Author: Scott Gieseke
The “Meet Your Newest Customer” signage at the 2016 ATA Trade Show puts a spotlight on an emerging trend: young, urban people taking up bowhunting, and hunting in general. These young people — sometimes labeled hipsters or locavores or, even, lumbersexuals — are motivated by healthy lifestyles and organic food and, often, a distaste for commercial farming.
A few of our ATA-member retailers have noticed customers who fit this persona, particularly those doing business in urban and suburban landscapes. There is little data to substantiate it … yet. But the accounts of a rising interest in hunting from the unlikeliest of places — Blue State America — are worth watching.
So, a few questions …
What if these urban hunters continue to emerge and their enthusiasm matches what we’ve already seen among teen girls inspired by Katniss Everdeen and movies like “Brave”?
Would it make a difference? Would these people drive sales? Would targeting them be worthwhile?
We don’t know have the answers, but reports and feature stories give us enough information to survey the landscape. Let’s take a look.
Evolution Of the Urban Hunter
First, Emma Marris writing for Slate.com does as good a job as anyone to give context to the trend. How did it emerge? While, this account is satirical, there is truth in satire and this has plenty of it:
I think the evolution of the new lefty urban hunter goes something like this:
2006: Reads Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmer’s market.
2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
2009: Decides to only eat “happy meat” that has been treated humanely.
2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking “how hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.”
The article offers this thought as well, which may boil down the underpinnings of a legit and fruitful marketing strategy for industry companies:
“And all it (urbanites adoption of hunting) takes is overturning two long-held beliefs among many urban liberals: that it is wrong to personally kill animals and that hunters are all rural conservatives.
The Gateway Garden
An article posted to “The Telegraph” captioned: “It’s cool to compost: a survey suggests that the young are increasingly embracing gardening.” Photo: Alamy
Leaders in our industry often say archery serves as a gateway sport to bowhunting. Well, what if gardening is a gateway to hunting? It seems like a stretch, but it’s actually practical. A young, earnest person, let’s call him Toby, is growing his own vegetables and he’s feeling great about himself. He’s self-reliant!
According to an article in Yahoo! titled “Millennials Fueling Green Thumbed Revolution, “42 million households, 17 percent more than five years ago, now grow food in home and community gardens, according to a new five-year report from the National Gardening Association. And younger Americans—millennials, specifically—are driving the gardening revolution. The NGA found millennial gardeners increased from eight million in 2008 to 13 million in 2013—a 63 percent increase in five years.”
But then our friend Toby looks at his plate of garden fare and only sees that perfectly, symmetrical chicken breast from Kroger.
And he starts feeling like a sham.
So here’s what a guy like Toby might come to understand:
“Besides, hunting is green. Hazel Wong, a senior policy adviser at the Nature Conservancy, told me that to pass environmental legislation at the state level, “believe it or not, we work with hunting groups a lot.” I wasn’t surprised. Conservation in America was practically founded by hunters. Yellowstone was first envisioned as a giant game reserve that would create big populations of animals that hunters could nab as they spilled out over the boundaries. Our first conservation-minded president, Teddy Roosevelt, mowed down untold hundreds of animals in his long career as a sport hunter. And “hook and bullet” organizations continue to fight for land protection. You see, you need nature to go hunting. And hunters—liberal and conservative—generally like nature. That’s why they are out in it.” — Slate.com
Hunting Is the New Beekeeping, So Get on That.
Or so says the headline from Jezebel, a feminist blog averaging over 8 million unique visitors per month.
The adoption of hunting as a hobby by those who bear zero resemblance to the cast of Duck Dynasty continues! When last we checked in, it was women taking up their rifles in the hopes of bringing home the venison. Now it’s food-supply-conscious, authenticity-seeking urbanites—i.e., hipsters.
A Red Meat Thing
Minnesota Public Radio says little stands in the way of this movement. Certainly, the motivation is already there. It’s only liberal guilt that lingers.
Really, the only things standing between many young would-be hunters and their first hunting license is the misperception that all hunters are rural, conservative stereotypes—and a heavy dose of liberal guilt. As writer Emma Marris says in her piece for Slate magazine, “hunting is not a red state thing. It is a red meat thing.”
So are “hipsters who hunt” a growing trend? Maybe. On the East Coast there are hunting classes for locavores. A new study shows increased interest in hunting for “green” food and to save money.
The Most Unlikely Trend? Hunters Are Influencing Fashion.
Reports “The Economist“:
Filson’s 21st-century gold rush started when an emerging urban generation began to prize its unreconstructed ruggedness for reasons more aesthetic than practical. It opened a shop behind Carnaby Street in London, a new factory in Idaho, and then made its Manhattan debut.
In Filson’s New York outpost the walls are lined with axes and cotton tote-bags emblazoned with line drawings of gun dogs. Display cases bustle with thermos flasks, copper kettles and nickel-plated screw-top canisters designed to keep your matches dry. According to the manager, they sell as many as ten of these a week to young Manhattanites.
And, to close, this from Buzzfeed in a post titled, “How Gun Culture Won Over Liberals.”
Buzzfeed notes, “the “urban woodsman” trend has been well-documented, with one 2010 Esquire piece referring to the emerging flannel-and-boots hipster aesthetic as the “Field-and-Streamification” of fashion.”