Raking in Dove Dollars

Opening day of dove season is around the corner. Now’s the time to start cashing in on those dove dollars.

Raking in Dove Dollars

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates there are approximately 200 million doves living in America. Doves are plentiful, and so are those who hunt them. The same agency estimates more than 1 million hunters pursue doves each fall from coast to coast. More great news is that 40 states permit dove hunting, and most hunting seasons for those flighty birds begins Labor Day or around Labor Day weekend. Migratory birds, including doves, added more than $4 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. Are you serving this market and gaining a share of those dove dollars?

In most states, the opening day of dove season signals the start of the many fall hunting seasons — and the start of the prolonged fall and winter shopping seasons by hunters. While shotguns and shotshells are big movers with dove hunters, other dove-connected hunting gear can mean profits in your pocket. The key seems to be: If you have it, get it noticed! 

Shoppers who purchase hunting goods and gear just prior to the dove opener are also more likely to return in that September-through-December period for other hunting staples if they find a perceived bargain and if they have a positive shopping experience with you. Is your business providing these positive purchase points for customers?

The Big Market

While shotguns and shotshells are a starting point, there are other items that end up in the hands, pickup trucks, and open fields with dove hunters. These accessory items include but are not limited to: gun cases (hard and soft), camouflage clothing, footwear, dove decoys, folding seats and green or camouflage 5-gallon buckets with cushion tops, camouflage daypacks or field bags, coolers, open-top ground blinds or camouflage concealment panels, binoculars, plus a wide range of snacks and water bottles.  Don’t forget hunting gear for the many dogs that head afield with their dove-hunting owners. Dog gear can often be easier to sell than gear for humans!

That’s a wide range of dove-connected hunting gear, but to increase shopping, you need to get ’em out and get ’em noticed. Creating a dove hunter display at or near the front of your store is a starting point. Placing dove decoys around the entrance, around the store, and definitely in that display can grab shoppers’ attention and build their excitement for the dove opener.

Another category of top sellers as dove season approaches are throwers and clay targets. Most hunters want to practice their shotgunning skills before the opener, and if they are inviting young or new hunters, they want to help them prepare. The throwers and targets could be among your top sellers if you work to call attention to the benefits of being a better shotgunner. Be certain to also stock shotgun chokes. Promote these with shoppers.

Finally, if you sell hunting licenses, broadcast this additional service. Not all hunters can buy a license online, and if you sell a hunter a license, they must open their wallet. It would also be beneficial and spur shopping to put out a huge sign noting it is X number of days until the dove opener.

As you can see, dove hunting can be a very gear-focused activity, which means many opportunities to engage hunters and generate shopping activity.

Dove decoys are a strong accessory category, in addition to the obvious need — shotgun shells.
Dove decoys are a strong accessory category, in addition to the obvious need — shotgun shells.

A Dove Sale Equals Dollars

After the deer-hunting seasons close in January or earlier, and the spring turkey-hunting season closes in late spring, hunter numbers visiting retail businesses can be very low or nonexistent. Having a big sale, pulling all the marketing strings, and spreading the word through multiple marketing channels can result in the return of hunters and many cash register rings. Success means offering a wide range of goods and getting ahead of the opening day. Dove-hunting sales can be much like opening a flood gate — the bigger the sale and specials, the more activity you generate.

Collecting those dove-hunting-centered dollars is greatly based on timing. Think and plan ahead. You can make more sales if you start pushing merchandise and calling attention to dove season in mid-July to early August. These are often the slowest months for engaging your hunting customer base, so the more you can motivate that market to open your front door and their wallets, the more you can transform this sometimes slow shopping season into increased sales.

Since most dove hunters take more than a shotgun and box of shotshells afield with them, here’s another market when packaging can equal greater sales. Simplify shopping for your customers by offering a package, such as a combo with dove decoys, a green or camouflage cooler, and a folding hunting seat. Another promo package could be buying a new shotgun and getting a free soft case, or if customers purchase a clay target thrower, they receive a free case of clay targets. Pricing to add value for the buyer and profits for you can definitely increase sales. When possible, add your business name and contact info to items like gun cases, coolers and seats. It’s advertising that can reach many hunters in the field — and those could become shoppers.

One item more dove hunters are increasingly taking afield are decoys, for one simple reason: They work.

“The key to an effective dove decoy display is having something eye-catching and immediately accessible,” says Stevie Barefield, Director of Marketing for MOJO Outdoors. “Dove decoys are such a seasonal item, and customers want to be able to quickly see the functionality, grab the decoy and go. A creative display at the entrance of the store, like a tower or pyramid built from the product boxes along with a Dove Tree, Elite Series Dove, and Clip-On Doves displayed in the center, is a great way to accomplish this.” This is a great starting point with gear placed in displays, especially those in the front window or near the entrance. Be creative!

One other product needs your attention: shotguns. While most customers — and retailers — think only 12-gauge models when shotguns are discussed, the dove season is the period when those 20-, 28- and 16-gauge shotguns sell. Be prepared, stock plenty of sub-gauge shells, and promote these other gauges with your customers. Both older and beginning dove hunters normally seek shotguns that offer less recoil. Another item that can always be discussed with customers who purchase a shotgun or case of shells are the easy-to-open-and-use shotshell hard-polymer shotshell storage containers like those from Flambeau. Numerous hunters like not having to fight a small cardboard box to access shotshells when rushed but do like being able to quickly grab shotshells and load.

Remember to promote practicing with dove hunters. This will increase sales of shotshells, shotguns, clay targets and the throwers needed.
Remember to promote practicing with dove hunters. This will increase sales of shotshells, shotguns, clay targets and the throwers needed.

Reach Those Other Customers

While your regular dove-hunting customers are probably mostly adult males, there is another significant customer base associated with those dove hunting seasons — youth and female hunters. Often, your regular customers bring these additional customers with them as they shop. Other times, those new female customers come shopping unassisted. Be prepared to make contact with them and meet their needs. Listen closely to their requests and questions.

In case you have not heard, hunter numbers are growing again. Dove hunting opens the door for many youth and female hunters, who need items ranging from shotguns to clothing that properly fits. Smart dads, moms, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends who will be taking these new hunters on their first visit to a dove field (plus savvy retailers) know properly fitting clothing and shotguns can mean the beginning of a lifetime of hunting adventures for those new hunters — or, unfortunately, their last hunting trip when things falter.

Stock and offer the products for this new hunter market segment. Reaching these customers often means promoting your store and the goods inside through new channels, such as websites and social media networks. Put youth clothing in displays and advertising. Get it noticed. Offering merchandise geared to new hunters can put you ahead — far ahead — of your competition who only serves middle-age male hunters.

Along with selling hunting licenses, there is another key item dove hunters need: information. Help customers get engaged for the hunt and post information in the store about legal shooting hours, bag and daily limits, public hunting areas nearby, transporting firearms legally, and other details. A step further is to put this information on the back of a printed sales circular that also showcases the shotguns and dove gear you have on sale. You simply stuff that sheet into customer’s bags or place it into their hands if they ask about, or mention, dove hunting. Many shoppers begin thinking about this key season the month(s) before Labor Day, so plan ahead and stock up. If your ordered merchandise only arrives, or is placed on shelves, the week ahead, or week after, Labor Day, you have missed sales and income.

Doves are dollars. Focusing on this market share provides many benefits for you — and your customers.


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