Season postponements, closures, restrictions on non-residents, yup, the times they are a changin’. This spring has been one for the history books for sure and if you’re like me seeing it in the rearview mirror will be a welcome sight. That said, as much as I hate to even type the word, I feel that I owe it to you to report on the most recent COVID 19 news regarding hunting out West. So here’s a state by state breakdown of the most recent information I could find for you. Note: most states have created a COVID 19 update page on their game and fish website and checking there is still the best option for up to the minute information.
Alaska – Back on April 2nd ADFG announced the closure of spring bear hunts to all non-residents. This closure remains in effect until May 31st. I’m sure if you had plans to hunt bears in The Great Land you’ve already changed them as travel to Alaska isn’t a willy nilly proposition for most folks. Be sure to check out the department’s website for up to date information on remaining closures and restrictions… especially if you’re still planning a summer fishing trip as sport fishing remains open. The state COVID 19 Update site can be visited here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=home.main
Arizona – Things appear to be status quo in Arizona. Spring hunts are at full go with only localized closures of state run facilities, be sure check before you head out. Arizona has cancelled or altered the following: AZGFD Outdoor Expo(cancelled), April Commission meeting (telephonic). The state COVID 19 Update site can be visited here https://www.azgfd.com/agency/covid-19-related-updates/
Colorado – The Yuma County turkey season delay will extend through May 2nd with no word if that season will actually open. Other than that it appears that outdoor activities are open and acceptable in Colorado even if some state run facilities are closed. https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/COVID-19-Response.aspx
Idaho – Idaho has suspended non-resident sale of quite a few hunting licenses including bear and turkey but not to the extent that applying for tags is inhibited. The state’s COVID 19 update page is quite impressive and you need to look it over if Idaho is on your list this spring. You will also need to call to make an appointment for some services as offices are closed until April 30th. https://idfg.idaho.gov/covid19
Montana – Well the good news is that non-residents can now purchase spring bear and turkey licenses but the bad news is that there’s still a 14 day quarantine period in effect for folks visiting the Big Sky State. A phased reopening of Montana is underway. http://fwp.mt.gov/news/newsReleases/covid19/nr_0025.html
New Mexico – No season closures or delays in New Mexico but there are a lot of state run facilities closed so check before you go. Note: the link to the COVID 19 page takes you to the state’s health department page so actual hunting information is hard to find, a phone call would be best. http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/
Oregon – The state has closed all hunting and fishing to non-residents and an extensive list resident closures can be found here https://myodfw.com/COVID-19 There is zero mention of reopening at this time so I wouldn’t be planning a spring bear hunt in Oregon this year.
Utah – Outdoor recreation in Utah is open for your enjoyment and General Spring Turkey Season opened yesterday. However, if you’re planning to travel to Utah to hunt or fish you need to check with appropriate land management agencies and counties to see about closures and restrictions. The state COVID 19 Update site can be visited here: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/special-orders/
Washington – Big news from Washington! As of May 5th spring bear and turkey seasons will reopen with bear season getting an extension until June 30th! However, the state is asking that hunters only participate close to home so travel is still expected to be limited. https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates
Wyoming – Business as usual in Wyoming. Non-residents still cannot buy a fishing license and there’s a 14 day quarantine period but non-resident turkey and bear hunts are a go if you’ve got 14 days to spare. State facilities are closed to the public until further notice. https://wgfd.wyo.gov/About-Us/COVID-19-Response
At this time it’s hard to say how fall hunting seasons will be impacted by COVID 19 but I’m not seeing evidence that any impact at all is to be expected. Online applications and license sales are ongoing, some states are loosening restrictions and even implementing reopening plans and there has been zero grapevine talk about closing fall hunting seasons.
As always keeping yourself informed is wise and planning ahead advisable. That said, there are an awful lot of small businesses, guides, outfitters and seasonal workers depending on hunting and fishing dollars this summer and fall. If you can, go hunt and spend money on local lodging, dining and entertainment while you’re there. Those local economies will need the help just to survive another year.