Late Season Strategy

Make The Most Of Late
Hunting Season Sales

By Carolee Anita Boyles

With hunting season winding down, many sporting goods stores start thinking about turkey season and spring fishing. Savvy dealers know, however, the end of hunting season can be almost as productive as the early season.

The key? Understanding how the latter part of hunting season is different from the pre-season, and stocking the products late season hunters need.

Richard Sprague is president of Sprague’s Sports, located in Yuma, Ariz. Late season for his store occurs during the coldest part of the year, when winter has really kicked in and the weather is as cold as it ever gets in Arizona. Hunters in his area are going after a mix of species all season.

“We have doves and we have archery antelope and elk, and those all kind of happen at the same time,” he noted. “Then we go into quail and duck. After that, rifle season for deer opens up — and then we’re into late season rifle elk.”

Sprague said the early part of the season for him is filled with sales of items for dove shooting.

“In late August and early September, we get real busy with dove season opening,” he said. During this part of the season he also has a lot of sales in bowhunting.

“As we get farther into the season, my product mix shifts away from archery and shot shells and becomes more rifle focused,” Sprague added. “Customers also look at a lot of optics, especially for setting up rifles for long-range shooting.”

According to Sprague, customers continue purchasing guns even late in the hunting season: “Some of them wait until the last minute. A lot of customers also wait until the last minute to get their kids set up and get them ready to go hunting, too.”

Sprague observed his late season customers buy a wide variety of brands and calibers.

“They buy across the spectrum,” he noted. “They buy the Savage Axis II, the Ruger American and the Savage Trophy Hunter combo packages with the different scopes they’ve been putting on them the past couple years. Ruger also is doing a Vortex package, which has been pretty popular.”

The Browning X-Bolt also has been a strong seller for Sprague’s Sports, as well as the Tikka T3. “And now we’re seeing sales of the Tikka T3x,” he added.
Popular calibers also cover the waterfront at Sprague’s Sports.

“Our customers buy .243 and 7mm-08, .30-06 and .270,” Sprague said. “The short mags are popular for us, and then the Win. Mags. We do a lot of .30 Magnums here in the West, because people can see and shoot so far. They like a stable bullet with distance.”

Those same shooters like riflescopes with custom elevation capability.

“They like a scope with a custom elevation dial so they can range it,” Sprague said. “They can dial to the yardage and hold right on the target.”

Popular optics at Sprague’s Sports include offerings from Burris, Leupold, Vortex, Swarovski and Zeiss.

“We do a lot of scopes that either have multiple aiming points on the vertical crosshair or have a custom elevation dial,” Sprague said. “This category has just exploded because people are demanding it. Even for people who aren’t aspiring to shoot over X number of yards, they just want to be better in the field with their equipment. So if there’s an opportunity and the equipment is available, they buy it.”

These buyers aren’t just new or young shooters; they include most of the old-timers who come into Sprague’s Sports.

“There still are a few guys who don’t want to learn how things work,” Sprague said. “They just don’t want to think about it, and they’ll stay traditional. But they’re the minority now, instead of the majority. Most people are embracing new technologies and the opportunities they bring.”

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Garmin Oregon 750t

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Sitka Timberline Jacket

Camp & Field Accessories

Besides guns and optics, Sprague said, his customers are purchasing a number of accessories during the latter part of the season.

“They’re buying clothing to make themselves more comfortable in the field, and they’re getting better quality gear, such as backpacks, to accommodate all the stuff they’re taking to the field,” he said. “The stuff they’re taking to the field may include an extra tripod, higher power binoculars, better rangefinders and optics with built-in rangefinders.”

Customers are also buying better gear for their hunting camps.

“They’re buying things from Yeti, as well as from other manufacturers,” Sprague said. “For camp, Yeti products are crazy popular.”

Lighting solutions are a big deal to Sprague’s customers too.

“Lighting options are continuing to expand and grow,” he observed. “There are lots of great flashlights that burn brighter and give you more options on different modes of lighting to have better battery life. They’re all LEDs and are from Streamlight and SureFire. Browning also makes some pretty good options, and there are some other, lesser-known brands as well. NEBO has some good options.”

GPS technology continues to progress, as the sales of GPS-based products grows.

“GPS products by Garmin in particular continue to evolve, with more mapping and other features for a reasonable price,” Sprague said. “Two-way radios from Midland and Motorola also continue to improve. They have longer range and are clearer, with reasonable price points.”

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Hornady Precision Hunter

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Dealers report Tikka’s new T3x line (Compact Tactical Rifle
model pictured above) has been a strong seller among hunters.

What About The Youth?

At Black Bird in Medford, Ore., late season customers are mostly youth hunters.

“The only late rifle seasons are draw hunts for youth hunters,” said Sporting Goods Manager Tom Gascon. “These hunts don’t apply to the entire state; it’s just certain units. Youth who participate in these hunts must be aged 12 to 17, and they must have an adult with them.” Quite a few of these young hunters are girls, he added.

These late season hunts are long enough for customers to buy some serious gear while participating in them, according to Gascon. “They’re 20 days on average,” he noted. “There are youth elk hunts and youth deer hunts.”

As you might expect, the weather tends to be colder during these late season youth hunts — which presents new sales opportunities.

“These hunters are buying cold weather gear,” Gascon said. “During the early season, breathable clothing is what sells really well. But during the late season is when the heavyweight gear sells. Sitka Gear is really nice.”

The calibers these hunters purchase depends on the size of the child and the amount of recoil they can comfortably shoot.

“They’re buying .243, 7mm-08, .308, .30-06 and some of the Mags,” Gascon said. “One model that’s been selling really well for us is the Ruger American. It’s a well-built rifle; it’s accurate and shoots well — and is well priced.”

Besides guns, youth hunters are buying pack frames and dehydrated food.

“Dehydrated food is always a good seller for us,” Gascon said. “We carry Mountain House and it sells very well.”

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