I got a rare opportunity earlier this week to get paid for my opinions. After receiving a phone call from a friend about a market research study on hunting, I called the company doing it and said I would be interested in participating.
Turns out the company was putting together a focus group and was offering to pay $75 to qualifying participants. I was in the right demographic group, so I came in for a two-hour session.
There were about seven or eight other guys, all about my age, in the group and we were asked to give our opinions about different brands of firearms and ammunition. Most of the brands were in the hunting industry, but a few were in military and tactical.
It’s interesting to see how intensely the various companies work to craft their brands and images. Guys like me don’t spend too much time trying to figure out what a particular brand stands for, but, it turns out, the companies themselves sure do. We were shown sets of pictures depicting various hunting scenes that had been used by companies to sell their products. We were asked what words came to mind when we saw the pictures.
Of course, the bottom line is: Does a particular company’s image make hunters like me more willing to buy its products. I’m not so sure it does. For me, it’s about finding the right balance between price and performance. I want equipment that gives me consistently high results, but is not ridiculously expensive. For me, it goes something like this: Let’s say I want a shotgun that will work for both deer and turkey and I find one for $500 that is rated an 8 on a scale from one to 10. And, there is another shotgun that is rated a 9 and costs $1,000. In this case, and most others like it, I would buy the $500 shotgun.
Same is true for ammunition. You can pay $50 or more for a box of high-end bullets that are said to give you 1/2-inch groups at 100 yards. I have stayed away from this stuff and gone with bullets that cost only about $20 a box. But, they shoot well out of my rifle and I have taken three deer and an antelope in Montana with these rounds.
I think, in this economy, more and more hunters are thinking the same way I am. In fact, one of the guys in our focus group said he is out of work right now. I hope the companies pay attention to this and continue to strive to offer high-quality products at affordable prices.
I believe the type of shopping approach I take is what prudence demands. With so many other things competing for my dollars, especially my children’s education, I have to be very careful about what I spend on hunting. Actually, I’m spending the most money right now on tags, particularly, nonresident tags. In November, I paid $350 for a Montana either-sex deer tag. I ended up taking a mule deer buck, but I’m not sure I can afford to buy that tag again next year. I may go with the $80 antlerless whitetail tag, which I also was fortunate enough to fill on my November hunt.
In addition, I will continue to economize on gear. For example, I have a box of copper-plated shotgun shells for turkey hunting that I bought two years ago. It patterned so well in my gun that I was able to shoot three turkeys at distances ranging from 40 to 58 yards. That’s good enough for me! The same company that makes that ammo makes a load containing pellets made from a heavier material than lead. They pattern slightly tighter, but cost about three times as much. Though I like these shells, I don’t think I will buy any more. I have six shells left in this box and I will use them up and stick with the others.
Unless, of course, the company wants to provide me with free samples.