Highland bird and migratory waterfowl hunting seasons are in full swing in Maine and we are only three weeks into the deer season.
But something important is missing from the equation: ammunition.
Nationwide shortages of shotgun shells and rifle cartridges have left shelves empty at gun shops and sporting goods stores, forcing hunters to use their available stock with care. that they’re looking for backup in stores and online during what is typically one of the busiest times of the season.
“It’s very, very difficult. We’ve really been fighting this for a long time, ”said Dave Lorenz, owner of Old Town Trading Post, which is bombarded daily with customer inquiries about ammunition availability.
“The system is virtually 100% allowance, which means you can’t control it,” Lorenz said. He highlighted different products such as trucks, tires, mattresses and refrigerators which also remain in short supply. “There is just no product.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year resulted in the closure of munitions factories, resulting in a drastic reduction in the amount of ammunition available in the United States. Then, in July 2020, Remington Outdoor Company, which had a significant share of the ammunition market, went bankrupt.
“From a consumer perspective, what’s different is that we don’t have the inventory to rely on last year,” said Lorenz, explaining why things are worse this hunting season.
Since then, distributors and retailers have been busy acquiring inventory. Their efforts were met with frustration and disappointment.
“It’s the same old bad news that everyone has,” said Ralph McLeod, owner of Buyers Guns at Holden.
“When 100 people walk through the door and 90 of them are looking for ammunition and there’s nothing in their caliber, that’s a big part of their wasted time,” he said.
While manufacturing would increase, current production does not alleviate the shortage experienced by retailers.
Byron Dill, owner of Dill’s Outdoors in Bangor, struggles to accept the unavailability of ammunition.
“Companies say they are making more ammunition and operating at full capacity. It’s great, fine and dandy, but the stores should have ammo to sell, ”Dill said. “I don’t understand where the ammunition is going.”
The acute shortage is magnified at this important time of year for Maine hunters. Bear season is drawing to a close, while the grouse, turkey, duck and geese seasons are in full swing.
Moose hunting continues next week, with the deer season set to begin October 23 with Young Deer Day.
The firearm ammunition most often used to hunt these species are among the most difficult to find.
“It’s bird season. The market should be full of # 6 and 7 1/2 [shot], 2 3/4 inches, 12 gauge, 20 gauge and .410 [shells], but there’s nothing there, ”Dill said, noting that he would normally buy six to eight cases of that ammo every two weeks in the fall.
“At the moment, I don’t have any birdshot on my shelves,” he said.
Deer hunting ammunition in some of the most widely used calibers – .30-06, .310, .30-30, .243 and .270 – are particularly scarce.
“It’s the most popular that are really in high demand right now,” said Lorenz, who said even the most popular ride couldn’t be found.
“If you did a quick search online for a .30-06 box, I don’t think you would find a box in the country,” he said.
Neither stores nor customers can afford to be picky when ammunition arrives. Anything in a desired caliber, regardless of the manufacturer, is preferable to no bullet at all.
“Obviously, people who are looking for a specific type of ammunition in a category, that won’t happen,” Lorenz said.
This does not mean that there is no ammunition to have. It turns out that these are not the calibers used for rifle hunting.
Lorenz said the 9mm and 0.556 handgun bullets often used for recreational shooting are in good numbers, and the Old Town trading post often has 0.45 to 70 or 0 rounds. , 22 to 250.
The result is no ammunition for shooters and no income for retailers, who have reported relying on these sales for a significant portion of their revenue.
For sportspeople who like to reload their own ammo – put the primer in the shell, add gunpowder to the core, and cover it with the bullet – components can be difficult to find and are expensive when available.
Zac Greenier of Hampden, the captain of the Trident Armory Shooting Team and a member of the Hampden Rifle and Pistol Club, loads his own cartridges due to his high firing volume.
“It has always been very difficult to find components,” said Greenier. “I typically shoot about 20,000 rounds a year in competition and training.”
For 1,000 primers, which ignite the powder when struck by the firing pin, he pays close to $ 100. Two or three years ago the same amount would have been $ 30.
And shooters can’t get most of the items needed locally. Instead, they go online.
“I have several apps that constantly run in the background and notify me when components become available,” Greenier said.
But if he doesn’t buy the items in the minute, they’re gone.
While hunters and shooters wait for manufacturers to restore ammunition supplies, most are managing the shortage well.
Lorenz encourages its customers to call ahead and inquire about availability on any given day. Sometimes a small shipment may have arrived.
“I really appreciate our customers because they have been great,” said Dill, who opened Dill’s Outdoors just three months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I just appreciate that people are patient and understand that we are doing our best. “