Skip to main content

Hunting Seasons See Restrictions in Face of Spreading COVID-19

Several states have eliminated spring hunts, with more leaning toward additional closures.

Hunting Seasons See Restrictions in Face of Spreading COVID-19
(Photo by Jason Brooks)

For me, the COVID-19 nightmare started the day after I left for SHOT Show in January. That day, January 21st, the first confirmed case of Coronavirus hit the Seattle area where I grew up and reside with my family. It was a bit of a ho-hum moment at first, not realizing just how deadly or contagious this disease actually was or what it would mean for our nation and the world. I don’t need to expand on the latter, as by now you’re all well versed on COVID-19 the Coronavirus, and what it’s done to our planet.

Hunters across the country should be aware, however, that the COVID-19 nightmare that’s sweeping the world will probably also impact their hunting plans this spring. A quick round up of calls and website checks to states throughout the west and Alaska highlighted a myriad of changes, land closures, travel bans, and outright season closures in one case. Hunters need to be aware that these ever-changing guidelines set to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay are fluid and can change within a matter of hours, not days.

For starters, let’s look at Washington State where I reside with my family. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 to remote communities from the larger cities have caused the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to cancel the youth turkey hunt this weekend and early spring bear hunts that were set to kick off tomorrow, April 1st, have been postponed. Fishing in my home state, also cancelled. National Forest Lands, Department of Natural Resources lands, State Parks, boat launches, County Parks, all trailheads, primitive trails, and any semblance of outdoor activity here in Washington has been cancelled or postponed. It’s a veritable nightmare for outdoorsman in Washington state right now.

Spring-Turkeys-in-field.jpg
(Photo by Jason Brooks)

In Oregon the situation isn’t as dire but there are still some severe COVID-19 impacts that should be taken into consideration if you plan to hunt turkey or bear this spring. Hunting seasons haven’t been cancelled in Oregon but all National Forest lands in Oregon are closed. That’s closed with a capital “C”! Most, if not all, overnight camping areas and recreation facilities are closed, as well, and hunter education classes have been moved to online-only courses. The moral to the story is this. If you plan on pulling off your hunt this spring you’d better check the website of every government agency involved with your hunt before you go. And then check it again, and again.


The tag sale deadline for spring bear in Oregon has been extended until May 1st so hunters can decide whether they want to delay their hunts, or not. If hunters can’t hunt due to COVID-19 the State of Oregon is offering a refund and reinstatement of their preference points.


In both Idaho and Montana spring hunts are still planned as scheduled. Camping facilities and restrooms, however, will most likely be closed as most state and federal camping and recreational facilities have been limited to day-use only. It warrants a check with the regional Forest Service, BLM, or state lands office before you go to ensure that the public lands you intend to hunt are indeed open.

On March 31, Nebraska shut down license sales for non-resident turkey hunters, citing an executive order by Governor Pete Ricketts to discourage unnecessary travel. Nonresident hunters who had planned ahead and already purchased permits will be able to use them, or may be to turn them in before the turkey opener for a refund.

I’ve been watching the travel ban in Alaska carefully since it was announced by Governor Dunleavy on March 25th. Alaska’s travel ban will be reevaluated on April 21st and I wouldn’t hold my breath that it will be lifted immediately. The ban requires any and all visitors to the state to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. Like many rural locations in America the small towns and villages in Alaska simply can’t risk a COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, many of the remote villages in northern Alaska have issued their own travel bans. Only essential travel, mail, and supplies are being allowed into these villages at this time.

Prince-of-Wales-Island-Alaska-Black-Bear.jpg
(Photo by Jesse Knock)

Alaska spring black bear and grizzly bear hunts land smack dab in the middle of this ban, and on April 1, the state closed all black and brown bear hunts statewide for both residents and non-resident hunters. Subsistence bear hunts will remain open as a way for residents to have an opportunity to fill freezers and provide for families. Little more than 24 hours later, under immense pressure from locals, Governor Mike Dunleavy reversed the Alaska Department of Fish Game’s decision, reopening spring bear season for residents of the state.


With spring bear hunts closed in Alaska, what about moose, caribou, mountain goat, and Sitka blacktail hunts scheduled for the fall? If you’ve booked a hunt with an outfitter or guide in Alaska, or anywhere for that matter, you’d better check their cancellation policy. I have a caribou hunt booked in Alaska in September with some friends and I’ll be on the phone with our outfitter to see if we can shift this hunt to 2021 if regulations don’t allow it to occur in 2020. DIY hunts in Alaska sometimes require multiple flights and hotel stays. Get on the phone now to get a handle on cancellation policies and ask them, first and foremost, if your deposit can be used at a later date if you can’t get an outright, full refund.

Lastly, the fear factor surrounding this pandemic has caused gun and ammunition sales to soar to all new heights. AMMO.com recently reported a 1,000 percent increase in ammunition sales month-over-month from January to February and the March numbers will likely be higher. Our local gun shops have quit stocking the shelves and are simply placing pallets of ammo on the floor. The madness started with 9 mm and 223 ammunition and has worked its way through just about every caliber. Be thoughtful of this as you prepare for your spring bear hunt, turkey hunt, or perhaps even gearing up to sight-in your rifles this summer.

Here’s a COVID-19 pre-hunt checklist that might be helpful:


-Is hunting open in the state I wish to hunt?

-Are the lands open that I plan to hunt?

-With hotels and campgrounds closed what are the lodging options?

-Are non-resident hunts still planned for the state you wish to hunt?

-Are there any travel advisories in effect that will impact the hunt?

-Will social distancing guidelines effect the group size of the hunting party?

-Are there any refund or re-issuance policies in effect for special tags?

-Is ammunition available?

The sound of a turkey gobbling, a pheasant cackling as it flushes from cover, mallards chattering overhead on their final approach into the decoys, or an elk screaming on a far ridge. We live for these moments outdoors. We have a tendency to take these experiences for granted until they are taken away from us. Please follow social distancing guidelines this spring, do your homework before you go hunting, be safe, and enjoy the outdoors like never before.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Kevin Steele and Jason Morton are above the Arctic Circle pursuing grizzly bears in Alaska and put a stalk on what they believe is a good one.

Sighting In the CZ .557 Carbine

Sighting In the CZ .557 Carbine

Kevin Steele sights in his CZ .557 carbine rifle that he plans to use on a Colorado elk hunt.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Follow these basic steps to prepare your meat, then pair it with one of these delicious marinades.8 Best Venison Marinades Recipes

8 Best Venison Marinades

Hank Shaw

Follow these basic steps to prepare your meat, then pair it with one of these delicious...

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber? Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd? Conservation

Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd?

Jeff Johnston

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.

Since the first explorers and pilgrims landed, the inhabitants of this glorious country have been7 Favorite Truck Guns Shooting

7 Favorite Truck Guns

Joseph von Benedikt - May 11, 2015

Since the first explorers and pilgrims landed, the inhabitants of this glorious country have...

See More Trending Articles

More News

NSSF officials will now turn their attention to January 2022 for SHOT Show's return to Vegas.SHOT Show is Latest to Lose Upcoming Event News

SHOT Show is Latest to Lose Upcoming Event

Lynn Burkhead - November 02, 2020

NSSF officials will now turn their attention to January 2022 for SHOT Show's return to Vegas.

Several states have eliminated spring hunts, with more leaning toward additional closures.Hunting Seasons See Restrictions in Face of Spreading COVID-19 News

Hunting Seasons See Restrictions in Face of Spreading COVID-19

Rob Endsley

Several states have eliminated spring hunts, with more leaning toward additional closures.

Will coronavirus really have an impact on upcoming hunting seasons?How Will Coronavirus Affect Outdoorsmen? News

How Will Coronavirus Affect Outdoorsmen?

Lynn Burkhead - March 10, 2020

Will coronavirus really have an impact on upcoming hunting seasons?

As the world's most iconic gunmaking company is set to see changes, many are holding out hope that its legacy will continue in a different fashion. Bankrupt Remington to be Broken Up and Sold News

Bankrupt Remington to be Broken Up and Sold

Lynn Burkhead - September 30, 2020

As the world's most iconic gunmaking company is set to see changes, many are holding out hope...

See More News

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now