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On Bowhunting

By Carolee Anita Boyles

Howard Communications

Some gun shop owners eschew bowhunting products — thinking bowhunting doesn’t fit into their product mix. The truth is, however, many products already in and around a gun shop or sporting goods store are items used by bowhunters. Adding bows, arrows and a few archery-specific products can increase your sales of all hunting products, as well as providing sales of bows and the like.

Robert Rosenberger, owner of Shenandoah Sporting Goods in Toms Brook, Va., lends the biggest trend he’s seen in bowhunting equipment the past few years is increasing sales of crossbows.

“It’s the age we’re in,” he stated. “Instant gratification. A customer can walk in with under $500 in his pocket and be shooting in the X-ring before he leaves with no practice. The majority of states have accommodated this style of hunter with crossbow seasons concurrent with archery seasons.”

Many of these hunters are not the aging shooter you might expect, Rosenberger shared.

“The majority of them are entry-level and up to 40 years old,” he said. “We’re also starting to see more 40-year-old hunters and above, because as they’re switching over to crossbows as they get older.”

All of this is affecting the price of bows.

Rinehart Sasquatch — With the release of the 7-foot-tall Sasquatch Target earlier this year, Rinehart Targets is marketing the “entertainment” aspect of archery/bowhunting. “[It] lets competition shooters and bowhunters prepare for whatever roams the woods, your imagination or the 3D range,” said James McGovern, Rinehart Targets president, during the product launch.

“The prices of modern compound bows seem to be going up because of supply and demand,” Rosenberger informed. “And the prices of crossbows seem to be coming down for the same reason. The more crossbows you can sell, the cheaper you can sell them. The opposite is true with compound bows; the fewer you sell, the more you have to charge for them to stay viable.”

Rosenberger doesn’t even stock traditional bows.

“You can’t teach someone to shoot traditional,” he said. “You don’t need a pro shop for traditional, especially in this online-driven age.”

When it comes to sights, most crossbows come as a package with scopes already on them.

“It’s the ease and convenience,” Rosenberger detailed. “They come with everything you need, and we already have them sighted in. I can take a 20-year-old who has never shot a bow and his first shot will be in the X, and he’ll buy it every time. Then we can upgrade sights and bolts and sometimes, after awhile, to a better crossbow.”

For the most part, this customer is looking for price point, not for a specific brand, and they purchase what Rosenberger recommends. The crossbow brands the store carries include: Parker, Barnett, PSE, Carbon Express, Ravin, TenPoint and Excalibur. Brands of compound bows include: Mathews, Hoyt, PSE, BowTech and Mission.

Bear Archery Approach HC – Realtree Edge

Impact From 2016 Election

In the past two years — since the last presidential election — Rosenberger has seen archery sales pick up a little. This is a welcome change, given the softened market for firearms.

“The gun scare is gone now, so people who bought guns for the past few years are getting new bows,” he relayed. “Gun sales have slackened, and bow sales have increased slightly. If a manufacturer comes out with a hot new bow with a huge marketing campaign behind it — and the product gets rave reviews — it will increase sales for that year.” (This is true for both compound bows and crossbows, according to Rosenberger.)

Ravin Crossbows has steadily risen in popularity since its introduction a couple years ago. One factor, according to Miller’s Gun Shop’s Beth Miller Bason, is the brand’s effective (and modern) marketing campaign to firearm enthusiasts — epitomized by the ad here.

New Trends

One thing revolutionizing all hunting — including bowhunting — is trail cameras.

“Everyone now has 10 trail cameras out,” he added. “They want to know what’s on their property, and if it’s worth going after. They’re trying to maximize their time on what they pursue.”

GPS technology also is providing innovation in bowhunting and in hunting in general.

“There are maps that tell you where you are and can mark a location, so you can easily go back to it,” Rosenberger said. “They can tell you who owns the land and how close you are to a border. They give you safety when you’re hunting new places, and keep you out of trouble and from getting lost.”

Crossover Crossbow Users

In Mill Hall, Pa., Beth Miller Bason is one of the owners of Miller’s Gun Shop. Bason is seeing some of the same trends Rosenberger has observed.

“Pennsylvania allows crossbows as a hunting tool, so we all have the opportunity to have a crossbow in our arsenal of hunting equipment,” she said. “If you talk to most Pennsylvania hunters, if they’re a bowhunter — they have both.”

For many hunters who are into archery, Bason shared, the crossbow is a tool for hunting, but the compound bow is the bow for enjoyment of the sport. In the case of crossbows, it may be guns that bring hunters into bowhunting.

“We have clients who are on the gun side who come into archery because of the guns,” she relayed. “We see more of it now than we did in the past, because for many years Pennsylvania was a ‘disabled’ state, which meant you had to have a permit from your doctor to hunt with a crossbow. The other thing we have to accept is our clientele is getting older, and you also have folks who have limited time to introduce their child to the sport. It’s easier to teach them on a crossbow than it is to teach them on a vertical bow.”

Many hunters are moving toward the crossbow for all those reasons, Bason concluded.

“Plus, here there are many more weeks of archery season, so there are many more times to get an opportunity to take a family member out with you,” she added.

Miller’s Gun Shop carries several brands of crossbows.

“Our TenPoint line has always been strong, and Parker is too,” Bason claimed. “We also have Ravin, which does well because they’ve done a great job of advertising and promoting themselves on the gun side. There’s also Excalibur, Wicked Ridge and Carbon Express. We have a number of good lines and price points, so we can serve the guy who wants the top-of-the-line or somebody somebody whose budget is no more than $300 for a good package.”

Beth Miller Bason, an owner of Miller’s Gun Shop in Mill Hall, Pa., shared BowTech, Hoyt and Mathews are her best-selling compound bow brands. “We try to make sure we offer good pricing and good service — and we’re here for [customers] when they have a problem,” she informed.

Strong Sellers

When it comes to compound bows, Miller’s Gun Shop carries BowTech, Hoyt and Mathews. Bason shared the brand that sells best often depends on the week.

“Sometimes Mathews has it for the week, and then the next week Hoyt’s got it,” she said. “Then it comes down to price point. Who’s got a vertical bow in a package the customer can afford and gives them all they want.”

The traditional side of archery is always there, Bason said, but the store has never had a large following of those interested in custom solutions.

“We always have some [archery customers], so we keep a few items in stock for them,” she lends. “And we always offer we can get whatever they want for them. OMP has an economical product line and it allows you to have limb switch. If they want to go higher end, they can look at Hoyt and start picking out better-quality items. It’s pretty much where you have to go, because those guys either know what they want, or they want custom stuff.”

Bason leaves custom bows to people who are experts at building them.

“We let those who do that well, do it,” she said. “When you try to do something you don’t really do well, you can’t be proud of it. You’ve got to be sure you’re offering clients the best, and the best way to do it is to find people you can say, ‘These guys are doing a good job at this and we’re going to stick behind them.’”

TenPoint Nitro X

History Repeats Itself

Miller’s Gun Shop has served central Pennsylvania for more than 50 years, so Bason has a good understanding of what hunters in her area want. One of the most interesting things she has observed is how history repeats itself.

“It’s kind of fun for us,” she stated. “If you’re young, you see something and say, ‘Oh, this is neat, this is cool!’ And we think, ‘They did that 20 years ago and now they’ve just put a new twist on it and advertised it better.’”

One example of this is lighted nocks.

“When they first came out, you couldn’t pay anyone to use one and the cost was ridiculous,” Bason lends. “Now there are so many people who can’t live without a lighted nock. Their price point got to where everyone can afford one.”

In her area, Bason shared hunting is of grassroots importance to many people.

“Our particular region has always been a very shooting/hunting-oriented region,” she said. “Whether they’re working or not working, these folks are going to figure out how to hunt. We try to make sure we offer good pricing and good service — and we’re here for them when they have a problem.”

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