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    With all the pain, suffering, inconvenience, uncertainty and fear that COVID-19 has generated among Americans, one positive note can be sounded: The virus has encouraged people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

    While some hunters reported last year that their long-standing tradition of a group get-together for a week or so of bird hunting had to be canceled because of health concerns, more hunters — many of them first-timers — used the virus as a motivation to hit the woods and see what all this talk about “bird hunting” is about.

    Of course, more hunters means more license sales and more incidental income headed into the tills of local economies as hunters bought gasoline, meals, groceries and incidentals and rented hotel rooms or paid for camping sites.

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that a record 21 million background checks for firearm purchases were made in 2020, up from 13.2 million in 2019. Of those, 40% were for women, and 40% were for first-time buyers.

    “Gun sales rose in every state,” said NSSF’s Director of Public Affairs Mark Oliva, not just in ‘gun-friendly’ states.”

    Such a high number of first-time buyers led to a massive run on the stock of ammunition, both in stores and at manufacturing plants. Plus, once COVID-19 settled in, people started stocking up “just in case,” something that Oliva referred to as “the toilet paper effect.”

    By the way, he expects the availability of ammo won’t rebound back to normal until at least 2022.

    Other outdoor-related industries have also experienced a boom. According to rvtravel.com, shipments of recreational vehicles were expected to top 400,000 by the end of 2020 with “continued growth in 2021 to more than 500,000 units.”

    The generally reported estimated growth in RV shipments for 2020 was for a 4.5% gain over the units shipped in 2019, “overcoming a nearly two-month RV industry shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Even better, initial estimates for 2021 call for a “19.5% increase over 2020.”

    Not all traveling hunters lodged in RVs, though, as you’ll see in some of our offerings in this issue.

    Frequent contributor Conrad LaPierre nestled in at the Hungry Trout resort in Upstate New York for some grouse and woodcock hunting. See his report in our “Destinations” section.

    Farther west, in Montana, Jack Ballard used a vehicle as a base for his English setter Percy and himself, and it was used for the purpose of outdoor recreation. So, perhaps technically it counts as an RV, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t show up in those 2020 sales figures. You’ll find his piece, “A Fine Day in Quarantine,” in our “Road Notes” section. And please make sure you check out the news brief about Jack in the “Flushes” section.

    As with “Destinations” and “Road Notes,” another “sometimes” department of the magazine is “Landings.” That’s the place where writers are encouraged to share with readers their insights, observations and outlooks on the aspects of habitat that go beyond the birds themselves.

    We hope you enjoy this issue. And we hope you continue to get out there and enjoy nature.


    Wolfe Publishing Group