State of the Industry

Posted by Jay McAninch on June 25, 2013 in Business, Federal Excise Tax

Much has happened since I last assembled data about the state of the archery and bowhunting industry. In November 2011 I wrote, “Bowhunting drives our industry.” At the time, that was the continuation of a 35-year trend. In March 2012, “The Hunger Games” movie was released. Archery suddenly became the craze among teenagers, especially young ladies. Our sport quickly became a feature of movies and TV shows (“Brave,” “The Avengers,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Game of Thrones,” “Arrow” and more). Further, at the London Olympics, archery climbed into the third tier of the five-tier rankings for Olympic sports.

Clearly, 2012 gave archery a marketing boost unlike anything enjoyed by other sports.

Given these emerging trends, the ATA commissioned a national participation survey through Responsive Management (RM), a respected surveying firm for outdoor activities. We also asked RM to conduct surveys in 12 states, which were selected based on their recruitment activities. The states’ participation data are not yet available, but I’ll provide them in the weeks ahead.

In addition to our data, I assembled data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s 2011 survey, and the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) and Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), formerly the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. I also reviewed Federal Excise Tax (FET) collections, and assembled anecdotal information from throughout our industry. I hope this is helpful.


1. The Responsive Management/ATA Survey

The Responsive Management/ATA telephone survey of 8,335 households collected data from adults 18 and older, and produced estimates that were plus or minus 1.07%. We found – amazingly – that in 2012, 8.05% of the almost 235 million Americans age 18 and older shot archery or bowhunted. Of that number, 4.43% ONLY shot archery while 2.79% shot archery and bowhunted. Surprisingly, 0.83% only bowhunted, while the total bowhunting participation rate was 3.62%.

In real numbers, our survey found that 18.9 million Americans 18 and older shot archery or bowhunted in 2012. Those identifying themselves as bowhunters totaled 8.5 million, while those who participated in archery totaled 16.9 million. Only 6.5 million participated in both archery and bowhunting. This was our first survey of this type, so we don’t have previous data to identify trends, but we will in the future.

Our survey found 69% of archery participants were male. Of all archers and bowhunters, 45% were 35 to 54, 42% were 18 to 34 years and 13% were older than 55. We found 33% of participants lived in a small town or city, 30% lived in rural areas, 19% lived in the suburbs, and 18% lived in urban areas. Most archery participants live in the South (34%), 29% live in the Midwest, 20% live in the Northeast, and 17% live in the West. Among participants, 25% shot five days or less while 23% shot 11 to 20 days, and 22% shot more than 30 days. For those who shot only archery, 66% shot five days or less, while 53% of those who only bowhunted spent one to five days hunting.

2. The NSGA Survey

The NSGA survey put bowhunting participants at 5.1 million, about the same as in 2011. Bowhunting participation has remained steady the past 10 or more years, according to assessments of industry observers and various participation data. Of all bowhunters in 2012, 82% were male and 28% were female. Bowhunting participation was higher than expected compared to the national populations in all age segments between 12 and 54. Of all bowhunters, nearly half (47.1%) went hunting five to 19 times, 27.1% went more than 20 times, and 25.8% went two to four times. Bowhunters participated in many outdoor activities, including firearms hunting (86%), target shooting (61%), fishing (60%), archery (51%) and camping (42%).

​3. The SFIA Survey

SFIA polls an online panel of 15,770 individuals and 26,593 households. It reports participation on people 6 or older, and its error rate is 4%. SFIA reported 7.17 million archers in 2012, an increase from 2011 of 10.8% when there were 6.47 million participants. Archery participants were mostly male (72%), and 42% were 25 to 54. A third of all archers live in urban areas of more than 2 million people.

The SFIA estimates 4.35 million people are bowhunters, up 2% from the 4.27 million reported for 2011. For the previous five years, SFIA found a 7.5% increase in bowhunting participation. Possibly, the archery craze of 2012 might have spurred the slight increase in bowhunting participation. Of all bowhunters in this survey, 87% were male and 13% female, while nearly 25% were 25 to 34 years old. Bowhunters 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 each comprised about 20% of all participants.​

4. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F&WS) conducts its national survey every five years and reports participation for those 16 and older. The Service interviews 48,600 people nationwide, and includes only those who hunted during the year in question. For 2011, this survey found 2.83 million individuals bowhunted, which was 21% of all hunters. The previous survey in 2006 found 16% of all hunters bowhunted, which suggests an increase in bowhunting since then.

Whose Numbers Do I Believe?

Archery’s participation numbers range from 6.9 to 16.9 million, and bowhunting’s range from 2.83 to 8.5 million. These differences can be explained by methods used to collect data, the requirements for determining whom to interview, and defining what constitutes a participant. Only the Responsive Management/ATA and F&WS surveys called randomly selected groups of people, which is the best design for these studies. The NSGA and SFIA used online panels, which saves time and money but raises questions about results because they didn’t come from direct interviews. Interviews remain the best information source because the interviewer can ask additional questions to clarify vague or unclear answers. Thus, I believe our data are the most accurate because we used the most direct, clean and simple ways to gather information.

The numbers also varied by how the authors determined participation. We simply asked if they were a target archer or bowhunter. They might not have shot or hunted recently, but they were still customers and participants who aligned themselves with us. For NSGA, people had to shoot or hunt twice to be counted as an archer or bowhunter, while for the F&WS survey, individuals had to have a license and hunt in the field.

You’ll notice I didn’t include data on bowhunting licenses sold in the United States. I’ve always been uncomfortable with license data, which are often compromised by duplicate licensing. That can result from myriad antlerless deer tags, combination tags, and multiple species-specific tags. Further complications often arise with youth licenses, and with states that sell only a general hunting license. Those states must estimate archery license sales with surveys, which they usually conduct every five years.


1. A Portion of All Participants Use More Than One Bow

Our national survey found 75% of archers use compound bows, 29% use crossbows and 14% use recurves. That means a portion of all participants use more than one bow type. Of the one-bow group, 61.1% only used compounds, 18.3% only used crossbows and 7.3% only used recurves. Almost 7% of all participants used a compound and crossbow, while 3.1% used a compound and recurve. Interestingly, 3.9% of archery and bowhunting participants used all three bows – compounds, crossbows and recurves.

2. 2012 Was the First Year Crossbows Represented More Than 30 Percent Of All Bows Produced

Based on our manufacturing data, 2012 was the first year crossbows represented more than 30% of all bows produced. Of the other bows being manufactured, 63.2% were compounds and 5.3% were recurves. Crossbows have steadily increased their presence, going from 14.9% in 2007, to 21.3% in 2009, to 24.9% in 2011 and to 30.9% in 2012. Compounds slowly declined as a percentage of all bows, slipping from 76.1% in 2007, to 71.5% in 2009 to 67.9% in 2011 and to 63.2% in 2012. It’s important to note, however, that in total units, compounds actually increased. The rate of increase is greater for crossbows, however, which explains why the proportion of compounds declined.

3. Arrows Have Steadily Increased in Unit Sales Since 2009

Using the most recent archery FET collection data, arrows have steadily increased in unit sales since 2009, when we estimated 16,944,029 units were sold. Total shafts sold rose 10.7% in 2010 to 18,755,651 units, then rose 20.9% in 2011 to 22,680,360 units. For 2012, arrow shafts increased by 2% to 23,085,826. I expect more increases for the first and second quarter of 2013, based on what I’m hearing. Interestingly, third-quarter sales for 2012 were 9.4% higher than the best quarter on record, and fourth-quarter sales of arrow shafts were 31% higher than any previous quarter, another record. I especially noticed the fourth-quarter sales because that’s the October-to-December period that usually starts six months of slow sales. The FET on bows and accessories remained steady for 2012.

4. Equipment Data From NSGA & SFIA

NSGA and SFIA publish data on equipment sales but, frankly, it’s not particularly helpful for reviewing all categories of archery equipment. Those groups seem to get more information from the non-specialty outlets online, mail and stores. Regardless, both indicate that archery equipment sales increased only 1 to 2%, which is low, given the information reported above.

I should mention the archery FET collections cited here are good sources of archery and bowhunting data. We not only monitor total FET collections, we also monitor the two types of archery FET: 1) equipment taxed at 11 percent, including broadheads, bows with 30 pounds or more of draw weight, and all accessories attached to a bow; and 2) arrow shafts (except for wooden shafts for youths) subject to a flat tax that increases based on the CPI, which is 48 cents per shaft for 2013. FET data on bows, broadheads and accessories attached to bows are difficult to interpret because of the diversity of products. Even so, those numbers provide trend data for equipment. The FET on arrow shafts only reflects arrow shafts sold, so these data also provide reliable trend information.

To view the Archery Federal Excise Tax Collections from 2007 to the present, click here to download the table.​ 

NOTE: Michelle Zeug contributed to this post.