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October 12, 2015

A Hunting and Marriage Comparison


Editor’s Note: Last month NSSF began presenting a series of articles to help manufacturers, retailers, wildlife management agencies, tourism departments and others in the hunting community better understand their hunting customers. We are sharing findings of a study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, with funding from a Multi-State Conservation Grant, and conducted by Southwick Associates. Topics covered will include hunters’ commitment to participation, churn rates and turnover of new and existing hunters, and hunters’ lifestyles and motivations for hunting. By providing a clearer understanding of hunters, we believe the hunting community can do even better in recruiting and retaining customers, boosting sales revenue and increasing conservation funding through license sales and excise taxes.

Series Article #2: A Hunting and Marriage Comparison

Building a life-long commitment is a challenge for both

By Glenn Sapir

Once a couple exchange their vows, the work toward building a long-term, hopefully life-long relationship begins. For hunting supply manufacturers and retailers, wildlife management agencies and other members of the hunting community, the same challenge begins when a person buys his or her first hunting license. According to a recent study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), getting an aspiring hunter to the license-issuing agent appears to be a lot easier than getting them to commit to making this an annual purchase.

Although several states in recent years have reversed a trend toward license-sales decreases, with women providing a key infusion to hunting numbers, the research compiled by Southwick Associates, funded through a Multistate Conservation Grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, suggests that the same men, and especially the same women, might not be the repeat purchasers that retailers and state agencies would like to count on to build a loyal legion of perennial, long-term customers.

Research on the stretch of years that a license holder continues to purchase a hunting license before allowing that privilege to lapse shows some surprising statistics, clearly indicating that if the hunting community believes that “the same group are buying year in and year out,” it is in for a rude surprise.

By analyzing data provided by 12 states—three in each of four AFWA regions—researchers were able to identify some significant license-purchasing habits of hunters from 2009 to 2013. Gender, age, region and neighborhood types were all considered, with gender perhaps being the most significant, considering the good news stories of women’s increased involvement in hunting and the shooting sports in recent years.

The churn rate is the proportion of licensed hunters who choose not to renew (lapse) among all hunters holding a license that is expiring in a given year.

 

Average annual churn rate by residency and region (2009-2013)

Resident license holders Nonresident license holders All license holders
Northeast 18% 38% 20%
Midwest 16% 40% 17%
Southeast 33% 57% 37%
West 25% 57% 32%

 

Regionally, residents in the Northeast and Midwest rank lowest in hunting numbers but highest in years of purchasing licenses, compared to hunters in the Southeast and West.

 

Composition of resident license holder population (2009-2013)

R3_Resident_license_pop2

Age- and neighborhood-wise, younger hunters and hunters who reside in urban neighborhoods have a higher rate of lapsing than hunters who reside in rural neighborhoods.

“Hunters from 18 to 34 have a lot of choices on how to spend their free time, and hunting competes with all of them,” said Rob Southwick, President of Southwick Associates. “Furthermore, free time for many in that age bracket is limited by work and family responsibilities.”

“Urban settings, although not an outdoorsman’s smorgasbord, do provide a lot of leisure options, and the investment in time and money to head out of town to hunt is a limiting factor,” Southwick  added. “Access to hunting closer to urban neighborhoods is a challenge to both hunters and wildlife agencies.”

 

Average annual churn rate among residents by region and neighborhood type (2009-2013)

R3_Churn_rate_licenses

Hunters’ participation rates can be defined by a number of categories; from avid to infrequent, to lapsed and reactivated. Based on their frequency of purchase, we can classify hunters in three main categories:

New Hunters: hunters who buy a license in a given year but have not purchased a license in any of the five preceding years, and therefore do not appear in the license data.

Regular hunters: hunters who purchase a license in a given year and purchased a license in preceding years.  This group also includes hunters holding lifetime and multi-year licenses.

Intermittent hunters: hunters who buy a license in a given year and purchased at least one in the previous five years but not the immediate preceding year. These hunters may appear in the license database more than once, but they do not purchase a license every year.

Industry members are all working to increase hunting participation, or customer numbers. Our combined goals are to recruit new hunters, retain them as loyal, repeat license purchasers and reactivate them when other activities start to capture their attention.

When it comes to considering gender, these concerns become especially significant. The new research shows that women are being recruited at higher rates than ever, but they are being retained at dramatically lower rates than men. That’s true across the nation, with women comprising the higher percentage of new hunters in all four regions, but also accounting for greater decreases in retained, regular hunters.

 

Composition of resident license holder population by gender and region (2009-2013)
R3_Gender_region_license

“Women are attracted to hunting for a variety of reasons,” states ­­­Samantha Pedder, Manager of Outreach and Diversity for NSSF.  “Spending time with other family members ranks high among the group;  programs that cater to women in the shooting and hunting world have been successful in introducing women to the sport. It is obvious, however, that we need to do more to sustain that interest.”

Key Take-Aways
  • Regionally, residents in the Northeast and Midwest rank lowest in hunting numbers but highest in years of purchasing licenses, compared to hunters in the Southeast and West.
  • Age- and neighborhood-wise, younger hunters and hunters who reside in urban neighborhoods have a higher rate of lapsing than hunters who reside in rural neighborhoods.
  • Women are being recruited at a much higher rate than men, but they are being retained at a dramatically lower percent.
  • The challenge may lie at the feet of state wildlife agencies and retailers to retain these women hunters. This article offers some suggestions.

“The industry has been striving to produce products that can make the introduction to hunting for women easier, and NSSF presents programs, newsletters, videos and more to not only  introduce newcomers to shooting and hunting but also to facilitate their ‘continuing education,’” continued Pedder.

“However, the challenge may lie at the feet of state wildlife agencies and retailers to retain these women hunters. Perhaps holding special sales for women who show a valid hunting license is an incentive. Both retailers and state agencies can conduct seminars in stores and at local sportsmen’s clubs that will continue to educate women hunters and encourage them to continue to hunt, as well as connect them with a community of other welcoming hunters. The ideas on how to help retain women hunters are many; and the need to address this issue and implement measures is important.”

Information from the participating states in this study—New Hampshire, New York and Maine in the Northeast; Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the Midwest; Florida, Georgia and Mississippi in the Southeast; and Colorado, Montana and Utah in the West—provided the basis for both national and regional analysis.

View the full report providing more details of this study, with national and regional churn rate data.