Make The Most Of Predator Hunting Sales


Thermal optics have become must-have accessories to accompany predator
hunters. (Pictured: Burris BTC50)

In some areas, predator hunting can be a year-round activity. For retailers in these locales, this segment can translate to continued sales throughout the year.

At Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Gillette, Wyo., Manager Kevin Nickisch said the electronics industry is changing predator-hunting sales in his store.

“The electronics industry is constantly advancing, with higher-end and higher-functioning electronic calls,” he stated.

Most of the predator hunters who come into the store are going after coyotes, Nickisch shared. The state of Wyoming doesn’t have any license or stamp requirements for hunting coyotes, and there are no bag limits. The only restriction on taking coyotes is they can’t be hunted from any public road. Hunters can use electronic calls, but using a light at night is illegal, except in a few special cases.

To be sure he’s reaching predator hunters all year, Nickisch maintains a healthy inventory of calls and other predator hunting equipment throughout the seasons.

“We stock quite a few different vendors,” he said. “We bring them in during the peak of the predator season. There’s always a falloff after the winter, but we try to keep the most current products for all the lines we carry in stock.”

Keeping a diverse inventory in the store consistently is a large part of what brings hunters in, according to Nickisch.

“They come in because of the selection and quality of product we’re carrying,” he explained.

Many of his new customers come in because of word of mouth. The store also has a presence on social media informing customers of what’s in stock.

The most popular calls with his predator hunters have remained fairly steady over the past couple of years, Nickisch noted.

“They’re mostly buying Foxpro and Lucky Duck digital calls,” he provided. “With ammunition, we do really well with .22-250; we sell Hornady and Nosler quite well. We’ve got it back in stock where we struggled with it in years past. We always have good sales with that caliber of gun, and — like always — 5.56/.223 is a big-selling caliber as well.”

Thermal imaging is a growing category for Rocky Mountain Discount Sports.

“We’re just kind of dabbling in it at the moment,” Nickisch reported. “But we do stock some Burris and a little bit of Pulsar. Burris has been performing really well.”

Thermal Optics: The Hot Ticket

Steve Carter, owner of Outdoor Junction in Cookeville, Tenn., said predator hunting in his area has changed somewhat over the past few years.

“Thermal imaging has become much more popular,” he acknowledged. “It’s the biggest change I see, plus technology changes in calls.”

Predator hunting is mostly a fall and winter activity near Outdoor Junction’s Cookeville location. 

“Especially in those months, we try to have everything predator hunters need,” Carter said. “We keep calls in stock year-round, and thermal imaging stays in the store all year as well. We just step up our inventory during the fall and winter.”

According to Carter, the hot sellers this year are in thermal imaging.

“Thermal comes in all price ranges,” he remarked. “It’s all about how much the customer can afford. The ones who can afford good thermal imaging equipment buy it. We sell a lot in the $4,000 to $5,000 range, but we also have to have inventory stair-stepped up, starting at about $1,500. Everybody wants it; a lot of people just can’t afford it.”

Carter believes there are some nuances to hunting predators in Tennessee.

“It’s legal for depredation reasons,” he disclosed. “It’s legal to hunt coyotes at night, but you have to say you’re hunting them because they’re destroying your rabbit population or otherwise causing depredation. It doesn’t matter what population they’re affecting, you’ve just got to have that terminology. Otherwise, nighttime hunting is illegal; you can’t just say you’re going coyote hunting at night.”

Carter contends the law regarding coyote hunting at night is confusing, and hunters hope the state legislature will address it and clarify the whole wording of the law regarding nighttime hunting.

“It was put in this way several years ago and nobody has ever addressed the confusion,” he stated. “We keep hoping they’ll clarify it.”

When it comes to predator calls, the ones Carter sells the most are Foxpro; across all the brands, the style most popular is electronic calls.

“We sell more of those than any other brand,” he confirmed. “Coyote and fox calls are the main two species we sell calls for. But when you buy an electronic call, you can select a lot of different species on one caller.”

According to Carter, what manufacturers spend on advertising for their products is crucial to bringing customers in to buy predator hunting equipment, whether it’s print ads or broadcast efforts.

“We know it helps us a lot,” he shared. “When a new company comes out, the first thing I ask them is how many dollars they’re going to spend introducing their product, and what kind of advertising they’re going to have to support it.”

“We try to keep the most current products for all the lines we carry in stock all the time.”

Kevin Nickisch, Manager
Rocky Mountain Discount Sports Gillette, Wyo.

Looking Ahead To 2024

It’s no secret: Getting the glass ball out to forecast sales trends is becoming increasingly challenging. When it comes to predator hunting sales, both retailers had contrasting perspectives.

Nickisch, of Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, doesn’t foresee any particular changes in this category in the near term.

“I think sales will be steady through the rest of the year and into next year,” he proposed. “I wouldn’t predict any increases or decreases.”

On the other hand, Outdoor Junction’s Carter said predicting what the rest of 2023 and 2024 will bring is difficult.

“I could have answered this better last year,” he stated. “The reason I say that is sporting goods seem to have come out of a slump we were in all spring and summer. Things have picked back up to ‘normal’ now, and we’re hoping things stay this way for the rest of the year.”

The economy continues to be a factor in sporting good sales, Carter said.

“We see the cost of goods versus people’s salaries is a little out of balance compared to where it was before,” he observed. “We’re hoping it doesn’t affect us throughout the rest of the year.”

As the number of states allowing predator hunting increases, this category should continue to grow in most areas. And, with technology further enhancing offerings, this is a potentially significant category for many retailers. 

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