There’s an encouraging trend happening now that will benefit America’s public lands and bring together generations of outdoor enthusiasts. People are hunting. It’s a welcome trend that could steer conservation for generations.
Firearm purchases in America reached record levels in 2020. Millions are first-time buyers, jumping off the fence and exercising their Second Amendment right to protect themselves and their families and property. NSSF surveyed firearm retailers and found shotguns, modern sporting rifles (MSRs) and traditional rifles were common purchases, giving hunting as one of the reasons for their purchases. Self-reliance for personal protection is an overwhelming drive for many gun buyers these days. Self-reliance for food is proving to be a motivator too.
Hunters took advantage of stay-at-home emergency orders. Businesses in cities and small towns were closed, but the woods, fields and marshes remained mostly open. States saw record hunting license sales this spring. It was a natural reaction to the supply chain concerns and bare grocery store shelves. Americans became more concerned with their food supply. Turns out, the lands provide and provide richly.
Kansas saw the uptick. A “sharp spike” was reported in licenses purchased from 2019 to 2020. The itch for the outdoors hit 15-year old Kansan Allison Forgy, who said, “With COVID-19, many people are trying things that they have not done or have not done in a while.” Ben Jack, a manager at Southerlands Outdoors of Topeka, Kan., said he wasn’t surprised. “The popularity of hunting and archery has grown quite a bit,” he said.
North Carolina witnessed an uptick in one particular area as hunters bagged a record 23,341 wild turkeys in the spring season. Officials from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission said that’s more than 5,000 more turkeys than the previous record set in 2017, and they believe the coronavirus was responsible for the increase. “Our turkey population is very robust, and in most areas, it can handle this additional harvest and hunting pressure quite well,” explained Chris Kreh, a biologist with NCWRC.
Outfitters in Idaho watched as license sales rose 150 percent over last year. Officials are seeing similar trends with duck hunting in North Dakota, pheasant hunting across Iowa and officials believe the 2020-2021 season will be a record-setting one in Pennsylvania. The list goes on and more positive numbers can be seen across the country.
Henry and Lakeisha Woodard aren’t new to hunting. They’ve been hunting deer and turkey in Mississippi together for over 12 years. During the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve been harnessing social media to promote their adventures and try to recruit new hunters through their platform HALO Chronicles.
“We were like Noah preaching the flood, but now it’s like everyone is trying to come into the ark,” Henry said, according to a Business Insider report. Lakeisha agreed, “But what we’re doing, we’re trying to show people our way of life, and hopefully we may inspire someone.”
The two continue to head out together and post their outings, hoping more Americans will see their successes and feel the urge to follow suit.
NSSF developed and promoted programs to encourage more Americans to take part in hunting, and not just during times like the current coronavirus pandemic. Efforts like NSSF’s +ONE Movement, LetsGoHunting.org and LetsGoShooting.org provide ideas, resources and connections for people to take part in recreational shooting sports. Each outing is an opportunity for someone new to become introduced to the hunting and shooting sports with a mentor.
Each purchase of a hunting license, a firearm or ammunition, shows these hunters are supporting federal and state-funded conservation programs for healthy land management and wildlife population levels across the country to benefit wildlife for everyone to enjoy.
This is a positive trend that’s celebrated by the firearm industry. More Americans are turning to the outdoors to go hunting. Food is being harvested by their own hands and shared at tables with family and friends. Hunting is helping to reconnect Americans with more than the food in their freezer. Hunting is connecting hunting to America’s wild heart.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.