The 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 and Remington 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?
While this is a deer hunting blog, I know that millions of deer hunters will be hitting the turkey woods this spring. Here are some calling tips from one of my turkey hunting books.–MH
Diaphragm Mouth Call
Mouth calls have been around for 150 years. Early diaphragms were big and crude, but modern calls are streamlined and high-tech, featuring either a latex or prophylactic reed crimped into an aluminum frame. A tape skirt covers the frame and acts as an air seal.
There are many mouth calls on the market. Some have one or two rubber reeds; others three or four. Some calls have clipped or notched reeds designed to put rasp into your yelps.
How to Mouth Call
Place a diaphragm in your mouth with open reeds facing forward. Tongue the call up to the roof. It shouldn’t sit too far forward or too far back in your mouth. Your tongue should touch the reeds and extend a half-inch or so to the front of the call.
If a mouth call feels too wide and bulky, trim the tape skirt a little. You can also bend the aluminum frame slightly downward to make the call fit more comfortably and create a better air seal.
Two major keys to using the diaphragm: First, don’t blow air across the reeds, but bring it up and “huff” from deep in your diaphragm. And work your jaw up and down when you call, just like when you talk.
Now, to mock the hen vocalizations:
The Slate Call
Pot-and-peg calls have been around since the 1880s, and they are still the most popular turkey calls today. Early calls were crafted of wood or turtle shells, with crude slate surfaces in the middle. Modern calls have come a long way. Today you can use a finely machined wooden, plastic or graphite cup into which is glued a slate, glass, ceramic, aluminum or copper surface. To talk turkey, strike a surface with a hickory, ash, rosewood, acrylic or carbon peg. This call is easy to use and sounds great.
How to Slate Call
If you’re right-handed, hold a pot lightly in your left hand and up on your fingertips. Grasp a peg as if you were writing with a pencil. Hold the call out in front of your body to keep from muting the sounds.
Hold a striker at a 45-degree angle to a call’s surface, and then run it lightly. Tweak the way you hold a peg to make the various calls. Work a peg in the middle of a call’s surface to make deep clucks and yelps. Move the striker out to the edge for more trilling notes.
To create friction and make a call ring true, rub its surface frequently with an abrasive pad or sandpaper. Don’t forget to roughen the tip of a wooden striker from time to time.
Now, to make the key calls:
The Box Call
An Arkansan named Gibson patented the first box call back in 1897. The big call has withstood the test of time and is still popular today. Most long, rectangular boxes are crafted of wood—maple, cherry, walnut or poplar—and have free-swinging wooden handles or “lids.” The box is a snap to use. Pick one up, fiddle with it for a few minutes and you’ll be talking good turkey.
How to Box Call
Hold a box lightly in your left palm and work the lid gently with the fingers of your right hand (vice versa for lefties). Keep your fingers off the sides of a box so you won’t deaden its sound. Some people run a box better with a vertical hold. Lay a call in the palm of your hand, turn your hand perpendicular to the ground and scrape the lid up and down.
Chalk a box call before you hit the woods, and a couple of times during a hunt. Use wax-free chalk that won’t gum up the grain of the wood.
To make the calls:
Now go and call in a big gobbler, good luck!
During the winter and spring shed hunt of 2017, hunters across the country have been finding, picking up and posting on social media some giant “deadheads,” like this 200-class skull making the rounds on Facebook.
Let me remind you that if you find any-size skull w/antlers in the woods you might—actually you probably– need to obtain a salvage permit (or at least permission) from the state to possess and transport that skull.
In most states a deadhead—the skull and rack from a buck that died of disease, was hit by a car or was lost by a hunter last season—is treated like a roadkill buck, and subject to the same state roadkill laws, which in most cases means you need to call a conservation officer or sheriff and get a permit (or at the very least official permission) before you move and take possession of the antlers.
States where I can confirm you need a salvage permit include: Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Indiana, and there are many more. Every shed hunter should check the state laws and know for certain sure. The last thing you need is to come home with a skull with big antlers, post a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram and promptly get a call or visit from a game warden asking if you have the proper salvage permit.
I’d like to greatly expand the list of state salvage laws for deer, so please let me know your state’s regulation, if any, by commenting below.