Spotlight on… Archery and bow hunting

Add another string to your bow


Archery and shooting have more in common than you might think AND bows can be a useful addition to your stock options.


Delve deep into the mists of time and it is clear that archery was the forerunner of the shooting sports that we know today.

Whether firing at targets, hunting for food or protecting your lands, the humble bow and arrow was the mainstay of many peoples and have gone down in history for countless reasons.

Of course, in many cases guns and ammunition superseded bows and arrows but, for a variety of reasons, they did not disappear completely. Indeed, the whole sector has been enjoying something of a renaissance for the past few years and that looks set to continue.

If you sell guns and ammunition, then archery kit is a logical addition. True, some archers will look for ultra-niche and specialist retailers but if you are into target sports or, in many countries, hunting, then adding archery to your inventory makes perfect sense.

Archery and shooting’s key sectors run parallel with each other – recreational, target shooting and hunting – covering everything from fun in the garden, to Olympic competitions, to full-on hunting experiences with highly technical and often expensive kit.

So if you are looking for a little boost to sales, this is an area well worth finding out more about.


The long and short of it

There are two basic types of bow that need to be considered in this context – the traditional longbow, which is typically held vertically in one hand with the bow string pulled back with the other, and the crossbow, held horizontally and usually fired with a trigger.

We can further split the longbow into two distinct designs too – recurve and compound.

A recurve bow is formed from a single piece, with its outer ends curving back away from the archer, giving it its unique shape; this provides extra string-pull length for a greater acceleration period on the arrow, improving power, control and accuracy.

Compound bows, by comparison, use a complex system of cams and strings to produce the power via special limbs that form the bow.

The cams allow the bow weight to appear much lighter through mechanical advantage, once the string has been drawn back to its full extension.

They are also more compact, making them particularly useful for hunting and outdoor simulated hunting competitions because a high-poundage bow can be used for greater power.

The result is faster arrow speed and a less parabolic (curved) trajectory, which helps provide potential accuracy improvement, especially as range increases.

Since it can be tough to hold aim while holding back 100lb of draw weight, compound bows now have plenty of followers in the hunting fraternity.

Indeed, our latest survey conducted for this issue suggests that more compound bows are being sold than in 2012, when we did our last survey (up from 30 per cent of respondents to 42 per cent).


Bow hunting

A key area for sales in many parts of the world is bow hunting. In some areas it is expanding significantly (although the global figure is down from our survey two years ago, it still stands at more than a third of all users).

In North America it is both well established and showing a surge in interest that promises to provide excellent business opportunities for those who take it seriously, thanks to shows on both mainstream and internet TV.

Proper training is vital because these weapons are extremely powerful and have to be handled correctly to ensure a clean kill.

The opportunity for add-on sales in this specialist sector is huge, including carrying bags or cases, backpacks, camouflage clothing, scopes and more.

Some countries do not, however, permit bow hunting. These include Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria and the UK. On the flip side, Greenland has changed the law to permit musk ox to be hunted by skilled archers.

European Commission rules do not preclude the use of bows for hunting, so it is up to member states to set their own rules. Germany has been looking into making some types of hunting legal, as is already the case in France.

In Romania the recently founded Romanian Bowhunting Association called for a seminar to inform and develop the possibilities of bow hunting there.

Outline details of which countries permit bow hunting and where it is not allowed can be found on the website of the European Bowhunting Federation –



Crossbows also have a strong place in history because they are extremely effective and were initially used in battle to pierce an opponent’s armour.

As materials have been improved and refined, so the bodies have become more and more futuristic and effective, as have the bolts (essentially a shorter arrow), rails, limbs and strings; not to mention cocking mechanisms and trigger arrangements. All this makes today’s crossbows amazing pieces of equipment, capable of great power, accuracy and consistency.

Crossbows come in conventional (longbow style with single curved limbs), recurve and compound types, just as longbows do, with the same respective advantages as longbows.

Because of their effectiveness, crossbows are now popular with hunters but this effectiveness can be a double-edged sword. In some countries, hunting is certainly not permitted with them, while other territories have actually opened their doors in the recent past to the opportunities that they present.

Certainly in the USA and parts of Europe they are becoming increasingly accepted and encouraged. In some cases crossbow-only use has even extended the hunting season.


Knowledge is the key

An important aspect of any hunting is respect for your quarry so, as with any animal taking, it is essential that training is undertaken to ensure proficiency.

Retailers should be able to provide sufficient advice about equipment selection or point buyers in the direction of well-informed sources.

To succeed in this area you really need to have a decent working knowledge of bow types, the advantages of each, why a compound can prove best for hunting; poundage weights that provide sufficient arrow or bolt speed to ensure a clean kill but are also manageable.

Since these are high-powered weapons, you can point the buyer in the direction of scope sight, suggest carrying a shooting rest for a steadier aim and offer a rangefinder as a solution to accurately gauging the correct distance to the target.


Pitching it right

Not surprisingly, as with many sectors of shooting sports, price plays a key role in the choice of bow, according to 38 per cent of our survey respondents, with brand vital to customers for 21 per cent followed by performance, build quality and, finally, accessories.

Women and juniors are major markets that simply cannot be ignored either.

With the overall trend up for 55 per cent and staying the same for 43 per cent, it is clear that things are looking positive.

No-one questioned reported a downturn in the number of ladies or juniors showing an interest. The vast majority – more than 80 per cent – felt that junior numbers were increasing, with a similar number reporting no change in sale amounts to ladies.

Nineteen per cent said ladies were increasingly likely to take up archery, with 18 per cent saying junior numbers were consistent.



With technology making its presence felt in bow sports of all types, there are many opportunities to make the most of this growing market. However, you need to know the rules in each territory because not all areas share the same views on the hunting aspect.

Nevertheless, if you know what you are talking about, this can prove to be a very good revenue source and a handy diversification in your outlet.



Archery has a longstanding tradition throughout Europe, with most nations taking part in international target competitions up to Olympic level, while ‘simulated quarry’ events with animal-shaped targets are also popular.

The bow hunting situation varies widely; it is legal in Italy, Spain, Turkey, France, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, for example, but not in Austria, Belgium, UK, Sweden, Russia or Romania.

Where allowed, interest in bow hunting is growing and links with existing hunting bodies are taking place to relax hunting restrictions in other areas, which could increase the market dramatically.

Check out the European Bowhunting Federation website – – for a useful map of which countries allow the sport.

Portugal was among the first European nations to legislate to permit bow hunting, in 1986.

Bow hunting is not permitted in the UK or the Irish Republic, so sport is limited to recreational and target archery, but there are plenty of such clubs with strong membership numbers, not to mention archery magazines, too.

There are major suppliers here, too, in the form of Armex, Petron and Merlin, whose businesses have expanded considerably in recent years.



Bow hunting is bigger than target archery here and, with its vast spaces teeming with many species of game, small medium and large, is a hunter’s paradise (a permit is required for the ‘big six’, though).

It was the first country to regulate the kinetic energy of the arrow in relation to the hunted game species.

There are plenty of specialist outfitters who can arrange a ‘safari’ from the simple to the exotic; they can advise on equipment, clothing and travel arrangements.

Choosing a qualified and experienced outfitter – many are family businesses that have been established for decades – is essential in assuring a satisfying but, above all, safe bow-hunting experience.


Target archery is practised in most South African clubs, with regular tournaments taking place, both in and outdoors.

The South African National Archery Association is the main body for this sector, plus others catering for the disabled, for example.



Archery is hugely popular and, with its large population, is also home to many of the world’s leading manufacturers, including specialists in a particular sector – traditional longbows, target recurve or powerful hunting crossbows.

Hunting has become immensely popular, with an increasing number of states now permitting bow hunting, most with a separate season. This is a slightly longer season than when using a firearm, so is often a useful addition for a gun hunter.

Target archery has a very strong following. a 2012 Archery Trade Association (ATA) survey revealed that some 18.9 million people take part, with almost a third being women.

Some 10.4 million were solely into target archery, 6.5 million were involved with target and hunting, while 1.9 million exclusively hunted with a bow.

The compound bow type proved dominant, with 75 per cent using them and 5.5 million choosing the crossbow format. Only 14 per cent use recurve bows.

Bow hunting is allowed in all states, although some specific rules may vary, as will hunting seasons. White-tailed deer is the most widely hunted species.



Although target archery is practised in both New Zealand and Australia, it is hunting that is most popular.

In Australia, strict restrictions on crossbows mean that hunting compound and recurve longbows are most used, with quarry species ranging from wild goat or pig to the ‘big game’ water buffalo.

In New Zealand there are no such restrictions upon crossbows so they are more commonly used for hunting, with deer being the most common species. The widely variable weather conditions and sometimes-treacherous terrain can be an extra difficulty and hazard for bow hunters, so it is essential to know one’s limitations, both for ethical and personal-safety reasons.

A lot of rifles become unserviceable in the harsh environment, so any bow chosen must be both powerful and strongly built.

For the intrepid hunter there are bow-hunting opportunities galore.

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