Skip to main content

Outdoor Escape: Hunting, Rec Shooting See Boom During Pandemic

Outdoor Escape: Hunting, Rec Shooting See Boom During Pandemic

Photo courtesy of NSSF

America's outdoor pastime experienced a renaissance in 2020 and signs indicate the trend will continue in 2021. Hunting and recreational shooting sports saw a boom in popularity as millions of Americans purchased firearms during the past year. Hunting license sales suffered a slow decline but reports show a reversal as people took more hunting trips, brought someone new with them or rounded for another trip to the woods or fields.

Whether for upland birds on the plains or deer or bruins in the northwoods, the effects of more hunting are positive not just for hunters but all Americans looking for outdoor adventure and fresh air.

Outdoor Escape

The coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020 all but shut down community businesses. That included recreational activities at city parks, theatres, entertainment venues and sports arenas. The outdoors remained open as "social distancing" became a way of life. Firearm retailer data from NSSF show self defense was among the main drivers of the 21 million background checks for a firearm sale, but hunting and the desire to get away from the cramped confines of the indoors was near the top of reasons as well. Shotguns and rifles were among the most popular choices for buyers.


Tickets and Tags


Hunting license sales are the biggest tell for who’s heading out for a shoot and the numbers from 2020 are big. States including Washington, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, New York and more all hit highwater marks.

"With New Yorkers looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing tremendous interest in outdoor recreation and in the sports of fishing, hunting, and trapping, including record sales of big game hunting and trapping licenses," explained Basil Seggos, Commissioner of New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Seggos noted N.Y. hunting license sales tripled the opening day rate from 2019. These numbers aren't unique to the Empire State.

Iowa's hunting license sales went up by 20 percent compared to last year and Arkansas hunting license sales were the highest since 1938. Ditto for Oklahoma, which saw a preliminary deer harvest total of more than 120,000 deer. Michigan saw at least 100,000 new deer hunters last year, good for a nearly 10 percent increase in some counties.

Highlighting the changing demographics of who's hunting, Ashley Autenrieth, deer biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, summed up the Wolverine state's surge.




"Female hunters went up significantly," Autenrieth said. "A jump this big we weren't expecting but we actually do anticipate female hunting numbers to continue to increase."

Benefits For All

The benefits of heading out for a hunt aren't just realized by those participating. Non-hunters and wildlife itself benefit. Fees from hunting license sales are directed to state conservation programs. For consideration, a look at New York's hunting license sales data for 2020 shows $922,444 in sales reported on the first day of big game license sales this year, compared to $347,103 in 2019.


That's in addition to Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid by firearm and ammunition makers, which topped $13.3 billion paid since 1937. Each time a new hunter purchases a shotgun or rifle or buys ammunition for a hunt or trip to the skeet range, they help continue the preservation of public lands in the United States.

Former Secretary for the Interior David Bernhardt summarized the impact new hunters would have on public lands and hunting opportunities for all Americans.

"Our conservation model is funded and supported by America's hunters, shooters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts," Bernhardt said. "These stewards of conservation generated nearly a billion dollars last year alone and make our country's conservation legacy the envy of the world."

It's not enough to be satisfied with millions of new hunters in 2020. The key is to keep hunters heading back to the fields and woods in the future, bringing a son, a daughter or friend along as well. NSSF's +ONESM Movement is aimed at encouraging hunters to recruit and engage the next generation of hunters and recreational shooters to ensure the opportunities to enjoy these great American pastimes remain for all.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, design engineer for Mathews, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

Learn more about two new Elite Archery bows, the Enkore and Remedy, two new broadhead from Slick Trick and a new site from Custom Bow Equipment (CBE).

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021 are several hunter-defined products, such as the Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow, BowTech Solution and Solution SS Bows, TightSpot Pivot 2.5 Quiver, Ripcord Cage and Code Red X arrowrests, and Black Gold Pro FX and Pro Hunter HD sights.

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

Bear Archery's newest bows - Redemption EKO and Legit RTH - are light, adjustable and fast.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded for performance at affordable prices.New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns SHOT Show

New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns

Game and Fish Staff - January 19, 2021

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded...

HHA Sports releases new Tetra LR and LRZ for 2021 — ATA Show.New Bow Stabilizers, Accessories for Hardcore Archers ATA Show

New Bow Stabilizers, Accessories for Hardcore Archers

Game and Fish Staff - January 15, 2021

HHA Sports releases new Tetra LR and LRZ for 2021 — ATA Show.

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow Crossbows

Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow

Game and Fish Staff - December 09, 2020

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.

Want to learn how to cook tasty walleye? This recipe includes three easy methods (on a grill, in a foil packet, and on a stovetop) that are sure to result in a delicious lunch or supper.Grilled Walleye Recipe Fish

Grilled Walleye Recipe

Raschell Rule - August 12, 2014

Want to learn how to cook tasty walleye? This recipe includes three easy methods (on a grill,...

See More Trending Articles

More News

The historic February winter storms left a lasting impression on the Lone Star State.Fish, Wildlife Also Feel Impact of Texas Freeze 2021 News

Fish, Wildlife Also Feel Impact of Texas Freeze 2021

Lynn Burkhead - February 24, 2021

The historic February winter storms left a lasting impression on the Lone Star State.

Feature from the National Shooting Sports Foundation on Denver's first Black-owned gun club.NSSF Spotlight: Thriving Gun Range Focusses on Diverse Ownership Conservation & Politics

NSSF Spotlight: Thriving Gun Range Focusses on Diverse Ownership

Larry Keane - February 12, 2021

Feature from the National Shooting Sports Foundation on Denver's first Black-owned gun club.

Opinion from the National Shooting Sports Foundation on reports of guns and ammo purchasers being labeled as potential criminals.NSSF: The Chilling Gun-Control Move By Bank of America Conservation & Politics

NSSF: The Chilling Gun-Control Move By Bank of America

Larry Keane - February 09, 2021

Opinion from the National Shooting Sports Foundation on reports of guns and ammo purchasers...

Fawn among two animals that died from 'inhumane attacks,' three were injured and have recovered.Oregon Investigates Blow-Gun Dart Deaths, Injuries of Mule Deer News

Oregon Investigates Blow-Gun Dart Deaths, Injuries of Mule Deer

Game & Fish Staff - March 03, 2021

Fawn among two animals that died from 'inhumane attacks,' three were injured and have...

See More News

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now