Set Your Sights
On Female Hunters

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The future of hunting has a direct effect on the health and longevity of many independently owned businesses in the outdoor industry — especially your storefront.

Although more people are engaging in outdoor activities overall, hunting license sales are on the decline. According to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,1 sales have fallen from a peak of around 17 million in the 1980s to about 15 million last year.

While this figure may not seem significant, the number of Americans who reported they’ve actually gone hunting (and not just purchased a license) is in steeper decline. A 2016 agency survey reported only 11.5 million Americans said they hunt,2 which is a 2-plus million drop from five years earlier.

One less hunter means one less consumer purchasing firearms, ammunition and gear. And with the average hunter spending $2,363 on retail purchases each year,3 it adds up quickly.

According to NSSF, there were 1.8 million registered female hunters in the U.S. in 2001. By 2013, this number had increased by 85% and almost doubled to 3.3 million female hunters nationwide.

Now, around one in five, or 20%, of all U.S. hunters are women — but it also means 80% aren’t.
As a dealer, the questions you should be asking yourself are how are you meeting the needs of female hunters and what you can do to improve?

Understanding Their Needs
There are certainly ways your business can help encourage more women to hunt, but it’s more important to consider what you can do to better serve those who already do.

One of the biggest challenges of being a female hunter is the lack of products designed specifically for women available in stores. By nature, women are visual and tactile consumers, which means they prefer to handle and try on hunting gear and apparel while shopping.

For the most part, manufacturers have made a concerted effort in recent years to create more products for women. Unfortunately, the amount of time it took for the industry to listen to women’s needs combined with the sheer amount of products brought to market that said they were for women but were really just scaled down or produced in a “female color” have created a level skepticism among female hunters.

Understanding Their Needs

There are certainly ways your business can help encourage more women to hunt, but it’s more important to consider what you can do to better serve those who already do.

One of the biggest challenges of being a female hunter is the lack of products designed specifically for women available in stores. By nature, women are visual and tactile consumers, which means they prefer to handle and try on hunting gear and apparel while shopping.

For the most part, manufacturers have made a concerted effort in recent years to create more products for women. Unfortunately, the amount of time it took for the industry to listen to women’s needs combined with the sheer amount of products brought to market that said they were for women but were really just scaled down or produced in a “female color” have created a level skepticism among female hunters.

Products For Female Hunters

You can help make women feel like valuable members of the hunting community by stocking a suitable selection of women’s hunting gear and apparel. If for some reason it’s not feasible for a retailer of your size, you should at least have the ability for women to special order and return items if they’re not satisfied.

Not sure where to start? Here are some products to consider:
The 11 Lady Hunter bolt-action rifle from Savage Arms was built around the needs of female hunters. Its lightweight design was custom-fitted to female shooters and features a shortened length of pull, slender grip and forend, and user-adjustable AccuTrigger.

The Vanguard Camilla Wilderness by Weatherby is another great rifle for women. According to Weatherby’s website, the buttstock is angled away from the body, which is a better fit for the female anatomy and nestles easily into the shoulder. The slim pistol grip has a shorter grip-to-trigger reach, ideal for slightly smaller hands, and the 13″ length of pull and slender forend reduce overall weight and length without compromising feel and balance.

In terms of shotguns, Syren USA offers the world’s only full line of shotguns created for the female competitor, huntress and shotgun enthusiast. The line includes options for sporting, trap, field and waterfowl pursuits.

Another solid option is the Vittoria series from Beretta — the company’s first shotgun range specifically designed for women offering full-size performance for smaller-framed users.

You can help make women feel like valuable members of the hunting community by stocking a suitable selection of women’s hunting gear and apparel.

For female archers, it’s also important to carry bows designed for women. Oftentimes, they’re shrunken down men’s models or youth models in a different color finish.

Hoyt Archery offers not just one bow for women, but 18 different options. The best part? They don’t all come with pink or purple highlights, unless you want them to.

At less than 4 lbs. with a 30" axle-to-axle and 6" brace height, the Avail from Mathews Archery is another great option to consider as it comes from one of the most trusted and recognized brands in the industry.

If you’re looking to stock women’s camouflage, SITKA has a comprehensive women’s line that includes lightweight, midweight and heavyweight and waterproof options.

DSG Outerwear offers one of the most size-inclusive lines of women’s hunting apparel with sizes from XS to 5XL in many product lines.
Whatever camouflage you choose to carry, just make sure you having a fitting room.

What Female Hunters Say

For further insights, we talked to a few of the country’s most prominent female hunters to find out, in their opinion, what independent dealers are doing well and how they could refine their efforts to better meet the needs of the female hunter.

Do independent firearms dealers do a good job of catering to female hunters? Why or why not?

Mia Anstine: I think it depends on the shop. I’ve been to some that do a great job and others that completely miss the mark. I understand smaller stores don’t always have the ability to stock the inventory needed for female hunters, but many simply don’t acknowledge the differences between the needs of a male and a female hunter.

Melissa Bachman: This is a work in progress: I think there’s always room for improvement, but they’re getting better and better. My number-one suggestion is to ask a lot of questions and then give them the information they need so they can make an informed decision.

Erin Crooks: In my personal experience, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. When you walk into a gun dealership or sporting goods store as a female it’s already intimidating, but then you’re challenged with the lack of selection in every department from firearms to archery equipment — and especially hunting apparel. Female hunters are often underestimated and underrepresented, but I’ve noticed some of the big-box stores have improved in the past few years by hosting women-only and parent/child workshops.

In your experience, what is something these types of stores do well compared to their big-box competitors?

Mia Anstine: I’ve found the sales staff is generally more knowledgeable compared to big-box stores, which I think can largely be attributed to working more closely with one another — where they can learn from each other and there’s less turnover. Plus, you often find the owner working in the store.

Erin Crooks: I appreciate independently owned stores are typically way more intimate and customer-centric. It’s nice to shop somewhere where people remember your name.

What do you think they could improve on the most in order to better serve female hunters like yourself?

Mia Anstine: Listen. They have the knowledge and they think they know what we need, but they don’t always listen. Ask women questions about their experience level instead of making assumptions.

Melissa Bachman: Most people, in general, would prefer all the facts so they can make their own opinion. I think it’s important for the sales associate to ask a lot of questions. What’s your budget? What’s the most important thing you’re looking for in this product as far as performance? I prefer if the positives and negatives are laid out so I can make my own decision.
Erin Crooks: Hands down, more women-specific rifles. Not just youth rifles being marketed to women based on assumptions about our size and strength. I also think these retailers are in a unique position to advocate on behalf of female hunters to manufacturers when it comes to what gear we need.

Mia Anstine is a writer and hunter from southwest Colorado. Her mission is to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, eat, survive, create and live life in a positive way. This passion propelled her to become the first American woman, and of Latin descent, to be featured on the cover of Field & Stream magazine (Aug. 2016). Instagram: @miaanstine.

Melissa Bachman Bearshield spends over 190 days in the field a year shooting and producing the television show “Winchester Deadly Passion,” which airs Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel. Instagram: @melissa_bachman.

Erin Crooks is the founder and CEO of Raise ’Em Outdoors, a Virginia-based non-profit whose mission is to help kids from any background get outdoors, learn about hunting and fishing, bringing food to the table, and the outdoors as a lifestyle through weekend camps, day camps and youth hunts. Erin also works in the accounts receivable department at Freedom Shooting Center in Virginia Beach. Instagram: @raiseemoutdoors.

Footnotes:
1: https://www.fws.gov/wsfrprograms/subpages/licenseinfo/hunting.htm
2: https://www.fws.gov/wsfrprograms/subpages/nationalsurvey/nat_survey2016.pdf
3: https://business.realtree.com/business-blog/impact-hunting-us-economy

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