Judging from the turnout at the recent Buckmasters Expo, the appeal of the great outdoors remains high, with plenty of spectators and vendors attending the 28th annual event in downtown …
Judging from the turnout at the recent Buckmasters Expo, the appeal of the great outdoors remains high, with plenty of spectators and vendors attending the 28th annual event in downtown Montgomery.
Jackie Bushman, Buckmaster founder and CEO, said while the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on many aspects of our lives, one positive did come from the restrictions.
"Thank God, the pandemic is pretty much behind us," Bushman said. "The only good thing I've seen out of it is the increase in the activities in the outdoors. The people in the outdoor industry can't make enough product to meet the demand. As this pandemic fades away, we just hope the people who got a chance to enjoy the outdoors because of it will keep the same enthusiasm and share that vision with everybody. I think in most parts of the country, hunting and fishing license sales have been up. As far as the industry, the sales have been the best they've ever had.
"We've got a lot of vendors here and the aisles are crowded. Donna Gross has been doing this show for 28 years. She's the best of the best. And it's the little things that we take great pride in. We're probably one of the few shows that helps you set up your booth and take it back out. The AUM (Auburn University at Montgomery) baseball team has a volunteer project they do each year, and they pick the Buckmasters Expo, so we've got all the baseball team helping the exhibitors."
With participation in outdoors recreation high, those who hunt or participate in shooting sports have likely experienced the impact of the pandemic and sky-high demand for products.
Take ammunition, for example. Both Federal Ammunition and Remington representatives at the Expo said the overall availability of ammo is better, but some of the popular calibers for deer hunters remain in somewhat limited supply.
"We're making ammo as fast as we can – 24/7," said Bill Becker of Federal. "There are still going to be some popular options that are going to be hard to find, but we're making it as fast as we can. In .270, 30-06 and .308, we're making more ammo than we ever have, specifically in our Premium line."
Remington Product Manager Ronnie Evans echoed Becker and said the number of new firearms owners also has the ammo manufacturers trying to catch up.
"The industry as a whole just got overwhelmed by the amount of ammunition people are trying to buy," Evans said. "In the last two years, we've had 14 million new gun owners. That's a lot of ammunition for 14 million new people, not considering all the folks who have been buying for years. We're making it as fast as we can, and it's starting to look a little better. I'm starting to see some product on the shelves now, but we're not where we want to be yet.
Evans, like Becker, said your favorite bullet and weight may not be readily available, but ammo in most calibers will be available. They caution that if you do have to change ammo to be sure and head to the range before heading out to hunt. Any change in ammo can change the point of impact on the target, whether it's paper or wild game.
"I shoot a 7mm magnum and normally shoot 140-grain bullets," Evans said. "But if I can't get 140s, I will shoot the 150s. If you change, you'll have to go to the range and adjust your scope a little bit because each bullet weight will shoot a little different."
Bobby Webb of Webb's Sporting Goods, which had a table full of ammo at the Expo, said he's seeing more availability in rifle and pistol ammo, but waterfowlers may feel a pinch if they haven't already stocked up on steel shot.
"They're shipping rifle ammunition and pistol ammunition, but they're still struggling to get enough components for steel shot," said Webb of DeWitt, Arkansas. "I purchase direct from the manufacturers, and they still are seeing a shortage of primers and a couple of other components. We still don't know if we're going to get all the steel shot we've ordered this fall.
"If waterfowl hunters see steel shot, they better grab it, and don't even look at the price. Like the TSS shot I was selling for $49.95 a box two years ago, I'm paying more than that myself this year. We're right in the middle of waterfowl country with about 150 outfitters that we cater to. I ordered more than 1,000 cases of Fiocchi steel shot last year and got two pallets (200 cases)."