It’s about that time. Yes, it’s almost the first Saturday in November when the white-tailed deerseason opens in Texas and, as a visit to McBride’s Gun Shop in Austin just validated, it’s gun-buying time. You see, the firearms business can be quiteseasonal, like the ski business or the boat business. The only difference is that the pivotal season for the firearms business is not weather-related—it’s mostly geared around hunting.
While turkey season and dove season are important, the real driver is deer season. The importance of whitetail hunting to the shooting industry can’t be over-stated. Billions of dollars change hands as hunters head afield for America’s most popular big-game animal.
Gun companies offer “dating programs” to wholesalers and retailers in which guns orders fromearly in the year oftendon’t have to be paid for until deer season. Without a “dating program” geared around deer season, rifle manufacturers would be stuck with warehouses of guns awaiting eager hands in the fall. By allowing dealers to “order now, pay later” manufacturers can spread their production throughout the year. Otherwise, gunmakers would be like calendar printers—all or nothing in one or two months.
Sure, there are other types of rifles besides deer rifles: Varmint hunters have specific needs as do sheep hunters and bear hunters, but these shooters don’t compare to the number of deer hunters. There are about 11 million of us who together kill about 6 million whitetails each yearout of a total population estimated at 30 million.
In Minnesota alone, 400,000deer hunters took to the woods this past Saturday, Nov. 5. That’s nothing compared to the 1.3 million Pennsylvanians who annually seek to stuff the freezer with venison. I got a head start in late October, in Langton, Kan. with Kirk Kelso of Kelso Global Adventures. I have to admit that I failed to pull my weight as a seasonal gun-buyer because I hunted with a 7x57 Mauser made from a customized small-ring 1909 Argentine Mauser action, however, I made up for it by dropping some coin in local restaurants, buying a new jacket at Cabela’s, paying for range time at my local gun club, shelling out for ammo and, of course, boosting the local economy with a rental car and gasoline purchases.
Needless to say, I thickened Kirk’s wallet as well, which in turn trickles down to everyone from deer feeder makers to makers of knife sharpeners. And that’s the key to why deer season is so important to this industry—it’s a text-book example of Reaganomics in which a “trickle down” effect multiplies the money spent on one deer hunt.
Did I forget to mention the butcher who will process my venison or the taxidermist who will mount the head?
Finally, there’s the fancy restaurant that Darlene, my wife, will choose as her consolation prize for my being away all weekend. Deer me, it’s buying time again.