Turkey Season In Sight

Create Duel-Season Hunters Through Spring
Turkey Hunting Sales

By Carolee Anita Boyles

With spring just around the corner, turkey season is coming on fast. Turkey hunters love gadgets, whether they’re new calls or the latest decoys. This also is a time to make your fall and winter deer hunters into dual-season hunters (and customers) by providing turkey hunters with what they want.

Matt King is the owner of Southern Outdoor Sports in Dothan, Ala. He said one change he’s seen in the past few years is hunters are making more use of decoys.

“They particularly like higher-end decoys such as Avian-X,” he said. “It’s a category where more people are buying. The quality of decoys has come a long way — they look more realistic than they used to.”

According to King, the firearms his customers want hasn’t changed much. “They still want something with a short barrel, such as a 21- to 24-inch in a 12-gauge,” he said.

King’s selling a few more 20-gauge guns, which he attributes to advances in technology. “The technology of ammo has come a long way. So has the technology of choke tubes,” he noted.

Although he hasn’t seen any particular rise in the number of women hunting turkeys in his area, King said he’s seeing more youth who are hunting. He observed this is likely a combination of more youth who are interested in hunting, and more parents who are taking them. “Alabama does a youth hunt the week before the regular season comes in,” he explained. “They have a whole weekend to themselves.”

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Thanks to innovations in ammunition technology, turkey hunters will find a variety
of options in both 12- and 20-gauge. Dealers say Winchester’s Long Beard XR and
Federal Premium’s 3rd Degree sell well in their stores.

One category piquing the interests of customers hunting with youth is pop-up blinds. “They’re nice for when a kid can’t sit still,” King said. “Most people still hunt on the ground. We also sell some chairs Alps makes; they keep you off the wet ground.”

Perhaps the strongest category at Southern Outdoor Sports, King said, is calls.

“We sell a lot of mouth calls and a lot of friction calls,” he noted. “Most of the friction calls we sell are glass and slate. Legacy calls do really well for us, and we sell some custom calls made locally. Slate and crystal calls are popular sellers for us, but we have a hard time selling box calls.”

In camo, one thing King has noticed is customers prefer more lightweight garments and specialty items. “It’s already usually hot for us when turkey season comes in,” he said. “Ol’ Tom does well for us, and Under Armour makes some stuff that’s real good.”

Although he doesn’t carry any taxidermy supplies, King said, he does know several taxidermists, and if a customer kills a nice bird and wants to mount the tail or do another kind of display, he refers them to one of those taxidermists.

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The SXP Long Beard is a new addition to the Winchester Repeating Arms SXP pump-action
shotgun line. Available in 12-gauge, the SXP Long Beard features a synthetic pistol grip
stock with textured gripping surfaces and the Mossy Oak Break-Up Country pattern.

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There are a variety of products available to appease your gear-savvy turkey hunters.
The hub-style Primos Double Bull Bullpen ground blind has room for multiple people to
sit comfortably while remaining concealed — which will appeal to hunters with kids. In
decoys, the new Avian-X LCD Laydown Hen (left) provides turkey hunters with a powerful
and convincing tool to help lure toms in. It has a realistic body with textured and
intricate feather lines and a no-flake paint job. The Fanatic from Montana Decoy (right)
has a double-sided 2D image with feather cuts on the fan edges and HD printing for
added realism.

Outfit Gear-Savvy Turkey Hunters

Ken Peters is one of the managers at The Sure Shot in Alexander City, Ala. He’s seeing an increase in bowhunters who are going after turkeys.
“We’re seeing an uptick in the number of archery hunters,” he said. “We’re in the Southeast in what I consider the ‘home church’ of turkey hunting, and we’re also seeing more women and children getting involved, which is great.”

Peters has noticed a lot of his turkey hunting customers spend money upgrading their equipment.

“We’re also seeing hunters purchase a lot more technical equipment. They’re getting more gear savvy. It used to be you had a box call and a single-barrel shotgun or your granddaddy’s old pump shotgun and you were set to go. Now guys have to get all the latest and greatest calls and higher-end shotguns such as a Benelli or a Beretta. And of course they want all the camo and gadgets that go along with it,” he added.

The desire for higher-end equipment is being driven in part by social media, Peters said.

“It’s also TV,” he noted. “With the Sportsman’s Channel, Outdoor Channel and other channels, hunters are paying more attention to what outdoor celebrities are using. They nitpick every piece of equipment — and they’ve got to have it.”

However, Peters said this isn’t as true for women hunters.

“I think women are just going to get out there and go,” he said. “They’re not like the guy who wants the latest and greatest; they just want to have sufficient equipment and go. Women have a tendency to be more into the experience. Men are success driven; if we go, we want to bring home a turkey.”
Peters said one thing he’s added to his inventory is blinds.

“I sell a lot more blinds than I used to,” he said. “It seems like everyone who turkey hunts now has some kind of hub-style or popup blind. It’s something we definitely keep on hand now and sell during turkey season.” Popular brands, he noted, include Ameristep and Double Bull.

Other popular items include choke tubes and the newest innovations in ammunition.

“It seems like turkey hunters are always trying to push the effective range of their guns,” Peters said. “In the past, 30 to 40 yards was good enough. Now if a guy can’t get a shotgun with a 50-yard effective pattern, then it’s not good enough. They want to just keep pushing the envelope; they’re looking for more performance and trying to get better equipment. Personally, I think 40 yards is quite far enough to be trying to shoot at a turkey. I don’t promote trying to kill them at 50 or 60 yards, but that’s market driven.”

One brand of ammunition turkey hunters are using to try to get better performance, Peters said, is Hevi-Shot.

“We also carry Winchester Long Beard XR,” he said. “We really saw a big demand when Winchester came out with that load. XR and the Hevi-Shot tend to be our most popular.” Another load hunters may want to look for is Federal Premium’s 3rd Degree ammunition, in both 12- and 20-gauge.

Like Southern Outdoor Sports, The Sure Shot maintains a list of local taxidermists who can provide turkey mounts for customers.

“We refer hunters who want to mount a turkey to them,” Peters said. “We also sell beard and fan displays from Quaker Boy and Lohman.”

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New for 2016, Knight & Hale is reintroducing an upgraded version of
the popular Ol’ Yeller friction call.

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The Traverse X Xtra from Alps OutdoorZ features a molded foam system and
Lycra shoulder straps for added comfort. Your store can be where turkey
hunters look when upgrading their products for the coming season.

Use Education To Drive Sales

Both King and Peters noted the importance of education in their stores. King makes an effort to educate customers about turkey hunting when he’s able to get professional hunters in his store.

“We try to get pro turkey hunters into the store when their schedules permit it,” he said. “This gives the customers a chance to ask them questions. We don’t necessarily get them on a weekend; it’s just whenever we can get them because they’re so busy.”

Peters feels education of his customers helps drive sales.

“We’re always trying to educate our customers,” he said. “The guys here are pretty knowledgeable, and we always try to lend our expertise any way we can.”

Peters also hosts a yearly event for turkey hunters.

“We have an annual turkey day, sometime around the end of February or the first of March,” he said. “We have all our turkey call manufacturers and vendors come in and set up tables and show off their products. They answer questions and do some demonstrations.”

The past two years, Peters said, the day has coincided with youth turkey season in Alabama.

“We’ve had a couple of manufacturers take some youth out hunting in the morning and then come in and do a turkey day seminar,” Peters said.
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