In 2012 the Archery Trade Association (ATA) sponsored a landmark survey of archery participation in the U.S. People in all 50 states, thousands of them, were surveyed via telephone as to archery and their participation in the sport. Last year they repeated the survey, somewhat expanded, and discovered a quite large increase in participation, which is probably no surprise to archery coaches. The new survey estimates the total number of adult archers in the U.S. at 21.6 million adults (plus uncounted scads of youths!).
The ATA for quite some time has been little more than a bowhunting marketing organization, so it is not surprising to see the report pull out a bullet point that “A little more than half of all (adult) archery participants in the U.S. (55%) bow hunt.” (p8) They got that result by summing the segments labeled “Bowhunting but not target archery” and “Target archery and bow hunting.” They did not, however, pull out a bullet point that could have said “More than three quarters of all adult archery participants in the U.S. (81%) participate in target archery.” I got that by summing the “Target archery and bow hunting” segment and the “Target archery but not bowhunting” segment. Possibly saying that there are more adult archers participating in target archery than bowhunting doesn’t fit their usual narrative. When you add in the fact that it is highly likely that the millions of youths participating in archery are way more likely to be target archers than anything else, the size of the “target archery market” is substantially bigger than the size of the “bowhunting market” when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)
“The size of the ‘target archery market’ is substantially bigger than the size of the ‘bowhunting market’ when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)”
Way more than a few archery manufacturers sneer at target archery as the unprofitable weak sister of bow hunting. This is regrettable because when you look at look at the prices for target gear and compare them with hunting gear, the target gear tends to be more expensive, which means if you are selling to a dedicated target archer, vs. a dedicate bow hunter, you are looking at greater sales, not less. My estimation is that target archers spend more on archery equipment than do bowhunters. Bowhunters spend a lot more on their “bowhunting” but much of that is on ATVs, tree stands, travel, lodging, deer tags, licenses, camping gear, camo clothing, tracking cameras, etc. etc. things that manufacturers of bows and arrows do not make.
So, why the negative attitude toward target archers? If you look at sales of target equipment, they pale in comparison to the hunting gear. Why is this? There are more target archers than bow hunters. They are willing to spend more on archery equipment. So, why are sales so poor?
Could it be that target archers can’t find things to buy? Even in archery “pro shops” it is often the case that target equipment is either not to be found or very, very limited in scope. Those same shops also do not seem to have target archery specialists to help with buying decisions.
So, now that the Archery Trade Association has shown … twice … that the number of target archers is very, very much larger than anyone thought, where are the programs and outlets to market goods to target archers? Why aren’t the bow and arrow manufacturers pressuring the ATA to expand marketing to this previously unnoticed huge market? Is it because a manufacturer of broadheads, used only by hunters, have as much clout as an arrow manufacturer? Why are target archers not served better than they are? Why?