Reports throughout 2020 highlighted the impact COVID-19 had on Americans and spotlighted their pursuit to get outdoors, connect with nature and escape the effects of the pandemic. Participation in outdoor recreation activities soared and as previous media coverage indicated, early reports suggested hunting license sales increased as well. The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports initiated a study in early 2021 to investigate how hunters’ rates of purchasing licenses changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 trends to 2019 hunting license sales levels:
• 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.
• 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 potential increases in days of hunting activity in 2020.
While more research is needed to determine motivations behind increased hunting license purchases in 2020, the overall increase in positive news for the conservation and R3 communities. The Council will continue to work with broader hunting community to expand and improve recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts to ensure a stronger future for hunting.
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