PGC will try to market its hunting licenses

Posted on January 2, 2014

Harrisburg — Marketing has come to the commissions.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission announced it was launching a marketing campaign, with a goal of getting back to selling one million fishing licenses annually.

Now, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is doing the same.

It’s kicking off a marketing campaign that will focus on nine counties initially, starting this year. The goal is to expand it over time, though, and return the agency to selling one million licenses per year by 2018.

The agency hopes to get there by focusing on “fringe” hunters.

Fringe hunters are those who buy a license some years, but not others. There are more of those people out there than previously imagined, said Keith Snyder, chief of the Game Commission’s hunter education and outreach division.

It was once assumed that all license buyers were equally avid, and bought licenses every year, he explained. But that’s not the case, he said.

At no point between 2009 and 2012 did the commission sell more than about 948,000 general hunting licenses, which includes resident and nonresident back tags. The high was 948,323 in 2009; the low was 929,446 in 2010.

Yet the commission’s automated license system shows that 1,319,200 individuals bought licenses over those years, said Samantha Pedder, the agency’s hunting outreach coordinator.

The reason is “churn,” she said. Only about 50 percent of license buyers over those four years bought a license each and every year, she said. Thirteen percent bought a license three out of four years, 14 percent bought a license two of four years and 23 percent bought a license just once in four years.

That coming and going – combined with other surveys that have shown as many as 25 percent of Pennsylvania adults identify themselves as hunters – indicates there are a lot of potential customers out there, perhaps as many as 2.5 million, Snyder said.

The key is capturing them, each and every year if possible. That’s the goal of the marketing campaign, he said.

The commission’s plan is to reach out to those “fringe” hunters via radio, online and print ads, and using billboards. A website, www.gohuntpa.org –  that will offer details on when and where you can hunt, what’s in season, where pheasants are being stocked and where you can get a license ­– will also go live in 2014.

Recent studies done by the commission show people hunt for three main reasons: to harvest a deer, to relax and enjoy the outdoors, and to spend time with family and friends. The ads will focus on those areas, Snyder said.

The campaign will begin in the nine counties that already account for those most licenses sold, and which in most cases are home to lots and lots of people, Snyder said. They are Allegheny, Berks, Butler, Cambria, Cumberland, Erie, Lancaster, York and Westmoreland.

States all around the country have experienced a long-term trend of declining licenses sales, said Executive Director Carl Roe. In some states, he noted, the drop has been much “more precipitous” than in Pennsylvania.

But Pennsylvania is the first state to target fringe hunters in such an aggressive way, Snyder said.

“If we can turn this around by focusing on our fringe customers and get them more involved, that would go a long way toward turning around our decline in license sales,” he said.

The marketing campaign will cost about $500,000, but all of that is coming from federal grants, Roe said.