What I Learned from ATA’s Archery Participation Survey

In a previous post I referred you to what in my knowledge is the first scientific study of participation in our sport. Here’s the link again if you missed it—www.archerytrade.org/uploads/documents/ATA_Participation_2013_Report_FINAL.pdf. Thanks to the Archery Trade Association for making the report public.

Prior Collective Wisdom

Before I get into comments about this study, here is my take on what the collective wisdom of archery folks was regarding the numbers of archers and bowhunters in this country. Estimates of the numbers of bowhunters were in the 3-3.5 million range with target archers probably greater in number but that being only because of large numbers of kids shooting arrows in summer camp (and that those kids notoriously didn’t continue in the sport). The actual number of adult target archers was considered to be a very small fraction of the number of bowhunters. The number of registered members of all of the target archery associations combined is less than 50,000 and many of those are duplicates as many of us belong to more than one such organization.

Archery manufacturers are focused primarily on bowhunters in this country as they say that there isn’t much money to be made selling to target archers. Contrary to that stance, my personal assessment (an informal one) is that individual target archers buy more archery equipment and more expensive archery equipment than do bowhunters. Archery manufacturers don’t sell clothing, deer stands, scents, food, cook stoves, calls, blinds, hunting licenses/permits, travel, lodging, etc. which makes up a great deal of the bowhunting market. Cabela’s, by the way, makes most of its profits on clothing.

In support of the claim that archery equipment of target archers tends to be higher end than that of bowhunters, consider how many X10s, Nano Pros, and the like are sold and what they cost compared to hunting shafts. About the only area of archery equipment that bowhunters out spend target archers is in arrow points. Target archers favor more expensive optics, bows, shafts, etc. You don’t see many bowhunters buying computer programs and apps to determine their sight marks, nor do you see them buying $350 sights with $150 scopes or $300 release aids, for example. (Think about all of the handheld releases Carter Enterprises sells in target colors. Those aren’t being sold for bowhunting.

The Survey

Interestingly, the survey only counted adults. Of the kids (under 18) that participate in archery, I suspect that the vast majority are target archers only but that is just a guess.

The survey firm conducted 8335 phone interviews, weighted according to all of the appropriate parameters. All surveyed were adults (in 2012, 23.5% of us were under 18 years old and 76.5 were older, and since the population was 314 million people then, that works out to there being 240 million adults in 2012); 8% of all surveyed participated in archery (69% male, 31% female, and younger than the average adult, tending to be more rural than urban, more concentrated in the Midwest) which works out to 19 million archers in 2012not counting kids! Wow!

4.4% of the 8% were “target archery only” participants (55%, 10.5 million)

0.8% of the 8% were “bowhunting only” participants (10%, 1.92 million)

2.8% of the 8% were “target archery and bowhunting” participants (35%, 6.7 million)

If my math is right, that means that 3.6% of those surveyed had an bowhunting archery experience in the survey year while 7.2% had a target archery experience. Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

With regard to equipment, 75% of those surveyed used compound bows (no surprise) but in response to the question “Where did you shoot a bow and arrow in 2012?”

72% said “back yard, private land, friends place” and

16% said “Private club or facility.”

Another really telling question was: “What influenced you to become involved in archery?”

46% responded “A relative or family member”

17% said “A friend”

Other than “Scouts” all of the usual culprits (NASP, JOAD, camp, school, after school programs) accounted for 1% or less of the reasons people got involved. In fact, all of the “usual culprits” added up to a mere 7% of the total.


Clearly we need to a better job of marketing our sport in that all of our proactive efforts (fun shoots at county fairs and sporting gatherings, kids’ programs, school programs, etc.) only account for 7% of the people in archery now (of course, that may be changing).

It also seems it is in the best interests of archery equipment manufacturers to promote target archery significantly more than they have in the past. If I am right that a new target archer is worth more in sales than a new bowhunter, there are significant amounts of money to be made selling to target archers.

A little research on the internet showed that 11 million kids every summer attend summer camps (American Camp Association/ACA estimate). I didn’t pay for the ACA’s data report but they have published the facts that over half of their camps are “resident” camps and that in those camps, archery was the third most popular activity. So, as a rough estimate, I would say that 4-6 million kids experience archery in camps every year. I also happen to know that archery youth groups don’t have populations anywhere near that big so I suspect that one of the biggest problems is program accessibility. If every one of those kids who got jazzed on archery at summer camp and on their way home drove right by a convenient archery facility, I can’t imagine that they would not be clamoring to “check it out.” My experience is that our archery clubs and ranges might as well be camouflaged, they are so well hidden.

What do you think?


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “What I Learned from ATA’s Archery Participation Survey

  1. Pat

    I have an archery business, field and target and have never met a kid who didn’t like archery and want to do it, the problem I found was that they depend on parents etc to drive them. Another obstacle was that kids are already enrolled in other sports on weekends. To get kids into the sport we must also get their parents.
    Thank you for the paper I would agree with your findings and perhaps field archers need a world platform for 3D shoots..


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