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Talkin' turkey: what do your turkey-hunting customers really want?

"A lot of local retailers are driving turkey hunters to Bass Pro Shops," said Don Copeland, president of the Suncoast Beards And Spurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), located in Pinellas County, Fla.



"Because dealers don't carry the selection of products serious turkey hunters want," Copeland said.

Is Copeland talking about you? If so, you're tossing a lot of money out the door, and the big-box stores are putting those dollars in their pockets.


How much are we talking about? According to the NWTF, a study conducted by Southwick Associates reported that during the 2003 spring season turkey hunters spent an estimated $1.795 billion. It also reported that the average spring turkey hunter in the U.S. spent $784 annually. No, that wasn't all spent on turkey guns, ammo and associated gear, but a lot of it was, and, considering there are more than 3 million wild turkey hunters in the United States, can you afford to drive these dollars to other businesses?

Turkey Hunters Want Newest Guns

So, what do "turkey hunters want"? According to Copeland, in firearms, today's turkey hunters want guns that feature today's technology. When shopping for guns, Copeland says the two manufacturers' guns he expects to see are Mossberg and Benelli.

"I particularly look for the Benelli Black Eagle and the Benelli Nova, and the Mossberg 835 and 935," Copeland said. Remington turkey guns also are eagerly sought by turkey hunters, along with other manufacturers who are entering the 3 1/2" market.

Gary Purdy, Oklahoma's senior regional director for the NWTF, and an avid turkey hunter, looks at the sights that are already on the guns.

"The retailer who has shotguns with fiber optic sights on them, such as those from TruGlo and HiViz--that's the retailer that I'm looking for," Purdy said. "Fiber optic sights make the turkey hunter get his head down on the stock and line up the sights, making for better shot placement and fewer cripples."



Choke tubes are another accessory serious turkey hunters want.

"I want to see aftermarket choke tubes that are made by choke tube companies and that are specific to turkey hunting," Copeland said. "Some of the ones I look for are Comp-N-Choke and the Undertaker by H.S. Strut."

Sell Ammo That Delivers Clean Punch

When it comes to ammunition, Purdy says, many manufacturers offer loads specifically for turkeys--loads turkey hunters will purchase.

"Whether I'm guiding another hunter or hunting for myself, I'm always interested in a quick, clean kill, because I have a lot of respect for the birds," Purdy said. "With the advent of today's loads, such as Remington's Hevi-Shot, and other similar products from Federal and Winchester, there's no reason why someone should be throwing an inadequate load at a turkey."


Does gauge make any difference?

"With today's loads, I don't think it matters," Purdy said. "In my opinion, there's no appreciable difference between a 12 and a 20--if you're a good enough hunter to bring the bird in where the bird ought to be before you pull the trigger."

Camo-Up For Turkey Sales

Turkey hunters love everything camo, including guns, clothing, boots and facemasks.

In facemasks, stock those from BuckWing, Hunter Specialties, Penn's Woods, Primos and Quaker Boy.

In clothing, you don't need the heavy insulated camo deer hunters prefer. Instead, stock lighter-weight clothing, in a range of weights that allow for the whimsical nature of spring weather.

Purdy says smart hunters often "mix and match" camo to fit the surroundings in which they're hunting.

"If I'm hunting where there's a lot of sparse vegetation, I may wear a desert camo bottom with (Realtree) High Definition Green because I'm snuggled into a cedar tree," Purdy said.

The customer's message? Match the camo you're carrying to the local habitat, carry a variety of weights and patterns and buy garments that are priced separately and not as a "set."


Camo boots are nice, but aren't as big an issue as protection, Purdy said.

"The lugs on the soles should be matched to whatever area you're hunting," he said. "And what I always wear is a high-topped snake boot. That gives me a comfort level, because I want my eyes up, searching, instead of watching the ground to be certain I'm not stepping in the middle of a rattlesnake."

The other critical boot requirement, Purdy says, is waterproofing, or boots with a GoreTex membrane.

"Many times on a spring morning, you're going out into a heavy dew or rain," Purdy said. "Birds in our part of the world live along creek bottoms and river bottoms, and there are many times I have to tiptoe through the water, so waterproofing is critical to me."

Call Up Turkey Profits

There are so many kinds of turkey calls, selecting the right ones to carry is a daunting process. Purdy says he wants to see four categories of calls when he walks into a dealer store: box calls, slate calls, glass calls and mouth calls.

"That doesn't mean a retailer needs to have every mouth call by every manufacturer," Purdy said. "But he needs to have a good selection from a couple of different suppliers and with a couple of different reeds."

Copeland looks for well-made calls by regional call makers.

"Lynch and Primos calls are good calls," he said. "But I also want to walk in and see a Cody Turkey Call or a local custom call maker's call."

Most important, Purdy says, is to give customers a chance to try various kinds of calls. This means opening a few packages and putting the calls out on the counter or on a table where customers can pick them up, handle them, use them and develop a sense of "ownership."

"If a retailer is smart, he'll have an employee occasionally come by and re-chalk the box calls and re-rough the slate calls," Purdy said.

Another item Copeland uses just during turkey season is camouflage face paint or makeup.


"Turkeys see in color, so I concern myself with the areas around my eyes, my fingers and anywhere else I might not get full coverage with a head net and other camo clothing," he said.

One item Copeland considers a "must-have" product is a ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellant unit by The Schawbel Corp. The small, cordless unit provides 225 square feet of odor-free protection from mosquitoes.

Don't forget camouflage seat cushions. Turkey hunters sit on the ground a lot, usually for a long time, and anything camo that keeps their backsides warm, dry and padded is welcome.

Stock Turkey Decoys

Another product Copeland wants to see on dealers' shelves is decoys.

"You should be able to find more than one choice, unless there's a reason to only carry that one," Copeland said. Stock decoys from BuckWing, Delta, Feather Flex and Flambeau.

Most serious turkey hunters avoid popup blinds, Purdy says.


"The exception is bowhunters and disabled hunters," Purdy said. "For bowhunters, a blind is imperative, but not for the average hunter--I'm not a fan of popup blinds." On the rare occasion when he has used a blind, Purdy said, he has used a blind from Double Bull Archery.

Both Purdy and Copeland would rather build a brush blind so they are a part of the turkey's normal environment. Purdy carries a saw and a ratchet cutter with him; Copeland prefers a good pair of shears. None of these items takes up much space on the shelf or pegboard, so carry a small selection of these tools along with your other turkey hunting gear.

Know Turkey Hunting

There's one more thing Purdy would like to see retailers do: Educate themselves about the art and science of turkey hunting.

"There are a zillion retailers who have a section of turkey paraphernalia in their store, but when you start visiting with them, it becomes apparent they don't have a clue about turkey hunting," Purdy said. "I'm not saying they have to be dyed-in-the-wool turkey hunters. But they at least need to understand the products they have and know why they carry them. They need to have a working knowledge of the fastest-growing shooting sport in North America."



ADCO Sales 227
Advantage Camouflage 228
Ameristep 229
Benelli USA Corp. 230
Beretta USA 231
Browning 232
B-Square 233
BuckWing Products 234
Butler Creek 235
Charles Daly 236
Cody Turkey Calls 237
Comp-N-Choke 238
Delta Industries 239
DK Flatwoods 240
Doskocil Manufacturing 241
DownWind 3D Camouflage 242
Feather Flex 243
Federal Premium 244
Flambeau 245
Game Tracker/Eastman 246
H & R 1871 247
Haydel's Game Calls 248
HiViz Sight 249
Hunter's Specialties 250
Kick's Industries 251
Knight & Hale 252
Lohman 253
Lynch Outdoor Products 254
M.A.D. Calls 255
Michaels of Oregon 256
MOJO Outdoors 257
Mossy Oak 258
New England Arms Corp 259
New England Firearms 260
O. F. Mossberg & Sons 261
Outland Sports 262
Pape's 263
Penn's Woods 264
Primos Hunting Calls 265
Quaker Boy Game Calls 266
Realtree Camouflage 267
Remington Arms Co. 268
Schawbel Corp. 269
Shannon Outdoors 270
Traditions Performance Firearms 271
TruGlo Inc. 272
Whitewater Outdoors 273
Winchester Ammunition 274
Winchester Firearms 275
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Boyles, Carolee Anita
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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