Multiple-choice question: Bullseye Sports in Platteville is:
(A) A gun store.
(B) A hunting goods store.
(C) An outdoor clothing store.
(D) A safe-moving business.
(E) All of the above.
The answer, as anyone who has gone into the store, is E: All of the above. One could even add a small amount of business in military surplus and activity bags to that list.
“I like hunting, and that’s why we get a lot of people here, because we’re knowledgeable,” said owner Terry Lyght. “We’re not just talkers, man.”
A walk into the store shows off the variety. Pistols, rifles and shotguns are in one corner. Bow hunting equipment is elsewhere in the store. Ammunition can be found for not just common guns, but unusual guns.
Heads of various animals successfully hunted with guns and bows are found every couple of feet on the walls. Ask, and Lyght will get out the two stools made from elephant legs.
The business started in Lyght’s basement in Fennimore. It was called Lyght’s Gun Shop in its first physical location, then Lyght’s Sports and Liquor. The business moved to the former army surplus store in Platteville and became Bullseye Sports 13 years ago.
Even though “we’ve gotten more into archery and safe-moving,” said Lyght, guns and related supplies are “still more popular. There’s a lot of people bow-hunting, but that’s still more popular — gun hunting is still about 4 to 1.”
Interest in guns is not limited to hunting. Lyght said interest in guns for personal protection is “way up. When crime’s up, gun ownership goes up. A lot of women are living alone; a lot of older people are living alone. In Wisconsin, I think it started when we got concealed carry” legalized with permit.
December’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting has, if anything, increased interest in semi-automatic rifles such as the Bushmaster AR-15, or “everything like that — magazines, .22 Long Rifle, .223 shells are off the shelves,” he said, apparently the result of belief that those kinds of guns will be banned.
Increasingly gun owners are choosing to load their own ammunition instead of buying it.
“Reloading is probably as big as any,” said Lyght. “I’ve been doing it my whole life, and people have been coming to me for questions, and I have the answers.”
Lyght’s two part-time employees also have answers. Between the employees and regular visitors, it’s not clear to a first-time visitor who actually works there, but they know what they’re talking about.
The two fastest growing parts of Lyght’s business are equipment for bow hunting and equipment for sport shooting.
“That’s why reloading is picking up,” he said. “But we don’t have shooting ranges.”
The business is an outgrowth of Lyght’s lifelong interest in hunting. Most of the trophies on the walls are his, although some are from deceased hunters.
“I’ve hunted all over the world,” he said. “I hunted in Africa; I’ve hunted in Kodiak, Alaska. Definitely more challenging with a bow.
Tied to that is Lyght’s interest in promoting hunting.
“I like to get younger people involved with it, sit in a blind and watch them shoot their first turkey or deer,” he said. “Nothing beats that.”
Hunting also isn’t exclusively a men’s activity anymore.
“You’re seeing more and more girls,” said Lyght. “They dropped the age from 12 to 10 with the mentor program, and some guys I know only had girls.
“The hunting industry’s changing; there’s more girls’ [hunting] clothing out there. That’s good — we’ve got to get more people interested in hunting.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Bullseye Sports offers little in fishing equipment.
“We’re a little too far away for ducks; we’re not close enough to rivers,” said Lyght.
The store offers supplies for bird hunting, but “there’s not a very good supply of pheasants either,” he said.
The most unusual facet of the business may be safe-moving, which takes Lyght throughout the Midwest.
“I wanted one, so I got one for my business 18, 20 years ago, and I told them that I could probably sell some of these safes, and they said if you want to, give it a try,” he said. “A lot of people sell safes, but nobody installs them.”
To move a safe, Lyght uses a pickup truck with a lift, pallet jacks, heavy-duty appliance carts, and “some good buddies. I’m running low on good buddies.
“The heaviest safe I’ve ever delivered is 1,700 pounds. You’re looking at up to a ton of weight. People don’t want to mess with that.”