Conservation

How Retailers can use Statewide Hunter Statistics to Boost Bowhunting

Understanding the average person’s license-buying habits, harvest records and hunting behavior can help shape your shop’s inventory, classes and programs, and help you increase profits.
Photo Credit: John Hafner

Author: Cassie Scott

What if you had insider knowledge that outlined hunter demographics in your state? Imagine how understanding the average person’s license-buying habits, harvest records and hunting behavior could shape your shop’s inventory, classes and programs. You’d likely have more customers and increased sales.

What if we told you that information exists? Would you take advantage of it? You should!

Most states wildlife agencies track license-sales data to reveal information about hunters and hunting. Some states are starting to use that information to create more strategic recruitment, retention and reactivation plans to boost hunting participation statewide. Their efforts can increase and stabilize hunter numbers, which equates to the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold. In turn, those licenses generate more money for states to manage wildlife populations, regulate hunting and fishing, and increase access to public lands.

State agencies are driven by the need to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, but so are you. More bowhunters equals more paying customers. The best part? Their data is available for you to access. You just need to find it and use it to benefit your business.

The Missouri Case Study

After analyzing datasets, the Missouri Department of Conservation found female bowhunters increased 39.7 percent. This information can help retailers tailor equipment to women to keep them engaged and active in the sport. Photo Credit: John Hafner

The Missouri Department of Conservation is analyzing their datasets to help guide industry and agency marketing efforts, but their findings can help Missouri retailers, if they’re paying attention.

Here are three examples of what the MDC found when analyzing data over the past ten years – and suggestions to help you use this data to grow your archery business.

1. The find: Female bowhunters grew from 11,724 to 19,430, a 39.7 percent increase.

The fix: Tailor equipment to women to keep them engaged and active in the sport. Emily Beach, ATA’s senior director of outreach and education, said if you cannot outfit a new archer with proper equipment, you don’t just risk losing the sale. You also miss the opportunity to create a lifelong bowhunter or archer. Retailers need to carry equipment that is appropriate for females starting out in the sport, such as bows with adjustable draw lengths, lighter draw weights, and user-friendly accessories that appeal to newer audiences.

2. The find: Female bowhunters are typically younger than male bowhunters.

The fix: Keep women engaged longer. This goes hand-in-hand with the example above. Lonnie Hansen, a retired resource scientist with the MDC, analyzes the data to identify trends. He found more females are hunting, but their dropout rate is much higher than males. Hansen believes females drop out when starting and raising a family. To keep women engaged longer, retailers can promote family-friendly hunting classes or events. They can also provide multiple equipment options for younger archers to keep families engaged.

3. The find: The most consistent participants are 45 to 64 years old. Hunters younger than 34 are less consistent. In fact, only 15 to 30 percent hunt for four consecutive years.

The fix: Offer programs like Field-to-ForkExplore Bowhunting or Explore Bowfishing to engage younger audiences and lure in curious parties. According to Beach, classes will bring in people who have never visited your store before. They provide beginners with a safe place to try something new, and give you the opportunity to create a new customer.

How to Apply the Statistics in Your State to Your Store

“Retailers can benefit from knowing what people are buying in their area, so they know what to stock their shelves with,” said Emily Beach, ATA’s senior director of outreach and education. “ … If bowfishing is growing in your state and you’re not familiar with it, get familiar with it, learn about it and make sure you have what people need.” Photo Credit: Paul Sherar/ATA

Each state will have their own set of statistics unique to their licensed bowhunters. Retailers should contact their state wildlife agency for hunter statistics and to begin making changes relative to their specific location.

“Retailers can benefit from knowing what people are buying in their area, so they know what to stock their shelves with,” Beach said. “If most hunters use crossbows, then stock up on crossbows and crossbow-specific equipment. In that case, it’s also smart to advertise crossbow maintenance options or host informational crossbow classes. All those things will bring customers to your door.”

The same goes for other trends, such as bowfishing.

“If bowfishing is growing in your state and you’re not familiar with it, learn about it and make sure you have what people need,” Beach said. “Most importantly, be a friendly, reliable and trustworthy business in your community which will allow you to easily communicate with potential customers.

If you’re proactive about adapting to current trends, you’ll likely see your efforts pay off via increases in both customers and profits.

Contact your state wildlife agency for hunter statistics and information. Ask them how to become an active partner to get involved in R3 efforts and work toward increasing bowhunting license sales. Doing so will benefit your business – and your state’s efforts to grow bowhunting.

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