By Scott Rouleau
Three years ago, I made the decision to leave the corporate life behind and open a wing shooting preserve in southern New Hampshire called New England Upland. My goal was to build a classic New England hunting and wing shooting retreat dedicated to the sporting lifestyle.
In addition to game birds, both native and released, our property has a strong deer, bear, snowshoe hare and turkey population. We also have a healthy population of coyotes, bobcats, fishers and fox. The abundance of game on the farm prompted me to get my N.H. registered guide’s license to complement the wing shooting preserve business. The license allows me to guide for big game and predators in addition to releasing game birds for our guests.
Every predator on the property has the potential of taking money out of my pocket by killing prey intended for clients. In turn, they can also put money back into my pocket through guided predator hunts. Turning a predator problem into a revenue stream is more appealing to me than losing money, so I guide/teach predator hunting for novices and beginners.
Containing a year-round Threat
Our most abundant fur-bearing predator is the eastern coyote. They are on the property year-round chasing whitetail fawns, rabbits, mice and squirrels and make a healthy dent in our released bird population. There is year-round coyote hunting in New Hampshire, and night hunting runs from Jan. 1 to March 31 — giving me lots of options to get paying clients to help me reduce the coyote population on the farm.
Year-round guiding, both day and night, in the extremes of New England’s climate dictates the gear I use and recommend. The weapons and optics clients use has to be good for acquiring the target when I’m calling coyotes — as well as hunting them at night over bait and in multiple set ups. Anyone who has hunted the coyote will tell you having options and backup plans is crucial to putting the dogs down.
Most of our predator hunters are clientele who wing shoot here, follow us on Facebook or are looking for guides through the New Hampshire registered guides or the state’s Fish and Game Department webpage. I host free predator hunting seminars (which I market through social media) and question all of our upland guests regarding interest in hunting predators, bears, turkey or deer in addition to upland birds.
Many of our guests have never hunted coyote, but would like to try because they want to reduce pressure on prey they pursue, extend their hunting season or both. The number-one reason they haven’t is because no one has shown them how and they don’t know where to go. This is where our operation comes in.
Ruger American Rifle Predator
Change In custom
We have a long tradition of deer hunting in N.H., but it isn’t the case for coyote hunting. Coyotes were traditionally trapped, not hunted. This has changed in recent years with the rise in population of coyotes in the state and the introduction of many calls, decoys and scopes on the market designed with predator hunters in mind.
I use calls and predator decoys during the spring, summer and fall daytime hunts and hunt over bait at night during the winter from a heated shooting house. In addition to guiding/calling, we often provide the gun, optics, ammo and other necessary gear to get the job done.
Once the clients experience a coyote coming into the call or bait and they get a chance to harvest one they are usually hooked and want to do it again. This is often where the conversation turns to them buying their own gear so they can hunt coyotes on their own elsewhere or semi-guided by me on the preserve. The desire for them to hunt on their own could lead them right into your shop looking for calls, scopes, decoys, etc. I refer many of my clients to the local FFL/sporting goods owners who I know will help them with the gear they need to get started.
Benefits Of Seminars
If you’re a retailer in an area of the country with a liberal predator season and lots of coyotes around, find a local guide, product rep or experienced hunter to put on a predator-hunting clinic for your hunting clients who are curious about the sport. Other than taking someone out on a hunt to experience it firsthand, there is nothing better for influencing sales than speaking with a local expert who can help drive interest and steer purchasing decisions
Another thought: Publicize and host an in-person (or even online) seminar to boost your varmint-hunting niche. If done online, it’s facilitated with one of the many video conferencing options available today. Also, film your seminar and post a video with a call to action to have viewers reach out to your experts for follow-up questions.
A seminar is the perfect venue to introduce prospective predator hunters to the various calls and decoys you carry and how to use them. Every new predator hunter needs at least a call to get started. It is also the time to discuss firearm options, ammo and tactics for using shotguns and centerfire rifles based on the set up and scenarios. At a minimum, have a jump-start offering with a call and decoy for sale.
Bobcats, coyotes and foxes run rampant on the grounds of New England Upland Preserve. Owner/Operator Scott Rouleau has found a way to diminish his predator population while creating an additional revenue stream.
Permitting night hunting is allowed in your state, have a selection of night vision/thermal scope options as well as green and red LED lights to demonstrate. If you are a Class III dealer, have a selection of suppressors to show prospects, provided you are in one of the 40 states where they are legal for hunting. Hunting suppressed at night, where legal, goes a long way to keeping the peace with neighbors.
I also recommend using wireless driveway alarms to set up on bait piles so the shooter is alerted to a predator coming into the bait, as well as portable individual heaters for night hunting out of blinds in colder parts of country. You may not sell these, but giving them additional tips and tricks to help increase their odds goes a long way to helping close a deal.
While New England’s extreme climate dictates what I use, your region’s surroundings likely have their own characteristics. Figure out what the best options are for your area, seasons and state regulations and have a demo day or seminar with the appropriate gear for your prospects two to three times a year. The predator seminars I have conducted have gone a long way to building repeat business with clients and generating sales for my local FFL partners. I hope this approach is equally successful for you.
Scott Rouleau is the Owner/Operator of New England Upland Shooting Preserve, located in Hillsborough, N.H.