Set Your Sights On
Varmint Hunters


Image: Howard Communications

When considering expanded sales, the hunting market is always a good one to set your sights on. While a broad scope of hunting products is good, you can develop into a niche market and entice additional buyers into your store. Let’s talk varmint hunting.

Varmints are small wild animals considered pests, nuisances or threats to humans and domestic animals. The term can be applied to various animals, including coyotes, raccoons, feral hogs, bobcats, rodents, birds and even iguanas.

About Varmints

These animals are often managed via hunting because they can threaten our pets, destroy farmland, parks and gardens, carry diseases and more. For example, rodents can gnaw through wires and insulation, while raccoons may tear up shingles or siding in search of food or shelter.

Invasive species like feral hogs and iguanas are notably more destructive than other varmints. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, “Iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks.” These lizards also eat tree snails and host plants of endangered butterflies.

Coyotes and foxes pose a threat to domesticated animals like pets and livestock. Ranchers sometimes welcome coyote hunters to protect their herds. First-time mother cows, known as heifers, sometimes have trouble giving birth. Coyotes look to the struggling cow as an easy target and, at times, will attack the not-yet-fully birthed calf and the back end of the momma, leaving the rancher with a double loss.

Another issue conservationists tout as a reason to pursue varmints is to protect other wildlife species. Bobcats, raccoons and foxes will raid eggs from nests, thus depleting populations of sage grouse, quail and other birds.

Therefore, it’s crucial to take steps to control varmint populations when necessary while also respecting their place in the natural ecosystem. Your store plays a part in this management process — and can generate profits from it.

Franchi Momentum Elite Varmint

Hunting Varmints

Your establishment likely already has firearms for varmint hunting. 

Hunters often use rifles with high-velocity rounds to take down small animals like groundhogs, prairie dogs and coyotes. They also look for tools that are easy to carry. If you haven’t already taken stock, you may want to consider the new tactical-style lever-action rifles, such as those offered by Bond Arms and POF-USA. 

Stephanie Braman, who guides for big game, hogs, bobcats and coyotes at Mellon Creek Outfitters in Texas, suggests, “A hunter, without a doubt, needs a gun they’re familiar with, and they need to shoot it often.”

For hogs and other larger nuisance species, modular rifles are the rage. The old reliable may fill your stands, but have you already added some modular rifles to your inventory? Check out rifles such as the new Franchi Momentum All-Terrain Elite, available in .223 to .308 calibers. Not only is it a slick-looking shooter, but its short, stout build makes the rifle easy to transport from stand to stand or for spot-and-stalk scenarios. In addition, the modular systems allow customers to modify it to suit their needs for check welds and proper eye relief.

Bramen also mentioned, “Thermal hunting is the best product that has helped in predator control. It makes it so much easier.”

In addition, a hunter can acquire and identify their target at longer distances with optics such as ATN’s THOR Gen5 or Pulsar’s Thermion Duo DXP55. These have long-distance sensing and mind-blowing high-definition technology.

Optics are a must, and this year we saw upgrades from the thermal vision space and add-ons, such as Swarovski’s tM35, a device that clips onto your customer’s favorite scope.

When considering what products to carry for this niche market, remember many items crossover.

Daytime Exploits

Stepping back into the daylight, Braman told us she enjoys a challenge and “there is nothing better than watching coyotes come into your stand during daylight hours.” She enjoys outsmarting them on their turf.

As a guide, part of the job is to locate the animals. To help customers identify their targets in the daytime, check out the new compact ATC and STC spotters from Swarovski. They have amazing clarity, weigh around 34 oz., and at about 11″ long, will take up little room in your display case.

While the old saying goes, “Your gun is only as good as your optics,” Braman shared another factor that might be even more significant. 

“The most important part is a good tripod,” she asserted. “I see so many people not using a stable platform to shoot from. A good tripod with a steady head is the best way to go. What’s the point of calling one in if you can’t shoot it?”

Varmint hunting can end up being a “run and gun” style, so a steady rest comes in handy when you’re not in a shoot-house or carrying around a bench. Consider inventorying shooting sticks such as the Primos Trigger Stick Apex Spartan. These are ultra-light and have a magnetic feature allowing the user to swap out optics and firearm rests.

All About The Call

Nathan Hopp, the hunting department manager at Jay’s Sporting Goods of Clair and Gaylord, Mich., reaffirms Braman’s need for quality calls.

He shared, “Calls, decoys and lights are our top-selling items for varmint hunting.”

He noted the FoxPro electronic calls are popular, and many good calls are out there, but “you need a variety because each customer has different needs.”

When choosing a variety of electronic calls, look at technology, such as ICOtec’s all-new Night Stalker+ and the Rascal. These calls are portable, with Bluetooth options allowing for a wireless range of up to 100 yards using a cell phone.

Decoys and attractors are handy distractions when your customers are calling varmints. Flambeau is notable for its lineup of calls, decoys and accessories. 

Flambeau Director of Sales and Marketing Charlie Puckett said, “Our consistent top-performing products for varmint hunting are our 5985MS-1 Lone Howler Coyote Decoy and MVP-4 Circe 3-in-1 Predator call.”

(As a Lone Howler owner, I can attest it fools the best. Mine has seen many a coyote and has even been attacked and battered by my mules and our crafty emu!)

Demos Prove Their Worth

Consider working with product suppliers to offer options for demoing the sounds from their calls. 

“Having a good-quality sound for your caller is an asset you can’t do without,” confirmed Braman. “I search through the calls out there for the best sounds. There’s a skill to calling them in, and different sounds are preferred during different times of the year.” 

Jay’s Sporting Goods has been using in-store seminars for quite some time. This forum is a great way to demo the product and let customers hear the sounds of electronic or manual calls. Work with your suppliers or an influencer and start hosting varmint-hunting seminars. 

Through demonstration training, you’ll have more involved customers who will see the tools in action. They’ll be able to hear and see the features and benefits, plus ask questions. Additionally, they will likely see other items in your store they can’t resist. 

Don’t Forget Extras!

When considering what products to carry for this niche market, remember many items crossover from hiking, camping and other hunting avenues. Some of the other must-haves are base layers, boots, camouflage clothing, gloves, hats, hunting vests, suppressors and more! 

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