2017: It’s a Tough Economy for the Gun & Hunting Industry Right Now

2017 tough ecnomyThe health care chaos last week on Capitol Hill notwithstanding, things have been looking pretty good since President Trump’s election last November. The stock market is up and consumer confidence is high as the President reduces burdensome regulations on business and moves to act on tax reform this summer.

But ironically the election of our first pro-gun president in 8 years has slowed the sale of firearms and softened the overall shooting/hunting market. In recent years, with anti-gun Barack Obama at the helm and with the prospect of Hillary looming for another 8 years, law-abiding and freedom–loving Americans had a deep and well-founded concern that their gun rights were in serious jeopardy, and so we purchased guns and hoarded ammunition at a record pace.

But now, with President Trump in the White House and our Second Amendment rights secure for now, firearms sales have slowed and as a consequence cast a pale over the entire industry.

Colt, Savage, Remington and Federal Premium recently announced that they are constricting business and laying off employees, and many industry experts predict that other manufacturers will follow suit.

The record sales and profits from firearms and especially ammunition of the last 5 years carried over into the general outdoor and hunting market, and helped to account for decent to good sales. For example, a guy walked into a Cabela’s store to buy 3 boxes of ammo, and he picked up a new camo jacket and some other stuff on the way to the register. But many of those impulse buys have dried up and dried up fast.

In addition to declining gun/ammo sales is the overall retail industry’s struggles of 2017 and beyond. Namely, how do retailers with heavy investment in brick-and-mortar survive and grow in the Amazon world? You likely have empty storefronts in your hometown that thrived just 5 short years ago.

You might have heard that Gander Mountain recently declared bankruptcy, and as a part of that will close 32 of 162 retail stores in 11 different states. Click to see if a GM store near you is on the list to be shuttered.

Word is that Bass Pro Shops’ $4.5 billion deal to buy Cabela’s could be in jeopardy as federal regulators have requested more information from both parties. But most financial experts predict that the merger will still be approved and completed, most likely later this fall.

The bowhunting industry is not immune. The Outdoor Wire spoke with industry experts who pointed to significant problems facing the archery business and the considerable drop-off in bow and gear sales. One big reason—the trend of manufacturers toward high-end bows that cost $1,000 to $1,500. Not all hard-working hunters can fork out a good chunk of a mortgage payment for a new bow, so fewer bows are sold each year, and people are upgrading less and keeping their bows for 4 or 5 years.

While the gun/bow/hunting/outdoor industry is facing uncertain and tough economic times, there is light on the horizon. If President Trump can get our dysfunctional Congress to work together for once and approve meaningful tax reform for corporations and individuals alike this summer, and retroactive to January 1, 2017, the industry (and all retail) will receive an immediate boost. History shows that every time people get even a little more money in their pockets, they will spend some of it on their passions. There are no more passionate Americans than deer hunters. Give us back some more of our money and we’ll buy a new rifle or bow or trail camera or camo, just in time for the 2017-18 season.

As for the manufacturers, you will continue to see some constriction and shifting business strategies in the short term, but that can be a good thing. Smart business leaders step back, analyze changing market trends and then build and market products that people will buy in 2018, in this case quality and affordable guns and bows.

For retailers large and small, the future is inescapable and simple. We all still love to go to a Cabela’s,  Bass Pro or Gander store, and we love our local gun shop. We’ll still buy at those stores, but if a company is not heavily online and Mobile, they’re out of business or soon will be.

What about you? Are you spending less on gear? Buying more online? Will you purchase a new gun this year? Does a new bow cost too much?

Virginia 2016: Wayne Mills Bow Buck Nets 172 6/8

VA wayne mills 2016

Excerpt of the story Wayne Mills, who lives and hunts in north-central Virginia, told me one day last fall, read the whole post here:

On Friday, October 21st we had a cold front moving in and forecast for winds to swing from the SW to the N after the front came through. I got in the stand about 2:00 p.m. and waited for the shift in the wind. By 3:30 the wind had started blowing from the north. At 5:15 the birds alerted me, and I looked toward the ruckus to see a deer moving through the brush about 40 yards away, coming out of the bedding area.

I saw a rack… It looked unusual. I saw that it had good mass and spread and attached my release to my bowstring and no longer looked at his rack. The buck continued moving along the trail and passed 17 paces from my stand, offering a broadside shot.

I shot him as he walked and it was a good hit. I watched him go down. When I got to him I was awestruck….I couldn’t count the points. He is a main-frame 12-point with split brow tines and stickers coming from his bases on both sides. All told he has 22 points, 21 score-able. 

Wayne told me yesterday that he just received the final official score. The giant netted 172 6/8 non-typical, making it one of the Top 10 P&Y bucks from the great state of Virginia. I hope to film a segment with Wayne and his buck for my TV show soon.

Oklahoma 2016 Deer Season: Top Big Deer Year!

Ok 2016 ocktor buckOne day last August I blogged: From what I’m seeing and hearing this has the potential to be the best buck season across America since 2010.

It was, and here is a good example.

From Paul’s Valley Democrat: Oklahoma’s 2016 deer season is well on its way to revamping the record books.

Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said: “I have the privilege of seeing a bunch of big deer racks pass through my office every year and I’ve never seen this many at one time.

Several monstrous non-typicals from the bow season have been reported so far, including Travis Ocker’s 245 2/8” beast from Comanche County (photo top).

More racks scoring from 180 into the 190s have been certified by the wildlife department, and huge racks taken during the state’s firearms season have not begun showing up yet.

ok 2016 scott and me buck

I can vouch for the good hunting there last year. Our group of 5 arrived in camp in western Oklahoma the day after Thanksgiving. The rut was still rocking, and although we didn’t shoot any monsters, we went 5 for 5 on solid bucks. You’ll see the action on a 2-part episode of BIG DEER TV on Sportsman Channel later this fall.

Whitetail How-To: Hunt a Buck Rub

Mature bucks feeling the rut not only thrash trees with their antlers in November, they also see and veer over to smell, lick and rack other rubs that rival males have made.

laruebuckiowa

In Iowa one November day, Brian LaRue looked up and saw a monster coming. Sixty yards out the 22-pointer stopped and mauled a sapling, then looked toward Brian’s tree and lugged on in. The hunter drilled the 222-inch non-typical with an arrow. “I’m convinced he saw the big rub on the other side of my stand and was making a straight line for it,” Brian says.

That’s the rub behind Brian and his beast in the picture above.

My buddy Luke Strommen read that post and got to thinking: What if I fake a similar scenario and see what happens?

Luke went out and dug up an aromatic cedar post that literally hundreds of different bucks had rubbed for 60 years on his Montana ranch. He moved the post a mile to an alfalfa field by the Milk River, and sunk it in the ground near where two big trails snaked out of the brush. He the hung a tree stand 20 yards downwind of the manufactured rub. He would rest the spot awhile, then come back to hunt it around November 12, prime time for bucks to be on their feet, moving and rubbing.

A week later, Luke sneaked along the river bank in the dark, and climbed up into the stand. When the sun came up, he would watch for a buck sneaking back to bed from a long night of feeding and checking does out in the nearby alfalfa.

luke cedar post snap

When the sun rose, look what he found. Sometime during the week that Luke had rested the stand, a buck(s) had come along and rubbed on the cedar post until it snapped in half! “When I got down and investigated, there were several sets of big tracks in the mud around the post, so different bucks had come to check it.”

Deer hunting is all about being in the right place at the right time. Had Luke been in the stand, and had it been daylight, when a buck came in to smell, lick and rub the post, he would have gotten a bow shot.

So you might want to hunt near a fresh rub, or make or move one and hunt it this November.

 

Indiana Bow: Bleat Calling Bucks in the Rut

I got this email from Kenny from back in 2014:

South in kenny 1

Mike: I watch your TV show all the time and want to thank you for the great information on deer hunting. I watched the recent episode “10 things to know about the whitetail rut” and took your advice. I hunted every day from November 8th to the 11th (Veterans Day); you said in the show that these were the best days of the season.

I grunted, rattled and used a bleat can, as you suggested in the show. I called in and shot the biggest deer of my life! Shot him from a ground blind at 28 yards with my Hoyt Faktor. –Thanks again, Kenny Kyte from southern Indiana

P.S., I’ve already scheduled my vacation for November 8-11 for next deer season

I got this email from Kenny last month: 

south in kenny 2

Mike: I was unsuccessful in 2015. But on Veteran’s Day 2016 I was able to use your rut tactics once again to be successful in the deer woods. I was able to call in this buck not once, but twice. I had been in the stand for about 35 minutes and hit the bleat call. He came right in, but I didn’t have a good shot, so I let him walk. I waited about 30 minutes and hit the bleat can again. The buck came running to me! I didn’t let him get away for the 2nd time.

Needless to say, I’ve had my best days in the woods November 8 to 11…2 bucks in 3 years on Veteran’s Day. Thanks again for the advice.–Kenny