is good news. The Rushmore numbers seem to really take off in July and stay high. grudznick attributes that to Ms. Noem, not Mr. Trump. And to the fireworks, because everybody loves fireworks.

  7. mike livingston 2020-12-23

    How many were there at those events cruds? and what were your criteria for making those assertions?

  8. grudznick 2020-12-25

    Look at the math, Mr. livingston, on the biker band sales. It’s French Math.

    At the fireworks, there were many people, and almost none of them spread the covid bugs in South Dakota.

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