The Hunting Surge

Refine Your Strategy To Prepare For Upcoming Seasons.

Signs from around the industry point to evidence hunting is on the rise. Hunting-related purchases increased by 55 percent between 2006 and 2011, while the number of hunters aged 16 and over increased by 9 percent. Those encouraging numbers come from “Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation,” produced by Southwick Associates for the NSSF. This resurgence in hunting popularity follows a two-decade period of decline.

This is great news for firearms dealers.

Hunters put food on the table, create jobs, introduce youngsters to the outdoors and to wildlife/habitat preservation, provide billions in revenue to maintain conservation programs and generate more public shooting ranges. They’re the backbone of the industry in many ways.

Hunting added $87 billion to the nation’s economy while supporting more than 680,000 jobs in 2011, according to the “Hunting in America” report. In addition, wildlife populations have increased dramatically since the 1930s, in large part due to hunter-driven conservation movements.

Hunting is drawing higher numbers of shooters to the field and enjoying greater approval from the general population than it has seen in nearly 20 years. As many as 79 percent of Americans 18 and older approve of hunting, according to a Responsive Management survey commissioned by NSSF.

Today, there are plenty of reasons to go afield, and hunting customers are eager to get there. This provides plenty of profitable opportunities to help customers maximize their hunting success and improve their overall hunting experience.

Current Hunting Demographics

What has caused this renewed interest in hunting, and just who comprises today’s hunting population?

According to a 2011 study undertaken by Responsive Management and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 10 major factors related to the hunting increase:

1. The economic recession
2. Higher incomes in certain population segments
3. The desire for meat and the “locavore” movement
4. Recruitment and retention programs
5. Access programs
6. Marketing and license changes
7. Current hunters hunting more frequently
8. Returning military personnel
9. Lapsed hunters reengaging
10. A newer demographic, including women, suburban and young hunters
No single influence is behind the hunting surge, according to Responsive Management. Instead, the above “combination of factors, a perfect positive storm of reasons” led to the increases in hunting.

So what motivates today’s hunters?

Southwick Associates’ January 2013 Hunter Survey found 92 percent of respondents hunt simply because they enjoy spending time outdoors, with the vast majority of that number (87%) specifically pointing to the serenity of the hunting experience. Additionally, another 87 percent said they enjoy seeing wildlife in their habitat. The challenge of the sport motivates 80 percent, while 74 percent enjoy spending time hunting with family and friends. Seventy percent say providing food for their families and friends is their main motivation.

“Future efforts to increase hunting, or to successfully promote hunting-related products and services, must emphasize fun, social interactions and the total outdoor experience hunting provides,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates.



What were consumers purchasing at the peak of last year’s hunting season? Southwick Associates
provides insight through its monthly surveys available at and

The Family That Hunts Together …

More and more families are taking to the field to hunt together, and women are a driving force behind it. Women now comprise nearly 11 percent of all hunters, according to Census Bureau data reported by National Geographic last year. The number of women hunters increased 25 percent between 2006 and 2011.

Women enjoy the outdoor recreation of hunting as much as men do, but they’re also heavily motivated by providing meat for their families and cutting back on their grocery bills (55 percent vs. 27 percent for men). And they’re good at bringing home their meat of choice.

For dealers, this translates to ensuring your advertising and promotional efforts are targeting women. It can pay dividends. Women are enthusiastic students, so consider providing local seminars or hands-on training for women hunters and add a locavore or organic meat-harvesting element to the event. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response and resulting sales.

Women exhibit purchasing power when it comes to firearms and hunting-related products. Their spending on ammunition was not too far behind their male counterparts in 2012, according to the Southwick Associates’ report, “Women in the Outdoors.” They outspent men in the hunting accessories category and tied them in hunting apparel purchases. Women bowhunters also outspent men in related equipment in 2012.


Remington ranked as the top rifle ammunition brand for 2013 in Southwick’s surveys. HyperSonic Rifle
Bonded centerfire produces velocities up to 200 fps faster than standard loads.

What Hunters Are Buying

Whitetail is still the most-sought game for most local hunters. Anything related to deer hunting is a staple for firearm dealers. Small game, upland game bird, doves, waterfowl and turkeys draw smaller but devoted numbers of hunters. Predator hunting also continues to rise in popularity.

Dealers should be sure to match new hunters with the correct long guns, and also need to be prepared for the seasoned hunters who periodically upgrade their rifles, shotguns and scopes. Scent-related products, along with sturdy hunting apparel, are perennial top-sellers during hunting season.

Any effort made to maintain a healthy ammunition supply will be rewarded, as ammunition purchases for hunters far outstrip any other add-on buys. Practice targets are another hunting staple.

Southwick Associates reports the top-selling rifle brand last year was Savage, with Remington coming in as the top shotgun brand. Remington also led in rifle ammunition sales while Winchester offered the preferred shotgun ammunition.

Nikon led in riflescope purchases and Bushnell was the top binocular, spotting scope and rangefinder brand sold.

Reloading equipment continues to be popular with hunters. The leading brands for reloading products last year were Hornady bullets, Hodgdon powders, Lee Precision dies and CCI primers, according to Southwick. Lawrence was the top reloading shot brand.

Wildlife Research Center, Tinks and Scent-Away dominated the cover scent, lure scent and odor eliminator brands. Hunters preferred Buck Knives and Rocky Boots last year.


Southwick reports Savage was the top rifle brand for 2013. New for 2014, the Model 11
International Trophy Predator Hunter in Snow Camo includes a 3-9×40 Weaver KASPA Scope.

Hunting Sales Strategy

It’s never too early to plan for the upsurge in firearm and hunting-related purchases that accompany the Christmas season. Fifty-two percent of hunters surveyed last year gave or received hunting-related or shooting gifts, and 66 percent claimed those items were used exclusively for hunting.

As for what influences hunters in their buying decisions, research indicates personal experience with a product is the greatest factor, followed by brand loyalty and other experienced hunters’ and friends’ recommendations. More than a third of hunters claimed they rely on local dealers as their chief outfitters — more good news.

Most dealers are well into preparing for the fall hunting season. The “numbers” indicate the customer base is growing — and they are eager to hunt. Now is the time to refine your hunting sales strategy.
By Greg Staunton

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