Fish and Wildlife Economics and Statistics
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Covid-19: What Do the Restrictions Mean for Hunting, Target Shooting and Fishing Businesses?

The shooting sports and sportfishing industries plus conservation funding may not suffer as much as other economic sectors from the Covid-19 restrictions now in place across the nation. As seen in past times of uncertainty, participation and sales frequently increase. What’s happening now?

At the time of this newsletter’s release, Pittman-Robertson excise tax collections were increasing due to security concerns nationally. For many, uncertainties about safety drive them to purchase firearms and ammunition. This is based on a fear what others might do if essentials are no longer available in stores, or if excessive unemployment affects peoples’ ability to purchase essentials.  Expect sales of handguns and MSR’s to spike higher than shotguns and traditional rifles, along with ammunition. In some areas, shotguns will do better where purchase restrictions inhibit sales of handguns and many rifles.

Another factor causing increased sales relates to excess time. In previous economic downturns, when core outdoor segments have more time on their hands, meaning less overtime and weekend work hours, fishing and hunting license sales and participation increased, especially among our customers working in the trades. The ‘great recession’ of 2008-09 is a prime example. Today, forced closures of many businesses and ‘social distancing’ are driving people outdoors. Not able to travel or visit areas with concentrated gatherings and wanting to escape the stress from continual 24-hour covering of Covid-19, fishing activities should be increasing along with related sales and excise tax collections.

Another silver lining may be appearing, too. With many first-time firearm buyers visiting dealers, a greater portion of the public is learning about the various restrictions associated with buying firearms and even ammo online and through brick-and-mortar. Having a greater share of the public wanting and owning firearms will only help in future policy debates.

While we expect fishing activity and license sales to increase, we are not sure about the potential net effect on Spring turkey hunting. Certainly, many local hunters now have extra time on hand and will take to the field, including many who were too busy last year to hunt. This will cause an increase in Spring hunting license sales. To some unknown level, out-of-state hunters who buy higher priced licenses will not want or be able to travel, thus creating a dampening effect on license and product sales. Overall, we expect an increase, but uncertain by how much.

It is not a good picture everywhere for hunting and fishing. Some sectors, especially among fishing and turkey guide services that depend on travelers, are taking a severe hit. Don’t forget your local guides if you have the chance to get out. Also, the early days of Covid-19 issue likely saw the greatest increases, but closures of many public areas, along with some beach and ramp closures, are likely dampening sales and activity. Closures are also harming outdoor retailers closed as “non-essential” in many locales across the U.S.  More will be known soon.

We fully support the closures and restrictions being implemented to slow and shorten the spread of Covid-19. Health is not something to gamble with. But amidst all of the Covid-19 news out there, knowing there’s a silver lining of some sorts out there is good.