SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — Standing behind the counter of her parents’ sporting goods store in Sparta, Alyssa Ladd said that for them, running the shop is about community.

Her parents Gary and Becky Hosmer have owned Sparta Sport Shop on Sparta Avenue north of W. Division Street for over 50 years.

“They’ve loved their way of life,” Ladd said. “They’ve enjoyed owning a sporting goods store and serving their community.”

Gary Hosmer died in 2020, but his wife Becky Hosmer still holds the fort. Ladd said her mother enjoys seeing and meeting new people.

And there have been new hunters and anglers to meet recently. Recently released data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows consistent interest in outdoor activities and even an increase in certain demographics.

Though there were fewer first-time buyers of hunting and fishing licenses in 2021 than in 2020, the numbers are still higher than in 2019 — up 5.3% for hunting and 8.2% percent for fishing.

Nick Buggia of the Michigan Wildlife Council says there has been a notable increase in the number of women and first-time hunters. When it came to women purchasing licenses, there was an increase of 6.7% from 2019 in hunting licenses and 11.4% from fishing.

“Just reaching out to those demographics that might not traditionally have as high of participation in hunting and angling and just let them know what the benefits are,” Buggia said.

Two categories, out-of-state visitors and hunters and anglers 65 or older, saw increases in 2021.

In the out-of-state category, the DNR reported hunting licenses increased 10% from 2020 and 21% from 2019. Fishing licenses were up 11.4% from 2020 and 11.7% from 2019.

“The Michigan DNR has done a pretty good job of advertising what we have to offer and there’s a lot of outdoor tourism surrounding Michigan,” Buggia said.

Among those 65 and older, hunting license purchases were up 4.4% from 2020 and 8.5% from 2019. Fishing license purchases were up 12.2% from 2020 and 10.2% from 2019.

​Ladd and friend Bill Sack say they are hoping for the number of licenses sold to grow and are optimistic that even more people will get out to enjoy the outdoors. They said the comradery of the outdoors community is unmatched.

“It’s just so relaxing and it’s so bonding between people and families,” Sack said.

“Even the stories of when people come in and you get different customers who know each other who start sharing their stories,” Ladd added.

Asked for his best advice for new hunters, Sack replied with a laugh, “Learn how to sit quietly and don’t shake.”

For more information about how to buy a hunting or fishing license, visit the DNR’s website.