2020 has been an extremely unique year in many respects. Among the other significant occurrences that we’ve seen in this year, it’s quite possible that the state of Texas may set a hunter participation record as well.

We’ll have to wait a few months to see exactly how things shake out, but data gathered so far this year indicates that 2020 has already seen a massive jump in hunter participation. For one thing, many states have reported gigantic increases in hunting license sales this spring for turkey season. Other states saw record numbers of applicants entering the lottery for drawn hunts and had leftover hunting licenses and tags snapped up in record time.

Sales of firearms and ammunition have also skyrocketed in 2020.

In fact, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has conducted more background checks through the first nine months of 2020 than any other full year since NICS first became operational in 1998. March 2020 (which is normally a very slow month for gun sales) actually set the all-time monthly record with 3,740,688 NICS firearm background checks. That record was in turn broken in June 2020, which saw a staggering 3,931,607 background checks.

As is the case with many of the unusual occurrences that have taken place this year, this expected spike in hunters is a result of changes in behavior directly related to COVID-19.

For one thing, elected officials in most areas have specifically designated hunting and fishing as “essential activities” that made them exempt from the lockdowns implemented across the country earlier in the year. The very nature of outdoor activities like hunting also makes them ideal ways to get out of the house and have fun while at the same time practicing social distancing.

The COVID-19 pandemic also seems like it has accelerated a growing trend of people taking a more active interest in procuring their own food. Not surprisingly, events over the past few months have caused general uncertainty and unease about the security of food supply chains. Well, hunting is a great way to alleviate those concerns to a certain degree.

Finally, the fact that so many common activities, like sports or even in-person schooling in many places, will not be taking place this fall means that most people now simply have a lot more time on their hands. Taken together, all those factors could very likely result in an incredible surge in hunter numbers this fall.

So, it’s looking like the woods will be a little more crowded than usual this year and there are both good and bad things associated with that development. Only time will tell if 2020 is just a one-off occurrence or if these developments will help reverse the ongoing trend of declining hunter participation in the United States.