Be it in the field or on the range, youth are taking to hunting and the shooting sports in record numbers as the foundations for tomorrow's gun owners are being created today.  

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s hunting license sales index showed a 29 percent jump in new hunters taking the field in 2020 when compared to the previous year, climbing from an estimated 2.3 million in 2019 to over 3.2 million, gaining a legion equivalent to the population of Jacksonville, Florida, or Austin, Texas. Many of these were teens. 

As detailed by the Pew Trusts, Michigan saw a 67 percent hike in new hunting license buyers last year compared with 2019, including a 15 percent increase in female hunters and 46 percent more apprentice licenses. Maine saw young adults and women making up it's fastest-growing demographic of new hunters. Washington graduated twice as many people from its hunter's ed classes, while Nevada saw 50 percent more new students in its classes. New York saw such an interest from younger hunters that it lowered the minimum age for deer hunting from 14 to 12 for a trial period starting this year. Minnesota logged a 59 percent increase in youth license sales in 2020. Iowa saw record-breaking hunter participation in 2020. 

Speaking of records, an 11-year-old Wisconsin sixth-grader recently harvested a potentially state record-breaking 700+ pound black bear. Meanwhile, in Kansas, a 14-year-old teen bagged a 40-point non-typical monster buck that was on her “to-do” list for her freshman year of high school. The buck, taken on the second evening of the September 2020 youth deer season, when measured out at 271-4/8, hit Boone and Crockett record books as the highest-scoring non-typical whitetail deer ever killed by a female hunter.

"The onset of coronavirus and the historic firearm sales spurred by it increased America’s gun-owning population across all demographics," explained Larry Keane, NSSF's senior vice president and general counsel. "Simultaneously, that boost also reversed a trend that will have lasting effects for outdoorsmen and women and conservationists for generations. Americans in big numbers took to the fields and woods to hunt and that included kids discovering an outdoors lifestyle."

Record-Breaking Spring Clay League

Following up on a record Fall Season,  the USA Clay Target League told us last week that they will have a record 27,577 student-athletes representing 1,308 high school and college teams in 34 states participating in the league's programs this spring, supported by 7,800 volunteers serving as coaches, range officers, and staff. 

“After a tremendously difficult 2020 for schools and student-athletes, we are pleased to surpass our pre-COVID spring participation numbers,” said John Nelson, president of the USACTL, “The record-setting participation this spring is the result of the incredible efforts of coaches and families to overcome ongoing issues with the pandemic and ammunition shortages.”

Fully Title IX compliant with both male and female athletes competing on the same team, the USACTL also is adaptive, easily allowing students with physical disabilities to participate. 

“Athletes of all types are able to participate in clay target shooting,” said Nelson. “The League has a ‘no benchwarmers’ philosophy, and the True Team scoring system is designed so that everyone’s score matters, not just the top athletes on a team.”

The League also boasts an incredible safety record, without a single injury reported since its founding in 2001. All athletes must complete a firearm safety certification before participation. The USACTL stresses that its priorities are "safety, fun, and marksmanship – in that order."

Banner photo: USA Clay Target League

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