Tracking big-game hunters

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Americans recently found themselves cut off from traditional day-to-day life; some discovered empty shelves at their grocery stores, and others experienced dangerous situations. As a result of COVID-19, riots and continued gun-grab attempts from lawmakers, citizens are less confident in the government. People are yearning to become more self-sufficient protecting and providing food for themselves and their families.

After a stressful first part of the year, people can now focus on health, social distancing and self-sufficiency. Being outdoors certainly has beneficial effects: Nature helps fight stress and clears our minds. When new and experienced hunters take to hunting, they challenge themselves, reduce anxiety and boost their immune systems.

Big-game hunting season is a rewarding way to fill the freezer with nutritious meat. Carrying items for these expeditions is a way to earn the trust of new customers and keep the faith of longtime supporters.

Customer Service Is Always Number One

With an interest in learning what makes a gun store stand out, I reached out to other big-game hunters and asked them about their favorite stores. Time after time, these sportsmen said their shop’s customer service is what keeps them going back.

Casey Ingram relayed he shops at Tuckahoe Sportsmen in Ridgely, Md. He said the staff “treats you like family, and I always support family first.”

Longtime hunter Jed Ritenour shared, “I use Latrobe Army & Navy (Latrobe, Pa.) because if they don’t have what I need in stock, they’ll get it for me.”

You don’t have to stock everything, but you want to have as many key items as possible — so your customers don’t look to another outlet to fill their needs.

What Hunters Need

With a better understanding of what hunters are looking for, I asked some of their favorite gun shops about the items they stock for big-game hunters. Most store owners immediately listed guns and ammunition.

Mark Patten, owner of Tuckahoe Sportsman, suggested carrying the Finnish-made Sako and Tikka rifles.

“My customers deserve quality guns with accurate barrels. If you do the right thing for your customer, they’ll keep coming back,” he said.

You don’t have to stock everything, but you want to have as many key items as possible — so your customers don’t look to another outlet to fill their needs.

Beyond The Basics

Guns and ammo, or bows and arrows, are just the basics. Granddad killed many a buck in his flannel shirt and blue jeans, but thanks to technology, your store has the opportunity for an abundance of add-on sales.

Latrobe Army & Navy is over 100 years old — a business that has passed through three generations, according to Owner Mark Borerio. He lists boots, backpacks, socks, holsters and gun-sleeves as a few of the “must-have” items for big-game hunters, which he sells in the shop and online.

Much of what your store carries will depend on the common hunting methods in your region. (Things can become even broader if you take your sales online.)

East To West

Back east, it’s common to hunt from treestands, ladder stands, box blinds and climber stands. Not only are these items to carry at your shop, but they help dictate add-on items. For example, if you want return clientele, safety harnesses become a must.

After using various scouting techniques, which could include that game camera you sold them, a hunter takes to the treetops to await an elusive buck. They’ll need rope, carabiners, pulleys and other means to hoist their pack, along with their rifle or bow, up to their seat. Once they get situated, tree hooks come in handy for stowing their gear at nearby proximity.

A limb- or bone-saw is useful for removing branches as a climber-stand is used to ascend a tree, and may later be used to field dress an animal after that successful shot.

The add-on potential for sales to big-game hunters can serve as a significant profit generator for your store.

Rangefinders have proven to be a useful piece of technology. Many hunters will note distances of clearings, trees and bushes within view of their stand. They’ll take note of these calculations just before pulling out their grunt tube to attempt to call in a buck.

When the deer aren’t rutting, lures, attractants and feed are capable tricks. I’ve yet to meet a whitetail hunter who didn’t say scent control is a must. Western hunters often play the wind, but they still use odor-eliminating field wipes and dry-shower products when they’re camped for multiple days.

Out west, there are vast expanses of open space and public land to hunt. GPS and mapping tools come in handy as a hunter navigates timberline benches, open prairies, gorges and desert canyons.

Big-game hunting season is a rewarding way to fill the freezer with nutritious meat. Carrying items for these expeditions is a way to earn the trust of new customers and keep the faith of longtime supporters.

Hunters often vacate stands and blinds in preference of spot-and-stalk-style hunting. Spotting scopes and binoculars are used to locate game; then the march is on. Good boots and socks can mean the difference between success or debilitating blisters and sore feet. Bugle tubes and cow calls are brought in as a means to entice the animals closer, thus limiting traveling distance.

It may sound as though these big-game hunters are worlds apart, but there’s a huge overlap in their gear. Your store can capitalize on the many similar items. You’ll make your customers happy and increase your bottom line.

Gear & More

Most states require rifle hunters to wear blaze orange; keep a supply of those radiant hats and vests. Experienced hunter or not, we’ve all had that moment of trying to locate our required safety coverings as we prepare to head out on a hunt.

Camouflage clothing has become a must for most big-game hunters. As a means of add-on sales, think about layering systems. A hunter may first purchase their jacket and pants but later come back for the matching rain gear, vest, shirt, beanie, neck gaiter and gloves.

While you’re at it, think about hunting mentors and consider carrying items for ladies and for the youth hunter. You’ll have business on into the next generation.

Whether they’re spending the day up in a tree or hiking above the tree line, they’ll likely want a hunting pack or pouch. They’ll carry their lunch, layers of camouflage, survival tools and gear to field dress an animal.

Once your customer has the animal down, that hunting knife, set of game bags, paracord and pack frame, game cart or sled are going to come in handy. One hunting success leads to the desire for another, and that means additional sales for you and your happy customer. Again, focus on key items for your customers.

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