Last year’s spike in firearms and ammunition sales has been well-documented, but now it looks like hunting has also benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social unrest.
Hunting license sales are up over 12 percent from last year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Industry experts point to the COVID-19 lockdowns as spurring the rise as many Americans found themselves with free time at home and worried about food supply chains.
“Americans have rediscovered the outdoors as COVID-19 has closed off other types of recreation,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “Millions have also bought their first firearm and are curious to experience all that hunting has to offer.”
Han Forester, Director of Hunting Heritage for the Georgia-based National Deer Association, told Fox News that he’s seen a huge uptick in interest for his organization’s deer hunting course.
“People are flocking [to hunting] this year as they have increased time and an opportunity to get outdoors,” he said. “There is also an increased awareness of the possibility of food shortages or issues of modern industrial food systems. Self-sufficiency, a connection with nature, and local, sustainable protein free of animal welfare concerns are all reasons why there are now more hunters.”
Fox News reports that around 14% of hunters were first-timers, and the number of licenses for women jumped more than 12% on previous years.
If the trend continues through the end of the year, 1 million more hunters will have purchased licenses this year than last, Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of research with the foundation, told the Journal.
Only time will tell if the increased interest this year will be maintained moving forward, but any good news is welcome to state wildlife agencies that are largely funded by license sales. Interest in hunting has dropped precipitously over the last several decades, falling from 7.3 percent of the U.S. population in 1991 to 4.5 percent today.
If more Americans don’t get out in the field, wildlife agencies will struggle to maintain the budgets necessary to maintain parks, conserve habitat, and manage wildlife populations.
The rising interest in hunting isn’t limited to one state or region. Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Maine, and Wisconsin reported higher numbers all the way back in September. In California, license sales jumped 10 percent over last year, according to the Journal, and Fox News reports a 10 percent increase in Michigan, a 30 percent increase in Nevada, and a 7 percent increase in Texas.
License sales can sometimes be deceptive when a state rolls out a new policy making it easier or cheaper for residents to purchase licenses. But the increase across the country is a great sign for hunting in the U.S., and state agencies and industry groups are hoping to maintain the momentum in the New Year.