Increase Hunting Season PROFITS With Bowhunting
By Carolee Anita Boyles
A substantial number of gun hunters also hunt during archery season. Those hunters represent a significant portion of sales for you if you carry bowhunting gear, as well as products for general hunting season with firearms. That said, adding a bowhunting segment to your product mix is not as simple as bringing in — for example — a new line of ammunition. It takes some research and know-how on your part to be prepared to handle the needs of dedicated bowhunters.
David Owens is the bow tech at Balmar Outdoors in Monroe, Ga. He said adding bowhunting products to an existing gun shop definitely brings in more customers.
“When you get customers looking at guns and they see bows, they want to go over and look at them,” he said. “The same thing happens with bows. You get guys who are looking at bows, and when they see guns on the other wall, they say ‘Hey, let’s go look at the guns.’ Having both increases the money you have coming into the store.”
Owens said in his area, the number of hunters that hunt during both seasons is high. “I’d say it’s at least 85 percent of hunters do both,” he said. “Then you also have the crowd interested in archery, muzzleloaders and rifles.”
Having bowhunting equipment also extends your selling season.
“You’ll have a peak in archery right before bowhunting season and before people start buying guns for gun season. And while people are waiting for someone to work on their bow, they may wander over to the gun department and buy a gun,” Owens added.
When it comes to adding an in-house bow tech, Balmar Outdoors’ David Owens suggests
dealers should look to current associates with bowhunting experience — rather than
going out and finding a new employee. Owens says Bowtech, Hoyt, Kinsey’s and Mathews
offer schools to enhance training.
Obviously, the most basic thing you need to attract bowhunters is bows. But before you hang the first bow on the wall, you need someone on staff who knows archery and archery accessories, and is able to do at least the basics of bow tuning and repair.
“You don’t want to hire a high school kid who just got interested in archery because he doesn’t have enough time under his belt yet actually working on bows,” Owens said.
This goes for selling bows as well as working on them.
“For instance, some accessories will not go on some bows,” Owens noted. “You need someone who knows what he can and cannot put on a particular bow.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring someone new, however; you may have a bowhunter on staff in your store already.
“If you have someone who already has experience, train him,” Owens said. “Some archery manufacturers offer schools where you can send an employee. They may also train him in ordering, customer relations and what kind of merchandise to put on the floor.”
According to Owens, manufacturers and distributors who do schools of one kind or another, include Bowtech Archery, Hoyt, Kinsey’s and Mathews.
Ideally, you should think about carrying several brands of bows in your store. “I would say around four different brands of bows,” Owens recommends. “And I do kind of a mixture of entry level to medium- and high-end bows. If you do only high-end, you kill half your business. Not everyone can afford a $1,000 bow; you need to have the $300 or $400 bow for the guy that’s just getting started and doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.”
Besides bows, you’ll need a range of accessories.
“You need sights, arrow rests, stabilizers, peeps and of course arrows,” Owens noted. “I carry two brands of arrows, and I may be looking at adding a third brand in the future. When it comes to arrow rests, carry maybe six or seven different styles for new guys and for experienced guys. The same thing with sights; you want to carry entry-level products and high-end products.”
Owens suggests if you’re going to carry arrows, you should also offer fletching services. This doesn’t have to be yet another employee; either your go-to archery guy can fletch arrows, or you can train someone else to do it in his time between gun customers. Think of the second person as kind of a “bow tech-in-training”
“Fletching arrows isn’t a hard skill to learn,” Owens said, “but you need a lot of patience.”
Leupold Vendetta 2 Archery Rangefinder
Barnett Ghost 415 Revenant
Look For “Crossover” Customers
Matt Rothamel owns Blue Line Sports in Saranac Lake, N.Y.
“Your shooting customers are often crossover customers between the firearms and archery — crossbows included. We have a pro shop and carry Bear, PSE and Hoyt bows. We also carry crossbows from Barnett and Bear,” he said. “We have customers who come in and want to participate in one season such as muzzleloading or big-game rifle season, and then they realize they can take an archery safety class and get additional tags.”
Rothamel doesn’t have any statistics to indicate how many customers are crossover customers, but he estimates somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of male customers shoot both rifles and bowhunting equipment.
He emphasized adding bowhunting equipment to your store requires more than just having someone in the archery department to sell it. “You need someone who is trained in archery,” he said.
Rothamel pointed out many of the same skills a good salesperson uses on the gun side of things also come to bear in selling bowhunting equipment.
“There are so many similarities between the two in terms of physics and ballistics, and shooting and being calm,” he said. “You have grain weights of arrows and points, and you have to understand terminal velocity is going to work. Just as you need to have the right bullet for the right gun, you also need to have the right arrow for the right bow. There are a lot of training opportunities in archery, which really opens up an overall understanding of the shooting sports.”
Setting up a portion of your gun shop to handle bowhunting is not just about inventory; it also involves providing your “bow guy” with the right tools to do his job.
“You need to get a bow press,” Rothamel said. “We also have a chronograph we use for testing bows; it’s the same chronograph we use for testing loads if I’m doing reloads.” Having access to a range where you can adapt a couple of lanes for archery can also help your store traffic tremendously.
Besides bows, you should also consider stocking arrows. “Sometimes arrows are almost more important than bows,” Rothamel said. “You also need sights, rests, releases, and targets you can sell.”
“When you get customers looking at guns and they see bows, they want to go over
and look at them. Having both increases the money you have coming into the store.”
David Owens, Balmar Outdoors
New Bows Draw Interest
One trend to watch for in bowhunting, according to Owen, is around anything new and innovative.
“Everyone wants the brand new stuff that comes out every year,” he said. “Anytime a new bow comes out, everybody wants it. Once everyone has the new bow, a lot of guys are ready to move on to the next big thing. So every year, you may have three or four guys who will come in to buy a brand-new bow.
Rothamel has witnessed a change in the demographics among bowhunters.
“More Millennials are getting into shooting, and they’re also interested in archery,” he said. “Women are doing the same thing, so adding bowhunting can be a portal to open the doors to multiple age groups and bring more customers into your store.”