What’s Trending for the Upland Hunter in 2015

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I spent the majority of last week at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. SHOT Show is an enormous business-to-business convention where Pheasants Forever meets with sponsors, shops for gear to include in our own merchandising catalog, and pitches conservation stories to outdoors journalists from across the country. It’s my belief that part of the recipe for Pheasants Forever’s long-term conservation success is fostering excitement in upland hunting and the gear that goes with it to grow our entire constituency.
 
This year at SHOT, my role crossed all of these organizational purposes as I searched for new products targeting the 2015 upland hunter. Not only did this search provide insight into SHOT Show for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members and social media followers, but the hunt for upland products provided a new opportunity for me to introduce Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever to prospective sponsors and also demonstrate market interest in upland bird hunting. 
 
As a guy who lives to chase feathers behind my shorthairs, I can report the upland world is robust and growing. Following are some quick twitch reflections on the SHOT Show week that was:
 

Top Trends

  1. The Uplands are for Over/Unders.  Every major shotgun manufacturer is launching a new over/under in 2015. From Benelli’s 828U to Weatherby’s Orion, the over/under market is robust.  
  2. The Rise of the 28 Gauge.  Turns out I’m not the only bird hunter aspiring to own a light weight scattergun these days. With plenty of ballistics to support the 28’s pattern, most leading shotgun manufacturers are offering smaller gauges in their most popular lines.
  3. Shotguns for Southpaws.  If you’re a fan of quality Italian firearms and shoot left-handed, then the Beretta A400 Action is your dream semi-auto shotgun. 
  4. Made for Women.  It’s a statistic most of us have heard for the last few years – women represent the fastest growing segment of new hunters. While ladies may be taking to the fields and forests in larger numbers, the gear has been mired in male-dominated design. With Caesar Guerini’s launch of the Syren shotguns and Prois’ evolving clothing line, companies are finally designing products specifically for the female hunter.
  5. The Outdoor Celebrity.  When I attended my first SHOT Show in 2003, I was struck by the number of athletes, actors and musicians I encountered walking the floor. Celebrities like Bo Jackson, Wade Boggs, Tom Selleck and Chuck Norris were signing autographs in shotgun booths and hawking products on packaging. These days, the popularity of outdoor television has led to the creation of the “Outdoor Celebrity.” Outdoors companies no longer need a pop culture icon to pitch their products; instead, they gravitate to the hunter with hunting credibility. Today, people like Lee & Tiffany Lakosky, Michael Waddell, Benny Spies, and Eva Shockey are the faces pitching products to “Joe Hunter.”  
 

Finish the Sentence

  • The product I will have in the field next hunting season is: SportDOG Tek 2.0 e-collar
  • The shotgun I’m saving up for is: 28 gauge Browning Citori 725.
  • The most shotgun for the price is: Stevens 555 for under $700.  
  • The most innovative product for the upland hunter is: Kevlar dog vest made by BS Planet.
  • The new piece of clothing I plan to wear next hunting season is: Filson Stryker Jacket with Pheasants Forever logo.
  • What I hoped to see, but didn’t was: Outside of e-collars, there wasn’t a lot of new gear for bird dogs. 
Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.