Now that spring is here, are you looking at a lull in sales until the summer fishing season begins? Even worse, if you don't have fishing in your mix, are you expecting flat sales until the fall hunting season? Not if you're among the retailers who have discovered spring turkey hunting sales.
"Spring turkey gear is a self-sell," says Brad Harris, of Outland Sports, a company that owns Lobman and MAD River game calls. "The spring turkey season is extremely strong. It's a springboard for the year, as far as hunters are concerned."
This adds up to the potential for great sales.
"Hunters are looking for new products and new ideas that give them success during turkey season," Harris says. "If you aren't selling during this season, you're missing a huge number of hunters who want to buy."
Most turkey hunters are anglers as well, Harris says.
"By attracting the turkey-hunting market, you can sell a lot of fishing items," he says. "They're looking for other things besides straight turkey-hunting products. It keeps those folks wanting to come in and look -- you're capitalizing on turkey season."
Yes, your customer already has a shotgun he uses for ducks and another one he takes to the sporting clays range. A turkey gun is a different kind of shotgun, and any serious turkey hunter is going to want one.
Eddie Stevenson, of Remington, says turkey guns have certain features that are designed to give hunters an edge in the field.
"They come with shorter barrels for greater mobility," Stevenson says. "Sighting systems may be cantilevered scope mounts, a double bead, or TruGlo fiber-optic rifle sights."
Another characteristic of turkey shot-guns is their tightly constricted choke, designed to deliver tight, dense down-range patterns.
"They're adequate for taking turkeys from zero out to around the 40-yard mark," Stevenson says.
The trend in today's turkey guns is 12-gauge models in 3-inch Magnum, although many hunters still swear by their 2- or 3-inch guns. Most turkey guns are camouflaged, yet some have a black matte finish or feature a birch stock and black-matte metal parts. The most poplar offerings from Remington include the 870 and the 1187 Super Magnum in pump or semi-auto, all in Mossy Oak Break-Up.
"We have a couple of new introductions this year, the Super Mag in both 870 and 1187 in 3-inch Magnum, full camo, with TruGlo rifle sights," Stevenson says. "We also have a youth version of some of our models, which delivers a full payload with a shorter stock for youth or small-statured hunters."
Mossberg has several turkey guns. The 835 Ulti-Mag pump shotgun comes in two 12-gauge versions in Woodlands camo finish, as well as in Realtree X-tra Brown, Realtree Hardwoods, and Mossy Oak Shadow Grass. New for 2001 is an 835 Ulti-Mag in Realtree Advantage Timber, a pattern that was introduced last year and has quickly gained popularity.
Browning offerings in turkey guns include the BPS 10-gauge turkey/waterfowl model in Mossy Oak Break-Up. Also look for the BPS 12-gauge Turkey Special. In what they call the "ultimate" turkey gun, Browning offers a Gold Turkey Shotgun in Mossy Oak Break-Up with a Hi-Viz sight, chambered for both 3-and 3 1/2-inch shells.
From U.S. Repeating Arms, look for a new model of the Winchester 1300, the Mossy Oak Break-Up version in 3-inch Magnum. The Super X2 also comes in a new 31/2 -inch turkey gun in Break-Up and composite black.
Shotgun scopes and mounts have several distinguishing characteristics.
"Generally, they must have good lightgathering capability," says Chuck Miller, director of operations for Millett Sights. "Turkey scopes need a wide field of view, because a hunter must put down his call, pick up the gun and find the target in a hurry, without a lot of moving around. Because most shotgun receivers are shorter than those on rifles, hunters will generally want a compact scope. In addition, an ideal turkey scope has a reticle that will show up quickly and give a hunter a good view of the target."
Millett takes two approaches to turkey scopes.
"We offer red dot compact scopes specifically for the turkey hunter," Miller says. "We also make three compact scopes with diamond reticles for the turkey market. In addition to a crosshair, they have a thick diamond in the center of the crosshairs that a hunter can place on the turkey's head if he's in a hurry or the light is dim."
Millett also makes a line of shotgun saddle mounts to go with their scopes.
"We make saddle mounts for Remington 870s, 1100s and 1187s, as well as some Winchesters and Mossbergs. This allows a hunter to use the vent rib if he wants to keep his head down and look through the mount. Or, he can use the optic on the mount," Miller says.
Leupold offers several compact and shotgun scopes for close-in shooting. Most come with Leupold's Heavy Duplex reticle for precise shot placement on targets in dense cover. At Bushnell, Laura Olinger says their best scopes for turkey hunters continue to be those in the Elite 4200 Series. She also recommends the Sportsman line, particularly the 1.5-4.5x32 with a Circle X reticle.
As with guns and optics, there are definite trends -- and high-tech features -- in turkey-hunting ammunition.
"In our Premium turkey ammunition, the pellets are high-antimony shot, which makes them harder," says Mike Larsen of Federal Cartridge. "They're copperplated, and the Magnum loads are buffered. That means they have a granulated plastic material mixed with the pellets, kind of like plastic peanuts that are used in packing to prevent things from breaking. The buffer acts the same way, helping the pellets retain their round shape when the gun is fired and when the pellets go through the choke."
Another trend is less shot but higher-velocity loads.
"Hunters are asking for a few less pellets, but more per-pellet knock-down power," Larsen says. "They're shooting mostly fours and sixes (shot sizes), which probably account for 90 percent of turkey shells. You still have a few people using fives and a few using 71/2 , but not many."
Remington has its own version of a high-tech load, Copper-Lokt, which is available in 4s, 5s and 6s. Look for shells for 10, 12 and 20 gauge.
Winchester offers a selection of 10 gauge loads in copper-plated buffered shot. Both Supreme Double-X Magnum Turkey Loads and Supreme High Velocity Turkey Loads come in 4s, 5s and 6s.
According to Outland Sports' Brad Harris, hunters are looking for two things in calls: the traditional products they've had success with in the past, and new, innovative ideas. A high percentage of what hunters buy is, of course, hen calls. These calls come in two general categories: friction calls and air-operated calls, Friction hen calls include box calls, push-button calls and slate calls.
"Then you have air-operated calls, which include mouth diaphragms," Harris says.
One new trend in blown calls is the pump-action yelper.
"A pump-action yelper makes hen calling as easy as you can make it, with the most realism you can have," Harris says. "You pump a handle, which forces air over a mouth diaphragm inserted into the call. It's new products like this that hunters are looking for."
Beyond hen calls, there are locator calls, such as crow calls, owl hooters and coyote howlers.
"These are natural loud sounds that in the spring cause turkeys to gobble and give a hunter the opportunity to locate them," Harris says. "The next category is non-vocal sounds, such as wing sounds that simulate turkeys flying up or down or fighting."
Specialty vocal calls imitate sounds that dominant gobblers make, such as spitting, drumming and fighting purrs.
Hunter's Specialties has long been a leader in hunting calls. New for 2001 is the Alumiwitch Aluminum Wild Turkey Call, Ol' Mama Hen Box Call, and Volume V of "Cutt'n and Strutt'n," the hot-selling video featuring the Hunter's Specialties pro staff of turkey hunters. The video includes a free audio CD.
"Turkey hunters must be well camouflaged," says John Maser of Whitewater Outdoors. "And clothing is among the higher-margin items, so it helps overall profitability. Carrying clothing also helps a dealer round out his mix."
When we're talking margins on clothing, we're talking up to 40 to 50 percent, which makes the category well worth stocking. Clothing to consider includes lightweight items such as pants, shirts, light jackets and lightweight gloves. Don't forget facemasks and caps.
"Lightweight means T-shirt weight up through twills, and possibly some chamois and micro suede," Maser says. "You don't sell much insulated clothing in the spring."
Major camo designers like Advantage, Mossy Oak and Trebark continue to develop new patterns that attract the attention of customers. Trebark uses high-tech printing and 3-D imagery to create their new Bigwoods pattern that promises to give hunters a "near invisibility" edge.
Also, don't overlook so-called "bug clothes." Several companies make versions of net jackets, pants and gloves to keep insects at bay during turkey season. One of the leaders in this field is Shannon Outdoors, with its Bug Tamer garments. Other companies who make "bug clothes" include DK Flatwoods and Bug-Me-Not Outerwear.
High-tech fabrics for hot weather wear are not as predominate as those used in cold weather, but manufacturers believe there's a strong market for such items. Whitewater Outdoors has a camo mock turtleneck in Fortrel designed to wick perspiration away, keeping the hunter cool.
Dri-Release T-shirts and shorts from Soffe offer wearers quick-dry properties to wick perspiration away. Dri-Release garments also are permanently treated to eliminate body odor. Although these shirts don't yet come in camouflage, customers can pair them with a set of Bug Tamers for turkey hunting outfits that offer the best of both high-performance and bug-repellent technologies. Margins on Dri-Release clothing can run in excess of 50 percent.
The Unseen Hunter
Blinds are less important for turkey hunting than they are for some other types of hunting, largely because turkey hunters like to move often. But blinds are still a valid category to consider. One new portable blind with a particularly efficient design is the Wilderness Blind from Paha Que Wilderness. It's built on the same frame as the company's TP Shower and Outhouse tent, so it doubles as a shower at the end of the day. Made of rip-stop nylon in Advantage Timber, the Wilderness Blind has three large windows with zippered mesh and camouflage layers.
Hunter's Specialties also has a good selection of blinds, including a couple of portable tree blinds.
Each year, a lot of new and novel gadgets for turkey hunters appear in the "other accessories" category. These products include camo spray paint, gun socks, camo makeup, and turkey-hunting instructional videos. A dealer looking for the best one-stop source for all these categories should contact Hunter's Specialties.
One "hunting enhancement" accessory that's been around for a while and is starting to gain real popularity is decoys.
"Decoys are the product that seals the deal," says Harris, of Outland Sports. "When a gobbler comes to the call, he expects to see a turkey. The decoys confirm what his ears have been telling him."
Today's hen and jake decoys are very realistic.
"Then there are the true-position decoys," Harris says. "We have one where a jake is in breeding position. When a gobbler sees that, he just can't stand it. That's one of the new ideas in decoys that attracts turkeys."
As the popularity of turkey hunting grows, more hunters are answering the challenge of taking gobblers. Providing the guns, ammo and accessories needed for turkey hunting will increase your cash flow and greatly reduce the "slow season" for retail sales.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
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