Crossbow Appeal

Category Poised To Rise For Recoil-Sensitive & Novice Archers

Today’s crossbows are fast, efficient and easy to use. The novice archer will have no trouble using them, and they’re great for people who are sensitive to recoil. And as more states open their archery season to crossbows, the market for them is poised to rise.

Ron Lee, manager of Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Sheridan, Wyo., said the biggest trend he has seen in crossbows over the past three years is they’re getting smaller from axle to axle.

“It seems to be where everyone is going,” he said. “Whether it’s Ravin, TenPoint or Mission, the axle-to-axle distance is getting shorter.”

Part of what’s driving the trend, he thinks, is the ease of packing and carrying those smaller crossbows when hunters are in the woods. The smaller size makes them more maneuverable and easier to handle.

Additionally, these smaller bows are retaining the level of performance of their bigger brothers, Lee noted.

“I think they’re a little quieter than bigger bows because there isn’t as much action on the limbs coming back, or as long a distance for them to travel,” he suggested. “Since they don’t travel as far, they’re not as loud.”

Growing Acceptance

In the past, many conventional and traditional bowhunters didn’t like the trend to crossbows. (To a certain extent, this prejudice still exists.)

“The die-hard archery guys are still not accepting of the crossbow,” Lee asserted. It’s like skiers and snowboards. Skiers didn’t like snowboards when they first came out, but the net result was more people enjoying the slopes and ultimately more opportunity for skiers.

“The biggest gain for crossbows in Wyoming is hunters are now able to use crossbows during archery season, which is usually when there’s no snow on the ground and a little warmer weather,” Lee relayed. “Not every state is the same.”

As with the aforementioned skiers and snowboards, allowing hunters to use crossbows during archery season means more bowhunters in the field.

“Being able to use crossbows allows older clientele to shoot a bow in the early season and not have to learn the dynamics of a compound or a recurve,” Lee said. “It’s usually older individuals, and usually after shoulder surgery.”

Who’s Buying?

Rocky Mountain Discount Sports is a full-line archery retailer, with crossbows serving as a portion of their archery business. Crossbows represent only a small fraction of archery sales, less than 10%. The most popular crossbows Lee sells are Mission, Wicked Ridge and Ravin.

“The surprise newcomer to the market is Ravin,” he revealed. “It’s a little more expensive, but the gentlemen who are buying them and have had shoulder surgery can afford the nicer crossbows. Otherwise we still do wonderfully with the Wicked Ridge line, which is owned by TenPoint.”

“It’s not an item we sell customers into. When they come in, they already know what they’re looking for.”

Ron Lee, Manager Rocky Mountain Discount Sports Sheridan, Wyo.

Mission also does an excellent mid-line crossbow, Lee confirmed, meaning bows in the $400 to $600 range.
Although he doesn’t have a “typical” crossbow customer, a wide range of customers purchase them.

“We don’t get a lot of very young customers — the 18- to 24-year-olds — buying them,” he said. “If I had to put a number on some of our die-hard crossbow hunters, they appear to be in the 30 to 35-plus age group. But in our store, people over 60 are probably 70% of our crossbow buyers.”

Lee doesn’t do any specific marketing of crossbows in Rocky Mountain Discount Sports.

“It’s not an item we sell customers into,” he said. “When they come in, they already know what they’re looking for. We have a great display with between 10 and 12 crossbows on it so people can see them, but a crossbow is something they’re walking in for.”

Tech Drives Interest

In Brainerd, Minn., Brent Beimert owns Beimert Outdoors. He believes the technology of crossbows has changed tremendously in the past few years. He agreed with Lee that crossbows are smaller and lighter than before, with shorter axle-to-axle distances and a lot of speed.

“Now there are a lot of crossbows you can de-cock without firing them,” Beimert informed. “Even people who have been shooting them for a while are moving to the smaller and faster bows.”

One thing driving the changes in crossbow technology, according to Beimert, is the fact many states now allow crossbows during regular archery season.

“I think crossbows are promoted more heavily through the archery industry than they used to be,” he said. “There were so many limitations before on hunting with crossbows, but now there aren’t as many.”

Many states in the upper Midwest area now allow the use of crossbows during archery season, including Wisconsin and Illinois.

Barnett HyperTac 420

TenPoint Vapor RS470

This is not the case in Minnesota, however, where crossbows still are not legal during regular archery season (with a few exceptions). In Minnesota, hunters with an archery license who are 60 and older, or those who have a disability permit, may use a crossbow during archery season. Anyone can use one during general gun season.

For the most part, Beimert suspects hard-core bowhunters in Minnesota like the rules the way they are. He noted in the states around him, where crossbows are legal during archery season, sales of vertical bows have declined.

“Since I sell both, I’m not biased toward either one,” he acknowledged. “But if crossbows are allowed all season long, we’re going to see a dad buy a crossbow for his son, and the son may never pick up a vertical bow. Crossbows are so efficient and so accurate the son may never be a vertical bowhunter. It may not hurt the tradition of archery, but it’s sure not going to help it.”

Crossbows can be a useful tool for both increased sales and for keeping older sportsmen and women in the field.

Crossbows represent a small percentage of Beimart’s archery sales.

“The percentage of sales is not super high; I’d say it’s around 20%,” he noted. “We sell a fair number of crossbows. We’re selling more since they’ve been better, and since they’ve adopted the 60-plus years of age regulation. We’re only in our third or fourth year of that and some people are still just finding out about it, or they’re just turning 60.”

Prior to the adoption of the rule, crossbows were only about 5% of his archery sales, so the number of crossbows he’s selling is rising. Most of his customers are men, and many are in the 60-plus age range, but he does have a few female customers as well. The most popular crossbows in his store are Mission, Ravin and TenPoint.

Shelf Space Changes

As sales have increased, so has the display area crossbows occupy.

“We’ve improved the display area of our crossbows, and carry more crossbow-specific broadheads and accessories,” Beimert relayed. “We also allow anyone to shoot a crossbow they would like to test on our range.”

Mission Crossbows is a consistent top-selling brand at Rocky
Mountain Discount Sports, according to Ron Lee. While the
Sniper-Lite Lee’s holding is no longer available, the company
launched the Sub-1 XR and Sub-1 Lite earlier this year.

Crossbows aren’t replacing vertical bows in gun shops, but they certainly can provide additional sales to both gun hunters and bowhunters. Even for states that don’t allow full use of crossbows during archery season, such as Minnesota, they can be a useful tool for both increased sales and for keeping older sportsmen and women in the field.

Editor’s Note: While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted business across the country, the two dealers interviewed for this story shared though overall sales are up, they haven’t observed a significant uptick in crossbow interest as a result of the pandemic or social unrest.

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