NEWTOWN, Conn. — In a year when one word, “fewer,” described life in America — fewer jobs, fewer home sales, fewer purchases — hunters were responsible for generating a welcome “more” category, as hunting license sales rose by 3.5 percent in 2009 in states that make up NSSF’s Hunting License Sales Index.
The 12-state index comprises several states from four main regions of the United States. Nine of those states recorded hunting license sales increases from January through December of 2009 over the previous year, according to Southwick Associates, a research firm that monitored the license sales information.
“Many factors such as weather and the economy affect hunting license sales in any given year, but in 2009 the economy likely had a more significant effect,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of industry research and analysis. “While the reasons for the 3.5 percent increase are speculative, past research shows that during slowdowns in the nation’s economy it is possible that people have more time to hunt and that hunters take the opportunity to fill their freezers with nutritious, high-protein meat acquired at lower cost than if a similar amount was purchased at the supermarket.”
States participating in the NSSF License Sales Index are New York and New Jersey in the Northeast; Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee in the Southeast; Minnesota, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas in the Midwest; and Oregon and Utah in the West. States were selected for their ability to provide license sales data on a regular basis. The geographical selections were made to offset potential variation in license sales by region. As more states are able to provide necessary data, the number of states will be increased, said Curcuruto.
According to the index, license sales got off to a good start in the first half of 2009. In the key turkey hunting month of April, license sales rose by approximately 17 percent over the same month the previous year. In June, which is the start of the fiscal year in many states and, hence, the month when many annual licenses go on sale, sales increased by 16.2 percent. In the latter half of the year, which is when the bulk of hunting activity occurs and most licenses are sold, August and October sales were down, but September, November and December sales were up.
Curcuruto noted the findings were a bright spot when considering national hunting license sales totals from all 50 states showed little change from 2005 through 2007 (the most recent year that figures are available). During that period, license sales have held at approximately 14.5 million annually, according to that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Typically, hunting license sales data does not become available until 18 to 24 months after sales end. “NSSF and Southwick Associates saw there was a need to work directly with states to receive data in a more timely matter,” said Curcuruto.
The NSSF Hunting License Sales Index is designed to be an indicator of hunting license sales but not an exact measure of all hunting license sales nationally. Should the 3.5 percent rise hold true nationwide, it would represent one of the largest percentage increases in hunting license sales in over 20 years.
The index is a new project involving NSSF and Southwick Associates. The 2009 data was the first released in what both parties expect to be an ongoing effort. NSSF performs this type of research to better equip its member base with information that will help them make more informed business decisions.
Results from the index were first reported to NSSF members and media at the recently concluded 2010 SHOT Show. “Due to positive feedback from those sessions, NSSF plans to continue funding this project in 2010,” said Curcuruto.
Results are based on a weighted average of trends among participating states, so that states with larger hunter populations have a greater impact on the results than smaller states. Due to confidentiality agreements, license sales data is not available on a per-state basis.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 5,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.