Get On Target With
By Carolee Anita Boyles
While there is a small percentage of gun dealers who carry bowhunting equipment, the majority aren’t — and they’re missing out on potential sales and potential customers.
As dealers invested in this segment will reveal, getting into bowhunting is not as straightforward as simply adding a few SKUs. It takes commitment. And this commitment can translate into increased store visits and a more robust bottom line.
David Ferrell owns Hunter’s Refuge in White Hall, Ark. He said gun dealers should carry bows for the same reason they carry guns: increased foot traffic.
“Carrying bowhunting equipment adds another whole category to your store,” he asserted. “Some of the guys who bowhunt are not gun hunters, so you have two different types of customers. You bring more traffic into your store, which hopefully will bring in more paying customers.”
This doesn’t just mean bringing in more archery aficionados; you’ll get more customers for all kinds of products.
“We handle footwear and clothing, and having archery gear brings in more customers for all those other things,” Ferrell relayed.
The bowhunting market is very competitive, Ferrell shared, so you need to know what’s going on in your local area. The first thing he recommends is to add bows from a couple of major manufacturers. The manufacturers you choose will depend, in part, on which brands any archery stores around you currently sell. To maximize your advantage, you need to sell something your competition doesn’t already carry.
“In our area Mathews, PSE, Hoyt, Bear and BowTech are the big brands,” he observed. “You can’t carry them all, so you have to work around the competition. If there’s a store near you strong in one line, you might want to concentrate on a different one.”
According to Ferrell, another factor to consider in adding bowhunting equipment is many bow lines are not sold through distributors. For those lines, you’ll need to get to know the manufacturers and work directly with them. Making the investment to attend the Archery Trade Association (ATA) show held each January, would pay dividends.
If you decide to add archery equipment, it will also mean adding a new staff position.
“Archery is labor-intensive,” Ferrell said. “To set up a bow takes two or three hours. You really have to know what you’re doing to set it up correctly. When you add archery, it’s a big step. It’s not like adding a style of boots. You need a good bow technician who can work on bows.”
BowTech Reign 6
Mathews HALON X Comp
“You’ve Got To Have What People Want”
Kevin Cordell is the manager of Talespinners Outdoors in Lafayette, Ga. He confirmed archery and bowhunting are growing sports, and they’re something people want to teach their children.
“It kind of died out for a while,” he said. “But now it’s coming back good and strong, and we need to keep it going. Gun dealers can do what we do. We have an indoor range, and we’re in the process of doing an indoor archery range. It’s not something everybody does, but it’s something everybody could do if they wanted to.”
Where should a dealer start if they’re looking to get into the bowhunting market? Cordell shared a good line of bows and reliable accessories are integral.
“You’ve got to have what people want,” he said. “BowTech is a major brand; it’s probably the top brand right now. Mathews is still strong. Bear has a lot of good products out right now. The Diamond line is made by BowTech and is a less expensive version of their bow — it’s a great product.”
When it comes to accessories, one thing Cordell recommends is the Limbsaver from Sims Vibration Laboratory. “String leeches also from Sims are good to go on the string,” he added.
Cordell also likes the products from New Archery Products.
“They’re a good source to have for their drop-away rest system,” he said. “And there are so many broadhead manufacturers out there now.”
It’s important to keep a range of price points on broadheads.
“Keep a less expensive broadhead in the store for people who can’t afford the $40 or $50 broadheads,” Cordell stated. “We keep both $22 and $50 options.”
Just as Ferrell advised, Cordell affirmed you need someone specifically trained in bow setup and repair to really serve your bowhunting clientele.
“Make sure you have someone to fix problems, change draw modules, add accessories, cut arrows to length, confirm the customer has the right-sized field points, etc. You need someone in the archery department who knows what they’re doing,” Cordell concluded.
PSE Fang 350 XT
MTM Case-Gard Traveler Crossbow Bolt Case
Depending on your area and who you ask, there can be some overlap between what gun hunters and bowhunters buy. Ferrell sees plenty of it at his store.
“Pants, accessories (such as flashlights) crossover between both groups,” he said. “Bowhunters do more close-range hunting and are concentrated on scent, so your ScentLok clothing is important.”
Most of Ferrell’s bowhunters started out as gun hunters and eventually moved to bowhunting, which presents more of a challenge than hunting with a rifle. The one exception to this rule of thumb is the bowhunter who has kids.
“This type of hunter may rifle hunt with his kids and then transition them into archery,” Ferrell added. “But all dedicated bowhunters do is hunt archery. It just evolves this way for a lot of people.”
Cordell also sees a high rate of crossover between bowhunters and gun hunters.
“Probably 90 percent of hunters do both,” he observed. “If you bowhunt, you can start the season nearly two months early. I’d say 25 to 30 percent of my customers bowhunt all the way through gun season.”
Your experienced rifle hunters may be intrigued by bowhunting as they seek out new challenges.
“Gun hunters get more interested in hunting itself, and they’ll say, ‘I’ve never bowhunted before.’ This is when I start talking to them about it,” he shared. “I tell them if they don’t like the idea of having to pull back a string on a compound bow and hold it while they look through pin sights, they can try a crossbow. It’s just like holding up a rifle or a shotgun: it’s got a scope on it and it’s an easier way of getting into the game.”
There are several core hunting products that will crossover between gun hunters and bowhunters.
“When you start talking about scents and things like that, they’re basically all the same thing,” Cordell said. There may be some small differences, such as using a doe scent during bow season and a doe in estrus scent later during gun season. But both gun hunters and bowhunters purchase items such as blinds, clothing and other general hunting products.
Image Courtesy of ScentLok Technologies
A Family Affair
Cordell is constantly telling gun hunters who haven’t discovered bowhunting yet to give it a try.
“It’s just that simple,” he added. “I encourage them to do it for a family activity.”
Whether the customer ever bowhunts or not, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy archery as a family.
“Kids really enjoy this stuff,” Cordell revealed. “I try to keep people encouraged to try archery, because it’s going to be a lost activity someday if we don’t.”
If you can get your product mix right, hire experienced staff and successfully reach out to your established gun hunters and invite them (and their families) to participate in a fresh challenge, adding bowhunting equipment to your inventory would represent a profitable piece of business.