Author: Cassie Gasaway
Family, tradition and camaraderie help bind the outdoor community, and strengthen the archery and bowhunting industry.
Those core values also define the cultures of Hispanics, African Americans and other minority groups. History and statistics in America, however, reveal a disconnect between minorities and bowhunting. It’s time to address that problem and solve it.
According to 2015 research by Responsive Management on U.S. archery participation, 81% of archers 18 and older are white, as are 88% of bowhunters. That cultural divide is evident in hunting shows, hunting magazines, and industry catalogues; as well as in the aisles of archery stores, and hunting-themed events and consumer shows.
When Kentucky’s Felix Caliz, 40, looks around, he knows the face of archery and bowhunting doesn’t resemble him. Caliz, a Hispanic, has bowhunted two years. He can’t recall seeing a nonwhite face on archery products or posters while browsing retail aisles. He was also the only nonwhite participant in a recent game-food class.
Showcase more people of color in your marketing materials. Photo Credit: Camouflaging Our Differences Documentary - Camp Compass Academy
Those factors didn’t deter him from learning to bowhunt, but he thinks the profile of a 40-year-old white male hunter creates a participation barrier for most people of color. Anything that makes hunting appear difficult, confusing or complicated creates barriers can deter people from bowhunting.
Kendrick Gray, the community archery specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, agrees. “People think, ‘This sport isn’t for me. It’s only for white people or people with a lot of money,’” he said. “That’s what people think because that’s what they see. … The only way to get past those kinds of thoughts is to have an open dialogue (that) clears the air.”
Gray, an African American, grew up in rural Louisiana with hunters of all ethnicities. He feels fortunate to have grown up in a welcoming, accepting hunting environment, but that’s rare in much of America. Gray thinks bowhunting would have more diversity if everyone felt welcome in the community.
“I believe anybody can [bowhunt] regardless of their ethnic background, social status, age, size, abilities, etc. That’s what I like about it,” Gray said. “It’s something for the whole family, too. We just need to make it more inclusive.”
Joe King, Outdoor Youth Exploration Academy president, said minority groups are an untapped market, and recruiting them would be beneficial.
“To become number one, you have to hit the black and Hispanic markets,” King said. “All businesses should try to recruit [from minority groups] because they’ve saturated the white market.”
The OYEA in Indianapolis provides inner-city youths safe, educational environments to develop life and leadership skills through outdoor activities like archery and bowhunting. King, an African American, tries to connect all youths, especially blacks and Hispanics, to bowhunting, but he can’t do it alone.
By recruiting minority groups, retailers and other business owners can attract more customers, increase sales, and a create a stronger, more unified bowhunting community. Minorities make up about 40% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, the Pew Research Center predicts the nation will become “minority white” by 2050.
Meanwhile, the University of Georgia reported minorities had a combined buying power of $3.9 trillion in 2018, or 26% of the $14.8 trillion U.S. buying power.
To recruit more racially diverse archers and bowhunters, consider the following five tips.
Generate discussion with underrepresented groups. Photo Credit: QDMA
Recruit From New Groups
1. Start a Conversation
Many people fear talking about race, but that’s why we must. “When you say, ‘I don’t see race or color,’ or ‘I’m colorblind,’ it’s like you’re shortcutting an understanding of someone else,” Caliz said. “It’s important to acknowledge cultural differences because you can use them to learn and understand others.”
Gray said race, gender and other demographics are touchy subjects, but we must confront them to influence change.
“It’s absolutely necessary to talk about,” Gray said. “We just have to be strategic with our approach. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and you don’t want to offend people, but the conversation is necessary to bridge the gap, and make archery, hunting and outdoor recreation more inclusive.”
Talking to minorities about bowhunting requires respect. Don’t talk down to them. “Recruit them like you recruit everyone else,” King said. Don’t overthink or complicate the situation. Just explain why archery and bowhunting are fun, challenging and rewarding for all participants.
Follow the five-step method in the Bowhunting 360 article “Share Your Passion: Convert Your Nonhunting Friends.” You must introduce bowhunting, make a connection, break down participation barriers, be supportive, and share your favorite resources. For more tips on communicating with customers, read this ATA article.
2. Update Your Marketing Materials
To connect with diverse audiences you must acknowledge and welcome them. Include photos featuring people of color on your website, product packaging, in-store posters, and social-media platforms. By representing all races in your marketing, you make archery and bowhunting more inclusive.
TPWD staff recently updated their marketing materials, which previously featured white males. They started including photos that included people of color to help minorities identify with archery and outdoor activities. When TPWD staff hit the road, they haul trailers emblazoned with pictures of people of different ethnicities so the public knows “this program is for you” and that “you can do this.”
“Stuff like that goes a long way,” Gray said. “It won’t fix the problem or issue, but it definitely improves it. That, along with open dialogue and conversations, keeps us on the right track.”
3. Welcome New Bowhunting Ambassadors
King also thinks the industry must create, sponsor and feature more people of color on its TV shows and in other public venues. He said high-profile icons inspire people, especially kids, to believe they can do anything. King, for instance, took 60 OYEA kids to a NASCAR race where Bubba Wallace, an African-American, took third place.
“These kids didn’t realize there was a black racecar driver participating in that sport,” King said. “The more these kids see a racecar driver who looks like them, the more they’ll go out there or be interested in NASCAR.”
After all, golf has Tiger Woods, bass fishing has Ishama Monroe and Takahiro Omori, and the “ball sports” are filled with diverse role models. King said the bowhunting industry needs diverse public figures to motivate kids and other beginners to try shooting bows and arrows.
4. Ask High-Profile Locals
Although celebrity spokespeople are great for the industry, a local spokesperson is great for your business. To build awareness of your business and reputation among minority groups, Gray recommends finding someone in your target audience to feature as a spokesperson.
“Connect with someone who already has a relationship with the school, organization or group you’re trying to attract,” Gray said. “Then convey your message and let that person be your spokesperson to the group.”
Be sure to choose someone who can relate to – and understand – your target audience. Your spokesperson also must be excited and energetic about bowhunting, and share that enthusiasm naturally.
Make yourself visible at local events. Photo Credit: TPWD
5. Visit Their Communities
It takes courage for people to try something new. If community members don’t come to you, take your message to them. Explain how and why archery is fun, safe and inclusive, especially for newcomers.
Gray said the TPWD’s outreach efforts connect with minority groups where they live. “We’ll offer training, give away materials, and provide assistance and advice where we can,” he said.
The TPWD also partners with Historical Black Colleges and Universities to recruit students to volunteer to help the agency. These students become familiar with the agency and industry to make them more marketable, Gray said. This partnership also introduces students to archery, bowhunting and other outdoor recreation.
You, too, can get involved in your community to attract new customers, increase brand awareness, and boost your brand’s reputation. Consider exhibiting at local events such as fall festivals, county fairs or farmer’s markets to meet new people. Invite them to your shop or business to learn more.
Changing the Face of Archery
Archery and bowhunting are accepting, inclusive sports without size, weight, strength, ability or color restrictions. Bowhunting, bowfishing, competitive archery and recreational archery are adaptable and enjoyable for everyone.
That awareness starts with you. Start conversations, update your marketing materials, and work with minority clubs, schools and organizations to recruit newcomers. By making archery visible and accessible, we can show the nation that archery sports are for everyone.