Get Ready For
Fall Hunting Season

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Patrick Connaghan owns 717 Armory in Harrisburg, Pa. A dedicated hunter himself, Connaghan wishes the fall hunting season would just “hurry up and get here.”

Connaghan’s fall hunting season sales start to pick up in August.

“Rifle season doesn’t start until November, but archery season starts earlier,” he noted. The surge in traffic continues all the way through archery and rifle season, right into the winter holidays.

“Sales really stay ramped up from August until the end of the year,” Connaghan said.

Over the past couple of years, the biggest change Connaghan has seen in his fall season is what he termed the “unavailability” of product. He cited the lack of availability is partly because of supply-chain issues due to COVID, and partly due to the current administration.

“I think people are buying things so fast manufacturers can’t keep up,” he stated. “When COVID started, they were limiting how many people could go to work, and then people weren’t going to work. It compounded the spiraling effect we had in our industry, and the industry still hasn’t figured out how to crawl out.”

Some segments of the industry are doing better than others, Connaghan noted. Guns are more available than they were, but ammunition still is not readily available. On the archery side of things, products generally are easier to get than they were a year or so ago.

“Bowhunting products help us, but the category is not one of our main money makers,” Connaghan shared.

“You’ve got to have good bow techs who have experience and know what they’re doing. They need to understand what the customer is looking for and be able to answer questions.”

Mark Austin, Owner 2nd Amendment Outdoors Corinth, Miss.

That said, however, 717 has a 25-yard indoor archery range and full-service archery shop — led by bow tech Dave Mohn, who has over a decade of archery expertise under his belt.

In Corinth, Miss., Mark Austin owns 2nd Amendment Outdoors. His fall sales start to pick up in late July and continue to increase into August.

“Here in Mississippi, we have a tax-free weekend in August, which helps,” he said. “We have dove season in the beginning of September and bow season the first of October.”

Austin said the surge in sales continues through the first of the year.

The biggest change Austin has seen in hunting season sales over the past couple of year has been the lack of availability of ammo.

“A lot of folks have had to go to different calibers,” he informed. “A lot of times they can’t get the right ammo for the guns they want to shoot. It’s been tough. I talked with a lot of folks at the SHOT Show and it’s going to be a couple of years before it gets any better.”

Austin also has seen some changes in the demographics of his customer base.

“I’m seeing a lot more younger kids coming in,” he said. “I think maybe it’s because of programs in the schools for trap and skeet. Archery has really picked up around here as well. I think it’s all because of the classes in the schools.”

717’s “Archery Den” houses a 25-yard indoor archery range (with four lanes) and a
full-service archery shop to outfit both compound and crossbow hunters.

Archery’s Impact

Archery sales are an important factor in the fall hunting sales at 2nd Amendment Outdoors. The store has an indoor archery range with a hunt simulator, so bowhunters can practice indoors during any weather in preparation for fall.

“We have a bow tech who can fit someone with the right size bow at the right draw length,” Austin shared. “Then the customer can go onto the range and practice and shoot at different animals. We have foam animal targets on the range, and they can also go into the tech room and practice with different hunting scenarios and animals.”

To make archery a successful component of a retail store, Austin said the right staff — including a good bow tech — is a “must have.”

“You’ve got to have good bow techs who have experience and know what they’re doing,” he said. “They need to understand what the customer is looking for and be able to answer questions. They also need to get a feel for the customer and how much they can carry and how far they’re going to walk to where they’re going hunting.”

During the late summer and fall, 2nd Amendment Outdoors often holds a tent sale for clothing in the parking lot.

“Sometimes we also do an archery promotion,” Austin said. “Archery is our first big-game hunting season of the year. We may do an event where people can shoot at a target, hit a certain spot and win a gift card. We’re always trying to come up with something new and different to promote archery.”

Right now, customers want bows that are lighter and more compact.

“Bow companies are coming out with bows that are shorter, smaller, lighter and faster,” Austin observed.

How To Elevate Sales Over 2021?

This fall, Austin hopes to have an increase in customers and in sales from 2021, but also reckons the increased price of gas is going to have an impact on both hunting and on sales.

“The main thing we need to do in the store to have an increase is to have merchandise here for the customer,” he said. “If we can show the customer new items, I think we’ll get the increase.”

Austin praised gun companies for continuing to come out with new models and calibers, even with the events of the past couple years.

“When they first come out, you may get a limited supply,” he said. “Then it takes a while before you’re able to get any more. Anything new usually does well; customers love getting the latest and the greatest.”

One brand that’s always a consistent seller at 2nd Amendment Outdoors is Henry, according to Austin, who also noted they are sometimes hard to get.

At 717 Armory, Connaghan usually runs several promotions to help get customers in and increase sales during the course of the fall season.

“We run specials for things like getting scopes bore sighted,” he said. “Sometimes we offer discounts on optics. What I can and can’t do depends on what inventory is available at the time.”

Mark Austin of 2nd Amendment Outdoors has observed two prominent changes in the hunting
segment over the past couple years: limited ammunition availability, and an uptick in younger
customers pursuing the shooting sports and archery, especially.

The Final Word

Connaghan’s advice for the fall 2022 season? Buy ammo now.

“Buy it whenever you can find it,” he advised. “Things aren’t like they were, where you could wait until the week before hunting season and you could get exactly what you wanted or needed for hunting. A lot of people who aren’t shooters during the rest of the year think things are the way they used to be, and they aren’t.”

From talking with manufacturers at the SHOT Show, Austin feels the current difficulty getting product is going to continue for a while.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” he predicted.

Although we’re going to be feeling the effects of disruption to the supply chain for some time to come, it does seem customers are ready for life to get back to “normal.” A good fall sales season would go a long way toward all of us getting back to doing the outdoors activities we all love.

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