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Hunter Numbers Up! But Can We Keep Them? – Todd Helms

2020 and Covid 19 saw hunting participation increase by a significant percentage. While the woods, mountains and plains were more crowded last fall that’s good news for the future of hunting. IF we can hold onto those new recruits. 

Sure, tags are harder to draw and yes, there are strangers camped in “your” spot or glassing “your” ridge but that’s a good thing. Hunting’s future has been dimming for the past decade and we needed this shot in the arm. We also need to make sure those numbers continue to grow, but how? Here’s a list of things to remember. 

Take An Adult Hunting! – Taking kids is great but kids usually don’t have much control over when and if they can go again. Adults, once hooked, can go hunting without the constraints of relying on others as much as kids. Be Nice! – It’s frustrating when you find someone else in your spot or lose an opportunity to a stranger. However, instead of getting angry, try to remember we’re all on the same team and we need to act like it.  Help In The Field – Going the extra mile to help new hunters when we encounter them will encourage them to continue hunting. This includes helping them find game, helping them recover game and helping them transport game. Again, these new hunters are our best allies against the forces working to end ALL hunting. 

There’s no doubt that in 2020 hunting’s future became a bit brighter but it’s up to us, the vanguard, to keep it trending so that our heritage, traditions and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation can live on, benefitting our animals and the health of our ecosystems. After all, as hunters we are more than torchbearers for hunting, we are stewards of the land and animals and we need future stewards who care as much as the past generations have if we are to have anything left for the future. 

Council Report Highlights Hunting License Sales Increases in 2020

(Washington, D.C.) – “License sales were up in 2020 and we’re ready to focus on Retention in 2021,” commented Dr. Steven Leath in response to the recent insights garnered from the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (Council) research into hunting license sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leath, who serves as the Executive Director of the Council, shared the highlights of the study during the 2021 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference earlier this month.

The Council initiated the study in early 2021 to document the changes in hunting license sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hunting, along with other outdoor activities, became a way throughout 2020 for Americans to get outdoors, connect with nature, and escape daily stresses. Now we have a better understanding of how hunters reacted during the pandemic as well. Study results indicate that license sales increased by approximately 5% nationwide, with growth rates varying by region. A full report is available on the Council’s website.

Working with Southwick Associates, the Council collected monthly resident and nonresident hunting license data from more than 40 state wildlife agencies to quantify and compare 2020 sales trends to 2019. Through this research, the Council and Southwick Associates documented:

Overall, hunting license sales in 2020 increased by approximately 5% over 2019. Resident license sales were up 5.4%. Nonresident license sales increased by 1.6%. 35 of 40 states saw an overall increase in the number of licenses sold in 2020 compared to 2019. License sales were up in all four regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West), though at different levels for each region.

This study offered a deeper dive into the license salesdata and provided valuable insights on the changes in purchasing habitats of hunters throughout the year. “While 2020 license sales were up overall, sales decreased in November 2020 compared to 2019, suggesting the pandemic may have encouraged many hunters to purchase earlier than normal. This indicates that, in addition to 2020’s first-time hunters, our regular huntersparticipated more often, which will be critical to research further as we move forward,” commented Rob Southwick, President of Southwick Associates.

Increased hunting license sales is good news for the conservation community, who for the last few decades hasincreased efforts to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters. “While more research is needed to determine motivations behind increased hunting license purchases in 2020, the overall increase is positive news for the conservation and R3 communities,” commented Leath. Leath concluded, “The COVID-19 cohort of hunters is a plus for conservation in this country and we will work hard to connect with them and retain them as active participants in the hunting lifestyle. In the coming year, the Council will continue to work with the broader hunting community to expand and improve recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts to ensure a stronger future for hunting.”

For more information on the COVID-19 and Hunting project, please visit


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