Serving The Varmint & Predator Hunter


Image: Howard Communications

Big-game season may be months away, but it doesn’t mean hunting sales have to stall. Varmint hunters are in the woods, and their purchases can add dollars to your bottom line throughout the year.

Night Hunting Allure

At Buffalo Guns And Ammo in Wickenburg, Ariz., Associate Charles More said varmint season is open year-round, but hunters tend to concentrate on spring hunting.

“From December to May, we have a season where you can hunt at night in certain areas,” he shared. “We’re primarily hunting coyotes. We do have other predators in the state, including mountain lions, bobcats and foxes, but those are all hunted during the day.”

One popular product varmint hunters are using is a light for hunting at night.

“Most of the guys I know are using Wicked Hunting Lights,” More said. “They’re very bright, they’re affordable and they work. They’re easy to mount on a rifle, and they’re adjustable for windage and elevation.”

More owns one, which has four colors, and it’s easy to switch from one to another.

“Most guys use red lights,” he said. “Red doesn’t create as much glare; coyotes can see it, but since they usually see white lights, they get curious when they see a red light. You can be shining a red light on them and they’ll come right in. We’re spotting them out around 300 to 400 yards and then calling them in to 100 to 150 yards.”

Wesley Depoy is one of the managers at Blaine’s Guns & Bows in Allen, Ky. Most of the varmint/predator hunting in his area takes place in the late winter and early spring, between deer season and turkey season. Most varmint/predator hunters, he said, target coyotes. The biggest trend Depoy has seen the past couple of years is toward using thermal imaging equipment.

“We’re allowed to hunt at night, with thermals, during certain parts of the year,” he shared. 

(According to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, coyotes may be hunted all year on both public and private land, day or night, with no bag limit. However, the hunter may only use lights at night between December 1 and March 31, and again between May 16 and June 30.)

For night pursuits, he recommends varmint hunters buy a good shooting rest.

“The BOG DeathGrip is a good one,” he stated. “At night, hunters are shooting 50 to 250 yards, and they need stability.”

The DeathGrip is available in several price points — aluminum on the low end, and carbon fiber on the high end.

Firearms & Ammo

At Turtle’s Hulls & Guns in Winona, Mo., Owner James Russell said most of the varmint hunting in the area takes place in February and March. In terms of guns and calibers, Russell’s customers tend to like smaller calibers.

“They’re buying 6.5 Grendel and .223,” he shared. “When it comes to brands of ammo, they don’t seem to have any particular preference. It’s whatever is available.”

Most hunters are using rifles in 6.5mm Creedmoor with a suppressor for coyotes, according to Depoy at Blaine’s Guns

“Anything in 6.5mm Creedmoor sells right now,” he observed. “Browning, Savage and Ruger are the most popular, and then the AR-15-style guns.”

In ammo, Depoy said hunters like the Hornady ELD-X because of its precision.

“It performs like a match bullet,” he added.

The ELD-X bullet is available in 15 SKUs. The latest, new for this year, is in .22-caliber .224 (80 grain).

It’s a different story at Buffalo Guns And Ammo. The most popular rifle hunters are using in the area for varmint hunting is an AR-15 in 5.56 or .223.

“Hunters here aren’t buying any particular brand,” More stated. “It’s wide open; most customers are buying full metal jacket.”

Calls & Optics

Many customers are buying and using 1-8X LPVO optics, according to More.

“LPVO is Low Power Variable Optic,” More explained. 

These optics have a minimum magnification of 1X, and are popular on tactical rifles such as the AR-15. Users get the benefits of a red dot scope for close shots, and extra magnification when they need it for longer shots.

“The one I see the most is SIG,” More added. “But I don’t see a lot of rangefinders. Most of the guys I know don’t use them.”

Electronic calls are legal in Arizona, More said, and some hunters use both mouth and electronic calls such as the ones offered by FOXPRO. 

In terms of optics, the most popular is Pulsar at Blaine’s Guns.

“Customers like the ease of use and the quality,” Depoy noted. “They also like the level of customer service they get from Pulsar; the company stands behind its products.”

When it comes to electronic calls, the go-to brand is FOXPRO. FOXPRO makes half a dozen digital game calls for predators and has an online library where customers can download more than 100 calls beyond those that come installed on each unit.

“They’re American-made and they’ve been around a long time,” Depoy informed. “They’re tried and true.”

At Turtle’s Hulls & Guns, customers are looking for mid-range thermals such as AGM and Pulsar. Hunters generally shoot from 50 to 300 yards in his area, and both of those brands work for that range.

As with Arizona and Kentucky, electronic calls are legal in Missouri.

“Most of us use FOXPRO electronic calls,” Russell confirmed. 

Other gear varmint and predator hunters purchase includes BOG FieldPods and handheld thermals for scanning wide areas for coyotes. 

“They typically don’t purchase rangefinders,” Russell informed. “A lot of scopes have range finding built into them.”

The Future Of The Segment?

All three of the retailers interviewed don’t forecast major changes to this market — but it is poised for further growth.

“Hunters are primarily targeting coyotes,” Russell observed. “One of the big changes we’ve seen over the past few years is coyote hunting has gotten a lot more popular. I think it’s because we have more seasons. They’ve made a season where we can use thermal scopes and night vision. It’s gotten more people interested.”

“I’d say what we’re doing is about as deadly as it gets,” Depoy contended. “I don’t see it going anywhere or getting replaced by anything.”

Likewise, More doesn’t expect to see any big changes in varmint hunting in the next few years.

However, Russell predicts varmint hunting will continue to increase — especially if the season becomes longer.

“I hope we’re going to see our thermal season extended,” he stated.

Hunting sales don’t have to stop just because deer season is over. Tap into what your varmint/predator hunting customers are using to extend your hunting season sales throughout the year.  

Read More Shooting Industry May 2024 Issue Now