Survey Says: 23.8 Million Americans Enjoyed Archery in 2015

Archery participation increased over 20 percent from 2012 to 2015, according to the Archery Trade Association’s nationwide survey.
Photo Credit: John Hafner

Author: Cassie Scott

Archery and bowhunting participation jumped over 20 percent from 2012 to 2015, with 23.8 million American citizens age 18 and older taking part a year ago.

The participation increase was documented in a nationwide survey by Responsive Management on behalf of the Archery Trade Association in April 2016. The results found 9.9 percent of Americans 18 and older shot archery sports in 2015. The results had a scientific error rate of +/- 1.62%. Responsive Management also conducted surveys on archery participation in 2012 and 2014.

How did people participate in archery in 2015?

  • 6.5 percent of respondents shot archery only.
  • 1.2 percent bowhunted exclusively.
  • 2.3 percent shot archery and bowhunted.

The 2016 study reveals archery participation rose 9.2 percent from the 2014 survey results and 20.6 percent from the 2012 survey. Of these participants, 64 percent were male and 36 percent were female, an increase of 14 percentage points in female participation since 2014. The ATA’s 2016 study also found 62 percent of all archery participants used a compound bow, followed by nearly equal percentages who used a crossbow, 22 percent; a recurve bow, 21 percent; or a long bow or any other type of traditional bow, 19 percent.

The ATA’s 2016 study found that 19 percent of all archery participants used a long bow or any other type of traditional bow. Photo Credit: John Hafner Photo

What’s driving individuals to shoot arrows? In a word, fun. According to the survey, 76 percent of all archery participants are recreational archers, who shoot casually or for fun. Meanwhile, 35 percent are bowhunters who shoot only to prepare for bowhunting, and 20 percent are competitive archers who practice for tournaments or bowhunting.

The increase in overall archery participation was driven primarily from sustained growth in recreational archery. The number of people who exclusively bowhunt decreased from the 2014 survey, but remains nearly identical to 2012, indicating no real change in the number of U.S. bowhunters.

“The interesting aspect of the continued growth in participation is that retailers have not seen an increase in archery equipment purchases,” said Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO. “Generally, sales at many retail shops are down, and some have seen double-digit declines, although many of them attribute sales trends to bowhunters not buying new equipment.”

McAninch said the archery industry needs to figure out how to reverse this phenomenon of decreased sales despite increased participation. “It’s hard to convince outsiders that we’re having problems when more people are taking up archery than ever before,” McAninch said.

It’s possible that more people are getting interested in archery because of blockbuster movies like “The Hunger Games” and TV shows like CW’s “Arrow.” Constant references in pop culture and the power of referral business have also helped this once-niche sport become an American mainstay.

The number of people who exclusively bowhunt decreased from the 2014 survey, but remains nearly identical to 2012, indicating no real change in the number of U.S. bowhunters. Photo Credit: John Hafner Photo

The ATA, acting on behalf of its member retailers and manufacturers, has long worked to grow archery and bowhunting through programs like Explore Archery, Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing. It also supports other programs like the National Archery in the Schools Program since 2002. The ATA focuses staff and financial resources on joint programs with schools, state wildlife agencies, local parks and recreation agencies, and shooting and hunting organizations to build community archery programs and shooting facilities.

To take advantage of recent media-generated excitement about archery, the ATA also developed Archery 360 and Bowhunting 360, websites and social media pages that help attract people to archery and then sustain their interest. The sites build those connections by providing how-to content and a connection to local archery retailers via the site’s store locator.

The 2016 survey also evaluated expenditures by archery participants, and found 55 percent of target archers bought archery equipment, while 72 percent of bowhunters bought bowhunting equipment. Both groups also paid for travel to participate in archery activities.

Regardless of how folks enter archery, or whether they shoot for fun, hunting or competition, their increased numbers help archery retailers and manufacturers. In fact, archers also help conservation through federal excise taxes paid on bows and arrows through the Pittman-Robertson Act. For over 40 years, FET paid by archery manufacturers has generated revenues for state wildlife agencies to buy and support access to public lands, and manage the nation’s wildlife, including game species.

According to the ATA’s archery participation survey, 76 percent of all participants are recreational archers, who shoot casually or for fun. In addition, the survey found that 65 percent of all participants shoot target archery only. Photo Credit: ATA

The ATA commissioned the Responsive Management studies to determine regional and national participation rates in archery throughout 2015. These results help the industry continue its growth by tailoring retail products and services to active archers, and adapting marketing strategies to target new consumers.

“This survey overall was a case of good news, bad news,” McAninch said. “The good news is that participation continues to grow overall, and recreational archery is bringing new people into our market. The bad news is that bowhunting participation remains lower than a decade ago, which is a major reason for the industry’s recent downturn.”

To address this recent trend, the ATA developed a “Bowhunting Initiative,” which focuses substantial staff time and resources to improve bowhunter numbers. In addition, after the current (2016) season closes, the ATA will investigate in detail the reasons for soft bowhunter participation. The ATA expects to have hard data to help the industry move forward in 2017.

“While the Bowhunting Initiative works to improve the number of bowhunters, we’re also helping the industry maintain and keep growing the number of people who shoot bows and arrows for fun,” McAninch said.


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