As The Season Nears, Is Your Store Ready
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Today’s market may lean strongly toward tactical and self-defense sales, but fall hunting products still represent a significant portion of sales to retailers who cater to the hunting market. The regional differences in hunting regulations and the species hunters pursue means retailers in different areas may sell widely different products, so understanding your local market is the key to significant hunting season sales.
Richard Catts owns Delaware Firearms in Rehoboth Beach, Del. He said Delaware hunters must use shotguns for everything they hunt, including deer.
“There’s no rifle hunting in Delaware, so we’re a shotgun state,” he said. “For deer, hunters mostly use 20-gauge. For waterfowl they use 20-gauge or 12-gauge, but they primarily prefer 12.” The most popular shotgun with waterfowl hunters, Catts said, is the Beretta A400; deer hunters tend to like the Savage 220.
“Over the years, everybody used the H&R slug gun for deer,” he said. “When Remington bought H&R, they discontinued it. So now hunters have switched to the Savage, which is a 20-gauge bolt-action shotgun.”
Catts said hunters prefer 3½-inch shells for waterfowl.
“Hunters use slugs for deer, and I sell a lot of heavier loads for snow geese and ducks,” he said. “For deer, hunters like Remington AccuTip. For waterfowl, they like the HEVI-Shot brand or Black Cloud from Federal. Waterfowl hunters prefer the heavier loads, like #2 and BB shot.”
Wildgame Innovations V8B20
EOTech 512 XBOW Sight
B&P Heavy Pheasant
Legislation Impacts Buying Habits
At South County Guns in Cedar Lake, Ind., Greg Maurer said his deer hunters use either shotguns or rifles in pistol calibers. He predicts, however, a change on the horizon based off current legislative efforts.
“At present, we don’t have a full open rifle season for deer,” he said. “For hunting, you can only use bows, shotguns or rifles in pistol calibers such as .44 or .357; which means no .30-30, .270 or .308. However, the state legislature is working on allowing hunters to use some rifle cartridges to hunt — which is wonderful. We don’t sell many bolt-action rifles, because nobody has a real use for one unless he’s an avid sport shooter.”
A change to allow rifle calibers would be good, according to Maurer, to increase opportunities for hunters and encourage new hunters to participate.
“There are so few public lands here to hunt, and if you can only hunt them with a bow, it really narrows down who’s going to get into hunting,” he said. “So I’m tentatively excited about the coming changes because they’re going to be good for rifle sales.”
At this point, Maurer said, the hunting firearms his customers purchase the most are 12-gauge rifled-barreled shotguns with cantilevered scope mounts.
“The models they’re purchasing are primarily Remington 870s and Mossberg 500s,” he said. “In pistol-caliber rifles, we sell a good number of Henrys in .357, .44 Mag and .44 Special.”
When it comes to optics, Maurer noted customers are purchasing a significant number of scopes for crossbows.
“They’re buying the smaller 3X or 4X fixed optics,” he said. “You don’t need a tremendously expensive optic for them, which is nice for those customers.”
For shotguns, Maurer said, the store sells a lot of holographic and red-dot sights.
“Your shot is a little shorter with a shotgun, so you don’t need to reach out quite as far with your optics,” he said. “So guys are finding those optics are a good option for them.” Maurer said many of the red-dot sights he sells are Aimpoint or Sightmark; he also sells a good many EOTech holographic sights.
Since South County Guns carries mainly firearms and ammunition, Maurer said the store doesn’t sell much in the way of camo, pop-up blinds or tree stands.
“However, we do special order those things for customers,” he added.
Richard Catts, Delaware Firearms
Stick With The “Tried And True”
In Healy, Kan., Jamie Woods is the manager at Sharp’s Shooting Supply. He hasn’t seen any really significant changes in what his customers have purchased in the past few years.
“There have been some advances in technology, but the general concept hasn’t changed,” he said. “The one thing I’m seeing is youngsters who are coming up and are very eager, versus the older guys who have been hunting for years and are slowing down. I see a lot more excitement in the younger generation than in the older one.”
At his store, Woods has not noted any particular increase in women who are hunting. This isn’t because women aren’t hunting; it’s because a significant number have been hunting all along, he observed.
“Out here on the plains, deer hunting and pheasant hunting are our two major seasons. I always saw a lot of women hunting when I was growing up; out here they’ve always hunted. But I would say more younger women are getting involved,” he added.
Woods thinks the rise in younger people and women in hunting can be attributed to the media.
“The media is making everyone feel like they’re more equal,” he said. “Gun makers are taking advantage of this and producing guns that are more suitable to women.”
When it comes to pheasant hunting, hunters are staying with the “tried and true,” Woods said.
“Everyone wants to hunt pheasants with either a 12- or 20-gauge,” he said.
Changes in Kansas law have expanded the rifle calibers hunters can use for deer, Woods said.
“The legislature here has changed the law so all centerfire rifles are legal for hunting deer,” he said. “This has allowed women to step down from some of those larger calibers that kick so hard and shoot a .223 or a .243, versus a .270 or a .30-06.”
Woods added customers are purchasing those smaller calibers for hunting.
“Again, gun makers are taking advantage of this trend and are producing more hunting-geared rifles versus target rifles in those calibers,” he said.
A couple of years ago, Woods said, Muddy Girl camo became very popular and female customers asked for a lot of it.
“When a woman would come in, it was the first thing she would ask,” he said. “She wanted to know what I had in Muddy Girl.”
In general, camo sales are manufacturer-driven at Woods’ store.
“When Mossy Oak or one of the other big camo companies comes out with a new pattern, it becomes the current
hot-ticket item,” he observed. “Hunters follow what’s advertised and what’s the cool new thing that’s out. Once something is advertised, people come asking for it; as long as I stay on top of the newest thing, my customers are happy.”
When it comes to getting the word out about what he has in stock, Woods identified social media as his best tool.
“We use Facebook quite a bit, and we have our own website as well,” he said. “We also do an e-mail blast and a text message blast. People have to come into the shop to sign up to be on those lists, and once a month we send out an email or a text message and share what we have on sale at the time.”