CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An effort by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the West Virginia Department of Tourism to boost the sale of hunting and fishing license during the month of December came off as a smashing success.
According to figures released Tuesday by the agencies and Governor Jim Justice, the agency’s sales of Class X and Class XJ license for 2020 during December was up more than $340,000 from the December sales a year ago.
“It was a 250 percent increase. Plus there were several hundred new license applicants. Those weren’t just renewals, but it was in the hundreds of people who reactivated a license tho didn’t have one in 2019 or bought a new license for 2020,” said DNR Director Steve McDaniel.
McDaniel has been focused on turning around a downward trend of license sales. Governor Jim Justice has forced McDaniel and State Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby to work together toward the goal with various promotions to use hunting and fishing as a tourism draw to the Mountain State. The December license promotion was part of the effort.
“During 2018 we opened it up for 2019 license sales on December 15th. This year, we wanted to have it ready for Cyber Monday, so we opened it up on Sunday, December 1st,” McDaniel explained.
The month long promotion included a statewide advertising offer encouraging people to use the license as a Christmas gift. There was an added incentive of prizes which included DNR and State Park swag, weekends in a West Virginia State Park, and the grand prize a Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License. Christopher Davisson of Fairmont was announced as the grand prize winner during Monday’s announcement in Charleston.
McDaniel said the agency sold just over 10,400 license during the month.
“It was successful because last year we sold about $221,000 and this year we sold over $600,000, so we were really excited about that,” he said.
McDaniel hoped the increased sales in December were a sign of things to come. The year 2019 saw the first uptick in license sales in six years. with 73,000 new license sales. Like most states, West Virginia has seen the sales of hunting and fishing licenses falling off. McDaniel doesn’t believe 2019 was just a blip, he believes it was a true turn.
“We’re actually always just trying to stop the bleeding, but in 2019 we really did turn the corner. We saw an increase in license sales in 2019 of about $340,000. Now we’re seeing 2020 off to a good start as well,”
However, like any sales job, McDaniel knows consumers are going to be evaluating the product and what they get for that license they buy. He said he’s constantly pushing his staff to improve the hunting and fishing product in West Virginia.
He noted two key changes in 2019 which are often referenced in Sportsman’s Surveys in West Virginia. The state has added roughly 70,000 acres of public hunting land in recent years, most of that in the mid-Ohio Valley where there isn’t a lot of public hunting land. Secondly, McDaniel noted changes to the trout stocking program.
“We’re stocking on weekends from March until the end of May so working men and women and college students who don’t have the ability to fish during the week when we’re stocking early have an opportunity,” McDaniel said.
Governor Justice also noted his order from last year to use additional personnel on the stocking trucks to more widely disperse fish throughout a stream was also an effort to improve the product.
Of the 10,113 Class X licenses sold during December, 666 were customers who had never purchased a license or hadn’t purchased one in 2019.
“This contest has been an incredible opportunity to get West Virginians everywhere excited about enjoying our woods and streams. We all know there is no better place in the world to enjoy the outdoors than right here in Almost Heaven,” Gov. Justice said. “As a lifelong hunter and angler, I want to thank our Tourism Office and Division of Natural Resources for all the goodness and all the opportunities they’re bringing through their efforts.”
Prize winners for the license sales promotion:
- Christopher Davisson — Fairmont (Lifetime Sportsman Hunting, Trapping and Fishing License)
- Justin Thaxton — Charleston (Two-night stay at Tygart Lake State Park cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Shannon Brown — Craigsville (Two sled run tickets with overnight lodge room at Blackwater Falls State Park & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Dustin Rexrode — Durbin (Two zipline tour tickets with overnight lodge room at Pipestem Resort State Park & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Steven Albright — Ona (Two-night stay at Kumbrabow State Forest cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Tammy Collins — Ona (Two-night lodging at Hawks Nest State Park & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Larry Powell — Glenwood (Two-night lodging at North Bend State Park & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Mark Robinson — Brandywine (Two-night stay at Babcock State Park cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- William Hamilton — Bridgeport (Two-night lodging at Cacapon Resort State Park & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Roland Albright — Branchland (Two-night stay at Holly River State Park cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Joseph Gill — Beckley (Two-night stay at Lost River State Park cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Robert Flinner — Charleston (Two-night stay at Greenbrier State Forest cabin & WVDNR Gift Bag)
- Lillian Fauliner — Shinnston (Blennerhassett Island Historical Park mansion tour, passage on the Island Belle Sternwheeler, and admission to the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History & WVDNR Gift Bag)