CHARLOTTE - For the first time in years, more Americans are climbing into tree stands and casting lines as the number of people hunting and fishing grows.
"We are so excited to see an increase,” said Larry Hyatt, who owns Hyatt Gun and Coin in West Charlotte. “We've been worried that for the last few years as we've seen it go down."
Hyatt said sales of hunting rifles, shotguns and ammunition dropped off in the last five years, especially due to the recession.
"They were more conservative on using their ammunition. They used cheaper brands," he said.
But that's starting to change.
According to new numbers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly 38 percent of Americans went hunting, fishing or game watching in 2011. They spent $145 billion on the sports.
Those numbers are up from previous reports, and outdoor retailers are thrilled.
"Physically it's good for us, mentally it's good for us," said Bill Bartee, owner of Jesse Brown's Outdoors.
The increase comes after decades of decline in the popularity of hunting and fishing, which outdoorsmen blame, in part, on television and video games.
"A lot of us attributed it to the way people were being raised," Bartee said.
Plus, hunting and fishing can be expensive and often require more planning than other sports.
"It's not just something you can decide to do overnight,” said Hyatt. “You've got to plan it, take the class, get your license, learn all the laws."
Outfitters say even though the recession hurt sales of gear, it probably drove more people to embrace hunting and fishing -- which don't require travel outside North Carolina.
"People started focusing more local trips, what we called staycations, in pursuit of the outdoors," Bartee said.