Firearms instructors are scrambling to cope with a sudden increase in demand for gun safety courses.

Enrolment has jumped by more than 20 per cent in the past year as younger hunters and more women head into the woods and to shooting ranges.

The end of the federal long gun registry also plays a role in the upswing, says firearms instructor Bob Kierstead. He says the creation of the firearms registry by the federal government in 1993 turned  young people away from hunting and the use of guns.

Peter Palmer

Peter Palmer of the Natural Resources department says the lowering of the hunting age to 12 years is one reason behind the increase in participation in gun safety courses. (CBC)

"The very, very restrictive legislation that came in on firearms in general, and that turned a lot of the young people away from it," said Keirstead. "Too many hoops to jump through and they turned away from it. That was the big thing that we saw."

Peter Palmer, the co-ordinator of hunter education courses for the Department of Natural Resources, says enrolment in courses increased 23 per cent after the long gun registry was abolished last year.

Palmer says the lowering of the hunting age to 12 years from 14 years of age also played a role, along with new media portraying hunting in a positive light.

"With the media showing hunting in a very, very positive light, with Wild TV and, you know, outdoor shows, people are looking at hunting and saying, `You know, I haven't done it in a while. I think I'm going to get back in it,'" said Palmer. "And they are benefiting from it as a family."

Keirstead says he's surprised and pleased to see more women signing up for firearms safety courses.

"With our firearm courses, the percentage of female participation is increasing and for the first time in New Brunswick, we had an all-female firearm course," said Keirstead.