Hunting Industry Looks to China for New Hunters

Could China's economic boom give way to a culture of hunters looking to travel to America and its wild, public lands and private hunting ranches?

Hunting Industry Looks to China for New Hunters

Photo: iStock

According to a report by Quartz, a business publication sharing competitive space with The Economist and Financial Times, western hunting outfitters are targeting hunters in China due to the current decline in U.S. hunting participation. This article comes on the heels of China’s first hunting show, which took place in June.

The China Hunting Show was founded by Jerry Li and his twin brother. Li, according to Quartz writer Laurel Chor, is banking on the idea that as China’s wealth grows, the Chinese people will look for more activities to project levels of social status. Hunting, arguably, can be one of these activities.

On the hunting show’s official website, show organizers frame China’s impact as “a boon to the hunting industry.” The site homepage offers these stats:  “Of the 1.4B China population, fully 400,000,000 are part of the burgeoning middle class. In 2017, about 130 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad. The UN World Tourism Organization stated overseas consumption by Chinese tourists accounted for over one fifth of the world’s total. A growing pastime for many of this voracious traveling class is hunting.”

Photo: China Hunting Show
Photo: China Hunting Show

Maybe it’s not such a far-fetched idea. In 2017, Grand View Outdoors reported on the affinity Chinese tourists had for American shooting ranges. According to the article, which cites USA Today as a source, gun tourism is a growing business in the U.S. because laws regulating firearms are more relaxed than those in other countries. The appeal of America’s gun culture isn’t limited to China.  The publication says Honolulu attracts target shooters from Japan, and Las Vegas has numerous gun ranges that cater to foreign visitors as well as U.S. citizens.”

More interesting perhaps for those working in the U.S. hunting industry, is the article’s assessment of a dying hunting culture in the States.

“The global hunting industry, too, is looking to the potential of the Chinese market as its biggest client base—American hunters—dwindles,” writes Chor. “The sport is losing its popularity among younger Americans as cultural attitudes about hunting change, and the country continues to urbanize. In 2011, there were 13.7 million hunters in the US, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (pdf). Five years later, that number decreased to 11.5 million, with most of them over the age of 45.” 

As NPR’s Beau Dure wrote, small town America — a landscape and culture so critical to the sustainability of hunting and new, younger hunters — “has bled citizens to the glamorous big cities,” for decades.

"At this point, the prognosis does not look good for much of small-town America," writes William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. At that was a report from 2014. In the years that have followed, small-town populations continue to decline. 

Still, this strategy – hunting-centric companies targeting Chinese hunters – is a longterm play that’s unlikely to make big gains in the near future. While they are 18 million U.S. clay target shooters, for instance, Li estimates that there are only 20,000 in China. But the hook is indicators that point to growth.

The first company to cater to Chinese people who wanted to go hunting abroad opened in 2003, and now, Li estimates that there are about 20. Existing offerings for Chinese tourists include shooting polar bears in Canada and rhinos in Namibia, and those going on fishing trips in Russia can even request prostitutes to accompany them, Chinese news outlet Sixth Tone reported.

So who attended China’s first hunting show last month? Alexander Oelosfse he owner of a hunting safari company in Namibia was one such attendee. He participated in the show as an exhibitor. Oelosfse told Quartz he feels the pressure of a shrinking Western market.

“When this chance came up with the China Hunting Show, we felt this might be… something that re-energizes the hunting market,” he said in an interview with Quartz. “I think the future for China and Africa is really big, and the faster we from this side adopt the Chinese market, it’ll be better for us and for our kids in the future.”

To read more about Chinese hunting and gun culture, or to get details on China’s first hunting show, go to the Quartz article, “Western Hunting Outfitters Think China Is the Future of the Market.”

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