Business Blog

Crossbow Boom Kickstarts Hunting Businesses


There have been few success stories in the hunting industry as compelling as the rise of the modern crossbow and crossbow hunting. Crossbows themselves have been around since 700 BC. However, it has seemingly taken nearly that long for hunters to realize they belong in the bowhunting community.


Why do crossbows belong, and why should you look at them differently? It all comes down to capitalizing on opportunities and strengthening hunting’s ranks.


Recruitment and Retention


This alone should perk the ears of anyone who makes a living in the shooting sports industry. Several studies, including one by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 2012, indicate crossbows have single-handedly increased annual recruitment and retention levels by 20 percent or more when granted full inclusion during regular archery seasons.


Retention is a larger concern for today’s wildlife managers. Our ranks are being retained by the 40-and-older crowd – guys and gals who spent decades hunting with vertical bows and are now at stages in their lives where assistance is welcomed. It’s no coincidence that 25 states (most recently Connecticut, Kansas and Mississippi) allow for the full-inclusion of crossbows during their archery seasons.


A dramatic decrease in the bowhunting population has been shown to occur at age 55. In areas where the crossbow debate is particularly contentious, allowing hunters under the age of 15, or over the age of 55, can prove to be an acceptable compromise.


Crossbows are also ideal for recruiting lifelong gun-hunters. Of America’s 19 million hunters, more than 5 million are gun-hunters only. Of those, 30 percent once indicated they had no interest in taking up bowhunting. The crossbow’s short learning curve is changing that trend, and today there are more than 5.5 million crossbow hunters in the U.S. That’s almost one-third of our total bowhunters, which is a huge piece of the pie for savvy outdoors businesses.


So, increased opportunity is the name of the game when it comes to crossbows. That being said, three facts need to resonate with hunters, managers and archery businesses in order for crossbows to gain full acceptance:


1. Crossbows Add Depth to the Demographics


Just like vertical archery, nearly all wage earners can enjoy crossbow hunting. TenPoint Crossbow Technologies, for example, offers a variety of models, including TenPoint Vapor and Turbo XLT decked out in Realtree camo. Also, as with most gear in the hunting world, there is a seemingly endless array of accessories, options and upgrades that go beyond the initial purchase.


2. Crossbows Create Markets Within the Market


Hunting in the U.S. in general has experienced participation declines since 1980. Bowhunting has not. In fact, those going afield with archery equipment have increased nearly every year. Bowhunters also spend more than gun-hunters – 56 percent of all bowhunters have a household income of more than $30,000 annually, and 20 percent of those exceed $75,000. These hunters tend to buy new equipment (rather than used) and replace most of their gear, on average, every six years (Duda, Bissell, Responsive Management study).


More than 80 percent of all vertical bowhunters were gun-hunters first. With the increasing acceptance of crossbows, bowhunting’s demographic is getting broader via the inclusion of lifelong gun-hunters who are approaching or already past middle age.


3. Crossbows Provide Additional Opportunities


According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a peer-reviewed study found that both hunters and homeowners support the use of crossbows for suburban/urban deer management, so long as they are used outside of the traditional archery season.


In the final analysis, remember that crossbows still are short-range tools.

The crossbow is a bow, plain and simple. It shoots an arrow and kills via the hemorrhaging caused from scalpel-sharp broadheads. Yes, it’s rather easy to learn how to shoot a crossbow accurately out to 20 yards. However, even with premium equipment, crossbow hunting is still largely an under-40-yards game.



Those in the hunting business used to wring their hands and lose sleep over the sport’s dwindling recruitment and retention efforts. Keeping the pastime (and related businesses) alive has less to do with increasing overall numbers and more to do with increasing satisfaction and participation among established hunters. Crossbows and crossbow hunting is proving to be one of the much-needed solutions.


Editor’s Note: For more perspective on the size of the bowhunting market and what kind of gear bowhunters are purchasing, take a look at this recent infographic.