pheasant hunting hunter
Dan Z. for TTAG
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By Larry Keane

Autumn hunting seasons are fast approaching and if early numbers on hunting license sales are any indication, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t keeping America’s outdoorsmen and women from planning to visit their camps, stands and fields.

Beginning in March and April earlier this year, COVID-19 spread across America and has led to a surge in firearm sales that hasn’t been seen before. According to retailer survey data, more than 5 million of the more than 13 million gun buyers in 2020 were first-timers. Hunting activities were listed by purchasers as one of the main reasons for buyers to jump off the fence and head to the gun store.

Through all the uncertainty and unrest in U.S. cities, America’s hunters are heading outdoors and to the fields and countryside.

Licenses Selling Fast

deer hunting hunter fall season
Nick Leghorn for TTAG

Hunting and fishing agencies are seeing a continued uptick in the number of licenses sold for these activities.

“I think it would be fair to say that (the pandemic) played a major role,” Mike Park, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Communications Director, told PennLive. “However, with COVID-19, people have found more time on their hands and have been seeking outdoor recreation close to home.”

Pennsylvania, regarded as a hunting bellwether state, has already seen a substantial increase in the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold this year. The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported an increase of nearly eight percent across all licenses sold, including a nearly five percent increase in licenses specifically for hunters. That totals 162,747 more hunting licenses purchased this year compared to 2019.

North Dakota is also seeing a significant bump as deer hunting license sales are up. A record number of hunters have applied for licenses there. Early numbers from Iowa, Michigan, Maine, Wisconsin and states across the country show similar trends.

Pheasant hunting hunter
Dan Z. for TTAG

During the continued trend of historic firearm sales in 2020, retailer data shows hunting as a leading reason for a new firearm purchase. Among those surveyed, shotguns and modern sporting rifles (MSRs) were among the most popular choices. MSRs are the most popular-selling centerfire rifle in American with more than 18 million in circulation today. In addition to being an effective self-defense firearm, MSRs are lightweight, accurate, have low recoil, come in a variety of hunting calibers and are adaptable with numerous upgrade options, making them highly desirable for America’s hunters.

New Hunting Generation

This fall isn’t just a great time to take a rifle or shotgun out for a hunt. It’s an opportunity to bring someone new along and introduce them to hunting. NSSF launched the +One Movement to do just that, and the benefits are immeasurable. Providing a chance for someone new to join for a hunt can create a lifelong recreational marksman or hunter and even state wildlife departments are incentivizing introducing someone new to keep the traditions going.

father son hunting hunters

Jared Wiklund of the St. Paul, Minn., chapter of Pheasants Forever praised the increased hunting trends and the impacts and connections between future generations of hunters and the ability to get outdoors.

“People are reconnecting with the land,” Wiklund explained. “This absolutely will be long-term, because the more people buy licenses, the more money there is for public land. The more public land there is, the more people want to be outside. We are seeing a huge influx of people getting outdoors.”

Creative opportunities to foster the growth of the American hunting population from across the country include “youth hunting weekends” in Vermont and the “Liberty Hunt” weekend in Michigan, where hunters ages 16 years old or under who have disabilities, or members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, can join a hunt.

Pheasant Hunting In Wheelchairs disabled
Duane Townsend, left, shoots a pheasant at Special Friday Pheasant Hunts, sponsored by Southern Tulare County Sportsman’s Association, at Lake Success Recreation Area in Porterville, Calif. A Utah man who has been in a wheelchair for more than three decades has created a pheasant hunt for people like him who need help getting into the outdoors. (Chieko Hara/The Porterville Recorder via AP)

“People with disabilities can experience difficulties with mobility, climbing into a tree stand, sighting in game, hearing game approaching or holding a firearm,” Michigan DNR Wildlife Division’s Hannah Schauer said of the event. “The Liberty Hunt provides opportunities for veterans and others to get outdoors and try a new sport or continue to enjoy one they love.”

With millions of new Americans buying firearms for hunting and purchasing hunting licenses, the pastime and traditions of American hunting and recreational shooting are growing.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. Just wait. They arrest individuals for walking alone on a beach. Or those that attend a Church service while sitting inside a car. Listening through the car radio. At the church parking lot.

  2. The Pittman-Robertson income is going to be huge this year.
    Now if they’ll just manage the land and the wildlife to the best of their abilities.

  3. The fires are keeping me out of the hunt. All of my favorite places have burned out. I don’t think I’ll get in a single hunt this year. I guess i’ll have to haunt the trap and skeet ranges with my new shotgun.

    • jwm, let the weather cool off down here a bit. Ray told me he’s going to start shooting quail next month on cool mornings, but that’s hit or miss in October. November/December, and later, will be better. (Those eastern diamondbacks can be a bitch. Especially those with a head as big as your palm. Two killed on the farm last week.) Let me know when you’re going to land in Tallahassee. If it’s a morning flight you’ll be shooting quail that afternoon. Private accommodations. No cost to you. Seriously. If you’re interested let me know. I’ll buy a track phone and post the number. No license needed. Ray’s part of the farm is a licensed hunting preserve. May be able to work in a deer and dove hunt also. Largemouth in the ponds. No man should miss hunting season.

      • Kind offer. But I’ll be stuck in CA for at least this winter. Grandpa obligations. I got a SIL that is off the coast right now trying to land some salmon for tomorrow’s dinner.

        Quail is my favorite hunting. Nothing quite like it.

        • I understand. Offer open anytime. Would be good if you possum and Tom could get together. BTW, how are you Tom?

        • No matter where I go I’m already half way there, but from here to Florida is a long walk. I got to thinking, I’d probably be walking down the road and along comes JWM,,”!! There’s another one!!” Spla Splat.,, GF to JWM, “You seen possum?” JWM”Possums??, No I haven’t seen any possums.”

    • Next spring if you hunt mushrooms should be good. Years back a friend invited us to come out to his place in Idaho to hunt morels. He said they usually come out in large amounts after a fire. Never tried that before so said what the heck and we drove out there. Have to say once we got the hang of it that was fun and those are some good eating.

      • KenW,

        Not a hunter, but hunting mushrooms seems like fun…and delicious! Kinda worried about poisoning myself, but it seems worth learning.

        • Most of ours are poisonous or you need a microscope to look at the features that tell whether it is safe to eat or will kill you or make you trip balls. Shaggy manes are edible but turn into inky goo so quick. And Winecaps too but to me they do not taste like much. So no I do not eat local shrooms. Those morals though are kind of distinctive looking and while I did have him look at what we picked he did not fine anything bad.
          Fried in butter and made into an omelet they were so good. Went well with steaks too. Wish they grew here.
          So maybe if he hunts those type of mushrooms his spring will be good.

        • I keep track of fires just for morel hunting around Father’s Day.
          Morels are very distinctive and have no poisonous look alike. (There is a false morel, not real common and not poisonous. They just don’t taste good.)

          As soon as the rains start, it’ll be chanterelle time just a few miles from the house.
          Those go great on steaks too!

        • The deer keep eating the morels around here and I’ve even seen Turkeys pecking on them too. Also I’m pretty sure there is a false morel, won’t make you die but gives you the shits, I ate some that gave me the shits, but maybe it’s just because I ate to many?

      • Ken, no offense, but you don’t hunt mushrooms, you find them. That said, I understand morels are excellent fare. Like to try them someday.

        • Might want to tell the folks who call themselves morel hunters or sponge hunters that they are wrong then. I bet an old timer from one of the states those mushrooms grow in would appreciate you telling him he is supposed to find not hunt mushrooms.
          You are right about them being delicious. And fun to find, we were like 2 kids scrambling around looking for them. If you ever get the chance to look for them you should give it a try. We bought some dried ones awhile back and they do not even come close to the taste of a fresh one. Expensive too !!

          Keep an eye on Sally , she is soaking us and expected to gain strength to a cat 2. She will be a wet one when she she arrives wherever she goers.

        • Ken, I have a cousin who lived in morel mushroom country most of his adult life. When we spoke during the season he always said, “Were going to look for mushrooms tomorrow.” After all, it’s not like a mushroom can see, smell or hear you. And they damned sure can’t run away. No. You you look for them.

  4. Outdoors by yourself is about as safe as it gets. You can’t catch the virus from someone who isn’t there.

  5. Gun sales up. Hunting license sales up. The democrats/liberal left/media are going to wish they had never played up Covid 19.

  6. Hunting season is open for critters here in Iowa. Been raining for days, but plan on getting some rabbits and squirrels as soon as things dry out. Deer season isn’t until December. Plan on 1 to make sausage for the smoker. Got a new 350 Legend upper for one of the AR’s. Can’t wait to see how well it performs. Used a 450 Bushmaster last year it performed very well. Good Hunting and Be Safe Out There.

  7. Makes me think…

    What if the “second wave” of Beer Virus causes all the grocery stores to close, and everyone has to hunt for our food? I don’t even know where Little Debbie lives !

      • I am doomed says Sam I am.
        Of the groceries I ate there’s nary a can.
        Maybe Little Debbie knows of a source.
        Of all the creatures of the hundred acre woods she’s now the smartest of course.
        It used to be we would ask ol Winnie the Pooh.
        But the poor ol bear dropped dead from the Chinese flu.
        So its snack cakes now instead of honey.
        And instead of free from the bees now it will cost you money.
        A hunt was once done for a leader to replace the one who perished from a disease most foul.
        And quickly ruled out Eyore, tigger and the not so wise old owl.
        They thought about Possum but with twins which one?
        When they ask Kanga she said she’s up to here with her son.
        So it’s little Debbie now , she was the last choice.
        And snack cakes for meals so fresh and moist.

        With this ol No Poet and I know it has run out of words.
        No amount of wordsmithing could rework this pile of turds.

        • No Poet,

          Quick composition, done in a dash,
          A flash
          Of images, storybook true,
          Mixed up with Ol’ Gadsden,
          And dessert cakes, too.
          Apocalyptic stirrings,
          Whirrings, murmurings.
          No critters huntable in air or on ground
          No Little Debbie anywhere to be found.
          What has life become?
          How can it all be undone?
          No Poet will provide the grins
          The good humor from which a good day begins.

          Liked your work!

          • “No Poet,

            Quick composition, done in a dash,
            A flash
            Of images, storybook true,
            Mixed up with Ol’ Gadsden,
            And dessert cakes, too.”

            There once was a hermit named Dave….

      • I’m no poet, but I have a year’s supply of food. Crops in the field, red meat in the woods and fish in the ponds. Write poems if you will. I’ll eat. BTW, I like Robert Frost.

        • Gadsden,

          At least 6 months of food and water. Lots of ammo.
          Frost, yes!
          Yevteshenko, Elliott, Tennyson, Kipling, also.

        • “BTW, I like Robert Frost.”

          Robert Frost – Haiku

          Two roads, autumn woods
          One traveler, not two, can go
          Long life, choice is good

        • One can write poems and still eat.
          You should try it once, its no mean feat.
          To write a poem you just sit and think.
          Or you can write drunken poetry if you like to drink.
          Frost is good and Tennyson as well.
          No Poet is neither a point upon which we won’t dwell.

          • “One can write poems and still eat.”

            There was a young man from Japan
            Whose poetry never would scan
            When people asked, “Why”?
            He gave this reply,
            Because I like to get as many words on the last line as I can.

        • I’ve always been a fan of W. B. Yeats.

          Wine comes in at the mouth
          And love comes in at the eye;
          That’s all we shall know for truth
          Before we grow old and die.
          I lift the glass to my mouth,
          I look at you, and I sigh.

  8. Not a hunter…after you shoot a critter, too much work to be done. Loves the woods when it is cold, when the bugs that bite aren’t (alergies). So, I don’t shoot anything, but I would if it tried to eat me. Just walk in the woods…as good as Zen meditation but with exercise. Moments of clarity, like God opens my eyes…”Look, eyes wide, it is all new, drink it in, let it wash you out, restore you, don’t think about it, see it!”

    I love the woods.

  9. Social distancing, food collection, skills and actually using your weapon. What’s the issue?
    Oh yeah independence, fun and freedom. Some butthurt kommie will cry a rainbow. Oh well deal with it pinko.

  10. don’t know what’s up but I’ve scored big time, the dumpster’s got fooooood, lots of it. this city life ain’t too bad

    • A possum in the trash, isn’t his life grand?
      So many tasty things to eat , he can ignore those that taste bland.
      The bad things about city life are the noise, and avoiding rocks thrown by little boys.
      The cars at least are easy to avoid, they just sit and honk and make little ploys.
      The pedestrians can be dangerous when crowded.
      With cellphones stuck to their heads their vision enshrouded.
      They’ll step on you if you were to play dead.
      Not sure which is worse, high heels or hunters lead.
      But the food is good , KFC is a treat.
      And warm Colt 45, now that just just can’t be beat.

      And now this poem by No Poet is finished.
      And once again the art is diminished.

  11. I disagree, PA doe licenses were in abundance in the second and third rounds and even for out of state licenses. Anecdotal evidence appears to show an uptick in fishing numbers, But not hunting licenses, likely cause it requires less effort and money than hunting.

    So the uptick in firearms were hunting firearms? I doubt it, people buying handguns arent getting it for hunting, it is likely peoples cover reason so as to not be judged for wanting it for security due to unrest.

    If the CCP virus doesnt ruin your hunt, the CWD spread and scare promulgated by leftist environmentalists will, (before you scream bs, do your homework). Maybe if we and the deer wear masks we can flatten the CWD curve and resume our normal.

    • Had a friend stop me while driving by his place,”Hey possum, look at my pet deer.” He had it tied with bailing twine around it’s neck. “Where’d yah get it?” says I. He say” Oh it just came walking out of them trees so I tied it up for Lois to see when she gets off work.” That things sick Bob and I don’t think I’d let the ole lady around it.” Next day, “Hey Bob, whatever happened to that deer?” ,,,”Oh it died”

  12. COVID-19 hasn’t kept me from the outdoors (if anything, it drew me out), but unfortunately, the raging fires in California may require me to cancel my hunting trip. Too bad the hunting season is much earlier than everywhere else in the country. Is it a coincidence that hunting season overlaps so closely with fire season? Hmm…

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