Signs of a Resurgence?

Pandemic Reignites Hunting Segment,
Innovation Key For New Hunters
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Developed for whitetail hunters, the four options in Trijicon's Huron
line are its first non-illuminated riflescopes. (Image: Trijicon Inc.)

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, signs of a revival in the hunting segment were beginning to materialize. With the closure (and reclosure, in some instances) of restaurants, bars, movie theatres, gyms and many other retail outlets during the opening months of the pandemic, consumers have turned their attention to hunting.

Hunting’s appeal during this crisis is evident: It inherently promotes ample social distance in the outdoors, and it provides hunters with a natural protein source amid fears of meat shortages. Increased hunting license sales and record harvests are two measures indicative of the category’s resurgence in multiple states so far in 2020.

According to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, resident hunting license sales between March 1 and May 3 more than doubled, and turkey permits jumped 58% over the same two-month period in 2019. In another measure, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission reported a record turkey harvest this year, with hunters taking 23,341 wild turkeys — nearly 5,000 more than the previous top mark of 18,919, set in 2017. These are just two examples of several: Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Kansas and Iowa are among states reporting heightened interest from hunters.

New product innovation in the hunting segment has lowered barriers to entry, which will appeal to the number of first-time hunters hitting the fields and treestands this year. Firearms, ammunition and optics manufacturers have introduced several new product lines for you to offer in-store.

New Firearms

Several firearms manufacturers entered entirely new categories this year to appeal to hunters, notably SIG SAUER, Benelli USA and Savage Arms.

SIG marked its expansion into the hunting segment with a SIG Hunting SHOT Show booth and its first precision bolt-action hunting rifle manufactured in the U.S., the CROSS Rifle.

“Hunting rifles are typically focused on less weight, and accuracy is secondary. Precision rifles are designed for extreme accuracy, with no weight limitations. What was missing from the market was a true crossover,” said Tom Taylor, SIG CMO and EVP, commercial sales in a company press release announcing its launch. “Our product management team and engineers took the best of both worlds and developed the CROSS featuring the characteristics of a hunting rifle, with the accuracy of a precision rifle.”

Available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win. and the new .277 Fury caliber, the CROSS weighs in at 6.2–6.4 lbs. (without the magazine) and features an adjustable and folding SIG precision stock.

The muzzleloading segment received a boost earlier this year, thanks to a partnership between Traditions Performance, Federal Ammunition and Hodgdon Powder Co. that resulted in the NitroFire rifle. The NitroFire uses Federal’s Nightstick, a premeasured self-contained powder charge (consisting of an exact charge of ultra-clean black powder substitute, Hodgdon Triple 8). The bullet is seated from the muzzle, which means it will be legal for hunting in most areas. The NitroFire’s simple and safe operation should appeal to first-time muzzleloaders, as well.

INCREASED HUNTING LICENSE SALES AND RECORD HARVESTS ARE TWO MEASURES INDICATIVE OF THE CATEGORY’S RESURGENCE IN MULTIPLE STATES SO FAR IN 2020.

Benelli USA also entered the bolt-action rifle category in 2020, with the Lupo. Sporting seven Benelli patents, the Lupo features a chassis-style construction built from an alloy lower receiver and fitted with a synthetic stock and forend. It’s available in three popular bolt-action calibers: .30-06 Sprg., .300 Win. Mag. and .270 Win.

Benelli emphasized adjustability with the Lupo’s design features. Its chassis-style configuration of a separate stock, receiver and forend allow the user to customize the fit to one of 12 drop and cast positions with the included shims. (Further fit adjustments can be made with included length-of-pull spacers.)

Also debuting in 2020, the Savage Arms RENEGAUGE represents the company’s first 12-ga. semi-auto shotgun. Six SKUs were made available initially, and Savage plans to build off this platform in the future — according to President and CEO Al Kasper.

“RENEGAUGE demonstrates our commitment to innovate as an independent company,” Kasper said. “Hunters and shooters are going to be amazed with the fit, feel, function and versatility of this shotgun. And it’s a platform we can and will build on — so look for more in the very near future.”

A standout feature unique to the RENEGAUGE is Savage’s patented Dual Regulating Inline Valve (D.R.I.V.) gas system, which enables the shotgun to cycle both light loads and magnum field loads without any adjustment needed from the shooter. (An attribute first-time owners and hunters will appreciate.) It also has an adjustable stock for length of pull, comb height, drop and cast.

Ammunition Options

Hunters and long-range enthusiasts alike have gravitated toward the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge in recent years, with dealers often earmarking it as a top seller.

Earlier this year, Iron Horse Armory (Parker, Colo.) Manager Jake Merritt shared why his store regularly pushes 6.5 Creedmoor, calling it “a great versatile round for long-range shooting and hunting at a price point customers can afford to buy off the shelf.”

HSM Ammunition has capitalized on the 6.5 Creedmoor craze by introducing a 140-gr., Low Recoil variant. It reduces felt recoil by 47%, according to the company. This load represents the eighth entry into the HSM Low Recoil line and was developed through a partnership with Sierra Bullets.

Federal Ammunition debuted the Terminal Ascent line under its Federal Premium label earlier this year to include 11 cartridge options. A key selling point for the line is range versatility: its bonded construction penetrates deep at close targets, while the patented Slipstream polymer tip initiates expansion at velocities as low as 1,400 fps — typically observed at 1,200 yards downrange in the 200-gr., .30-caliber loads. (Federal also released Terminal Ascent component bullets for hunters who handload, with five initial options available.)

FEDERAL PREMIUM TERMINAL ASCENT

As a manufacturer of both firearms and ammunition, Weatherby unveiled a potent, lightweight package for backcountry hunters with its new 6.5 WBY RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum) cartridge paired with the sub-5-lb. Mark V Backcountry Ti. Based on a lengthened version of the .284 Win., the high-velocity 6.5 RPM represents the company’s first straight-walled shoulder and rebated rim Magnum cartridge. Initial ammunition offerings are 127-gr. Barnes LRX, 140-gr. Nosler AccuBond and 140-gr. Hornady InterLock.

Nosler expanded its Trophy Grade ammunition line earlier this year, with 10 new options loaded with its AccuBond, Partition, Ballistic Tip or E-Tip bullets. The all-new 27 Nosler is featured in this line, available in a 150-gr. AccuBond option. This round was developed as a “21st century upgrade” to the venerable .270-caliber, Nosler stated upon its development and release.

Appealing to hunters who want an additional challenge, Hornady Handgun Hunter is built around the MonoFlex bullet — a tough copper alloy bullet that allows for deep penetration while retaining 95% of its weight. Expansion across a range of velocities is aided by an elastomer material Hornady added to the bullet’s open cavity. It compresses upon impact, then pushes out and causes the bullet to expand faster than a standard hollowpoint design. Available in seven calibers (from 9mm +P to .460 S&W Mag.), Hornady has marketed this line to varmint and big-game hunters, as well as for target shooting and personal defense use.

Optics

The optics category continues to drive innovation in the hunting segment, and several introductions this year are primed to stir interest from hunters looking to stretch their reach.

Developed specifically for the North American whitetail deer hunter, the Trijicon Huron line debuted this year in four configurations: 1-4×24, 2.5-10×40, 3-12×40 and 3-9×40. The company’s first non-illuminated riflescope, the Huron line features a lightweight, ruggedized design, extra-wide field of view for fast scanning, detection and tracking and fully multi-coated, broadband, anti-reflective glass for edge-to-edge clarity.

SIG SAUER CROSS – FIRST LITE CIPHER ARMAKOTE FINISH

BENELLI USA LUPO

Leupold expanded its VX-Freedom riflescope line with the addition of five new illuminated scopes — all featuring a version of the company’s FireDot illuminated reticle. The 4-12×50 option has the new FireDot Twilight Hunter reticle, designed specifically for whitetail hunters.

To facilitate the optics buying process for consumers, Riton Optics introduced its Application Series with the Conquer, Primal and Tactix lines. The Primal Series consists of hunting-specific optics, with five riflescope options and one binocular available. Providing further clarity for end users, Riton provides a price point guide with “X” designations in each product name — ranging from the economical X1 to the high-end X7 Series.

July 1, Steiner unveiled a Gear Up for Hunting Promotion that extends through Sept. 30: The promotion offers a 10% discount on select riflescopes and eOptics. Models eligible for the discount include: H4Xi 3-12×56, H4Xi 4-16×56, T5Xi 1-5×24, T5Xi 3-15 SCR Mil, T5Xi 3-15 SCR MOA, T5Xi 5-25×56 SCR MOA, T5Xi 5-25×56 SCR MOA, CQBL-1 Desert Sand and OTAL-C IR.

There’s More …

As you well know, the three categories evaluated above only cover a fraction of the options available in the hunting segment — which is why we’ve added some more here as part of SI’s online-only coverage.

Game cameras is one category laden with technology to ease a hunter’s efforts out in the field. BOG debuted its first-ever line of game cameras with two initial offerings: the Blood Moon and Clandestine. The dual-sensor infrared Blood Moon and the introverted Clandestine feature a 3″ full-color viewing screen, sub 0.2-second trigger speed and five capture modes. The Blood Moon has a 120′ flash range, while the Clandestine reaches out to 100′.

New-for-2020, Bushnell’s CORE and CORE Dual Sensor (DS) cameras provide 24-megapixel performance and come in Low Glow and No Glow options. Bushnell is offering a $40 mail-in rebate through Aug. 30.

ScentLok recently released its Mid-Season Forefront Jacket and Pant — which will appeal to bowhunters, thanks to features like stretch-fit cuffs, articulated knees and a safety harness access opening. The apparel maker’s Full-Season Elements Jacket and Pant is now available as well. Its ScentLok’s “most advanced late-season whitetail outerwear yet,” according to a company press release.

Dryshod launched its hi-calf Southland Men’s Hunting Boot in July, which features the WIXIT Cool-Clad lining to enhance breathability in warmer climates. Featuring a DS1 molded outsole with a double Achilles heel, instep reinforcement and a nylon shank to enhance ankle stability, the Southland allows hunters to tackle the rugged terrain.

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