Turkey Fever

Ensure Your Store Capitalizes On Popular Spring Season

By Carolee Anita Boyles

Depending on your perspective, spring turkey hunting is either the last phase of hunting season, or the first outdoor activity of the spring. Either way, this is a significant time for you to boost early-year sales of hunting guns and equipment.

Woody Baird owns The Sure Shot in Alexander City, Ala. He shared the turkeys in east-central Alabama (where he’s located) are some of the hardest turkeys to hunt in the country.

“Every turkey hunter I know tells me if you can kill the turkeys we have here in Alabama, you can kill a turkey anywhere,” he lends. “They say if the Toms could smell, it would be impossible to kill one.”

When it comes to shotguns for hunting turkeys, Baird says customers tend to purchase a wide variety.

“We’re a dealer for Benelli and Beretta, as well as Browning,” he shared. “Being a Benelli dealer also gives us the Franchi and Stoeger brands.”

Baird said many higher-end customers purchase the Benelli 12-ga. Super Black Eagle 3, while customers on a tighter budget tend to go for a Stoeger.

Two consistent purchase patterns appear in sales of ammunition and choke tubes, according to Baird.

“We used to carry the Kick’s choke tubes,” he said. “We had three to four bore constrictions for each brand gun, so we had 50 to 60 choke tubes hanging on the wall. It was troublesome to keep the exact one everybody needed.”

A few years ago, Hevi-Shot came out with Magnum Blend for turkeys — a mixture of 5s, 6s and 7s. They also came out with their own brand of choke tubes to match the Magnum Blend.

“They have only one construction for each manufacturer’s shotgun,” Baird informs. “We learned in patterning these tubes if you use Magnum Blend with the Hevi-Shot tube, the work is all done for you. We have hunters killing turkeys dead at 70 yards with a 3-inch Hevi-Shot Blend and the Hevi-Shot choke tube. It’s our go-to when someone asks what choke tube and ammunition they need; it doesn’t matter what shotgun they have.”

Then, Winchester came out with Long Beard XR ammunition for turkeys.

“Carlson’s is building the choke tubes for it,” he said. “We’ve found pretty consistent patterning with it, so we’re selling a lot of the Carlson’s tubes to people who prefer Winchester ammunition.”

Another trend Baird is seeing is older customers who have had shoulder or neck issues and can’t shoot a high-recoil gun going to 20-ga. shotguns.

“Hevi-Shot offers the same thing in a 20-ga.,” he added. “They have a 20-ga. Magnum Blend and a 20-ga. Hevi-Shot choke tube. I have customers who are killing turkeys at 50 yards — it’s a great combination.”

Lately, Baird is selling more ground blinds than he has in the past few years — as well as climbing stands.

“Summit is our primary climber,” he shared. “We also have a company called Family Traditions Treestands. They make the best tripods and ladder stands on the market for the money. They’re expensive, but they’ll outlast any other ladder stand on the market.”

Baird also has shooting houses from Southern Outdoor Technologies.

“These are one-piece molded shooting houses,” he said. “There are no panels to flap in the wind. They’re called Outdoor Condos, and they’ll last 20 to 30 years.”

When it comes to turkey calls, Baird prefers to sell them from local call makers as much as he can.

“We like companies such as WoodHaven and Straight Creek,” he noted. “This year we picked up Pollard’s, and we also have Hunter’s Addiction. The local guys know our local turkeys, and they’ve been building calls for themselves for years, so they make calls that will talk to the local turkeys. Then we do Primos for the guys who won’t go to the expense of the handmade calls.”

A noteworthy trend Baird mentioned is an increase in the number of women who are hunting turkeys.

“We have a lot of ladies’ camouflage,” he confirmed. “The 20-ga. and Hevi-Shot choke tube and ammo make a great combination.”

Key-In On Consumer Preferences

At Dunn’s Sporting Goods in Pevely, Mo., the shotguns of choice are the Benelli Super Black Eagle, Winchester SX3 and Stoeger M3500.

“The main thing about all of those guns is they take 3.5-inch shells,” said Store Manager Andres Jackson. “One thing that helps the Stoeger is it has a lower price point than the other two. The price point makes a big difference.”

When it comes to ammunition, the most popular is the Winchester Long Beard XR.

“It’s been the most popular for the past two years,” Jackson noted.

Most customers also purchase a set of choke tubes.

“A lot of people use Carlson choke tubes or Indian Creek choke tubes,” Jackson shared. “Any preference for one brand over the other usually comes down to price point and how well-known they are. The Indian Creek tubes are around $80 and are well-known and reliable. The Carlson choke tubes are still well-known and reliable, but they come in around $45 to $50.”

Additionally, Jackson shared his customers purchase a lot of turkey decoys.

“The Avian-X Quarter-Strut Jake and the Feeder Hen are our our two best sellers,” he observed. “Avian-X put a lot of work into making them as realistic as possible. They’re durable and they’re filled with air, which makes them look more realistic than a foam or a rubber cover that can get twisted or bent out of shape.”

WoodHaven calls are best sellers at Dunn’s Sporting Goods.

“They sound realistic, and they’re at a good price point,” Jackson affirmed. “It really comes down to personal preference on calls. A lot of people still like Primos and Hunter’s Specialties, and we carry both of those as well.”

3″ vs. 3.5″ Debate

Both dealers interviewed here shared their thoughts on a developing trend among turkey hunters.

Baird has seen a consistent movement in his customers going back to 3-inch guns rather than staying with the 3.5-inch models.

“They’re moving away from the 3.5 because of the recoil,” he observed. “The performance of the 3-inch guns is so much greater than it was in the past. Now, you don’t have to use the 3.5 to get the performance you want.”

Although most people are shooting 12-ga. guns, there’s a growing market for 20-ga. and 3-inch, according to Jackson.

“I wouldn’t say 20-ga. is as popular as 12-ga., but sales are steadily climbing,” Jackson lends. “A lot of people are realizing you don’t need a 3.5-inch load to shoot a turkey. And manufacturers have definitely stepped up their 20-ga. ammunition. It makes 20-ga. guns a lot more usable for turkeys.”

The Role Of Social Media

Over the past couple of years, Baird has turned more to social media to promote his business.

“We’ve expanded our social media footprint,” he informed. “We have a company who handles it for us — social media is one of our better outlets.”

The one venue, other than social media, Baird gets a strong response from is the local cable company, Charter Cable.

“We can do an audio-visual commercial on Charter, and it costs us about $5 for 30 seconds,” he said. “It’s very, very cost efficient. If I target our audience, which is on ESPN, Fox, the Military Channel and similar channels on Charter Cable, it works very well.”

Alternatively, Dunn’s Sporting Goods’ best advertising outlet is online, Jackson shared.

“We do a lot of social media, including Facebook,” he said. “If you look on Facebook, you’ll see a lot of our videos and information about sales and that kind of thing. We also do ads on social media. It really helps us push what we’re selling and the price points we’re selling at.”

Last year, Dunn’s Sporting Goods posted a video on its Facebook page to educate customers on friction calls and mouth calls — an effective way to communicate with customers.

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