By Pat Lefemine, Founder of Bowsite.com
Before I get into the Pandemic’s impact on hunting – let me first
extend my condolences to you and your family if you lost a loved one to the
pandemic. My Dad, who is 92, got Covid and survived, but I know people who did
Hard to believe it has been a year since I published my
thoughts on how the pandemic may affect hunting. You can read the original
Re-reading my predictions (12 months later) it looks like we
were pretty accurate - except for a couple outliers.
Canada and International Hunts would be negatively
impacted: unfortunately, this turned out to be true, Canada closed its’
border, and it remains closed as of this writing. Overseas travel ground to a
halt, deeply affecting Africa, Australia, Greenland, and other overseas hunts
that rely almost exclusively on US and European hunters.
Canada’s border closure was far worse than I expected. We
knew there would be no spring bear season in 2020, but we were hoping fall
hunts would be available. Not only did we lose both the spring and fall 2020
hunts, but also spring 2021 hunts and fall hunts are now in question. This has
been exceptionally hard on Canadian outfitters and business.
US outfitters experience increased demand: This was
also true. With Canada and international hunts shut down US hunters turned to
domestic outfitters. According to Neil Summers of Bowhunting Safari
Consultants, they saw an increase in US bookings. While it did not offset the
losses experienced on international hunts, it did provide some relief.
More hunters hitting the woods in 2020: This turned
out to be a fact, and far higher than anticipated. The pandemic, and the social
lock down that ensued made outdoor sports an attractive and healthy alternative
to being locked up at home. In almost all categories Hunting license sales hit
an all-time high, breaking all downward trends in the last five years.
The standouts were in the critical demographic of ‘new
recruits: hunting/fishing licenses with males +24%, and new female recruits
hitting a remarkable +49% increase. Non-resident license sales took a hit due
to travel reluctance and restrictions, and unclear and inconsistent state laws,
but those decreases were overshadowed by strong increases in resident license
sales across the board.
Of course, if you were hunting public land, or even some
private land you likely bumped into more people.
Hunting Industry negatively impacted due to the economy
and supply chain disruptions: We got this one completely wrong. According
to the sponsors I met with in 2020, they had one of their best years ever. The
increase in outdoor sports, such as hunting and shooting, drove strong sales
despite the economic downturn. Moultrie and Summit sold out of their popular
trail cameras and treestands far earlier than expected. 3-Rivers Archery saw strong
sales in traditional arrow and bow building supplies. Despite isolated supply
chain shortages, most archery manufacturers had a strong year.
Work from home trends benefit hunters: This turned
out to be not only true, but perhaps a long-term shift in work location trends.
For jobs that do not require the employee to be physically located in an office
location, many employers are rethinking whether being in an office is even
necessary. What many companies learned was that employee satisfaction
improved, productivity improved, and work-life balance improved.
For hunters who can work from home, this shift has profound implications.
You can wrap up the workday at 5PM, put on your Sitka gear, and be in your
stand at 5:30. If you are fortunate to have a hunting cabin and can work from there
full-time, you can stay there during the hunting season rather than just taking
a weeks’ vacation. Most importantly, it allows you the flexibility to live
anywhere; so, if you live in a hunting hellhole like NY or NJ, you can sell it
and move to Kansas or Kentucky.
Hunting Prediction: 2021?
So instead of looking back, let’s look ahead. These are my
predictions for the next 12 months:
As of this writing about 20% of the country have been
vaccinated. States like Florida, Texas, and other states (that value liberty) are
opening. More importantly, the open state infection rates are basically the
same or less than states trying to keep their citizens in perpetual lock-down.
This will apply pressure to other states to open. I would not be surprised if all
states (except CA, NY, and MI) will be fully open by the fall.
With the US opened, massive pressure will be on Canada to
open their borders and resume travel between our two countries. We lost the
spring bear season, but I am confident fall hunts will resume – certainly for
hunters who can prove they have been vaccinated.
I have been talking with many of my Canada sponsors including
Mike’s Outfitting, Adrenaline, Canadian Trophy Quest, and others. They are all
saying the same thing; the pandemic was rough on them, but they will survive.
And the first hunters back will experience the best hunting ever. The lack of a
2020 hunting season will produce A LOT of 2021 trophies. Most of the 4.5-year-old
survivors will be 5.5-year-olds this fall. I booked the first week of Archery with
Rob Nye and after seeing the survivor pics from January 2021, I will be
crossing the border whether Trudeau likes it or not!
Domestic hunting will go back to normal levels once things open.
When Canada opens, the US outfitters will likely see their demand decrease. Price
increases enacted during the pandemic will likely remain in place. When
schools and working people get back to normal, the license sale increases will go
down, but not until 2022. I do not think they will go back to 2019 levels, but
certainly some people who bought licenses during the pandemic will not return.
The industry will remain strong, and the isolated supply-chain
disruptions will improve. And God willing, things will get back to normal.
It has been a long year for all of us. Hunting kept me
sane. I am far more optimistic that this long nightmare is coming to and end.
I would say that “we’re not out of the woods yet” but given this audience that would
not be applicable.
Stay safe everyone and good luck with your 2021 season.