A hunter scanning the landscape

My career in the hunting industry started in the spring of 1998. The first group of clients were blue collar working stiffs. Pump and bolt-action 30.06’s were the guns they carried. Blue jeans, camo sweatshirts and leather work boots made up the dress code. The fluorescent orange vest, complete with a small game pouch in the back, completed the outfit while in the field. They hiked and climbed mountains without issue. Shot and killed game out past 400 yards by giving it “just a little daylight” in the scope.

Simple, practical and productive, not to mention successful.

Today's typical client dresses in the latest and greatest; Kuiu, Kryptek, Sitka, Kenetrek, Danner and Crispi to name just a few. Don't forget Badlands, Alps and Slumberjack. No one goes afield without a rangefinder. Scopes can be dialed up or down depending on the range.

Bows are shooting so fast that at 20 yards you can barely see the arrow. The arrows are tipped with mechanical contraptions that free spin in the air and open on impact. That's today's hunter. They have to have it all to be “successful”. Or, so they think.

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Back in 1979, Jim Crumbly introduced Trebark camouflage. It was the camo pattern that lead to the “camouflage revolution”. Prior to Trebark, Woodland camo or military camo was your only choice for concealment.

Crumbly enjoyed success for the next several years. Then in 1986, two fellas from down south joined the camo mix. Bill Jordan and Toxey Haas were their names. The camouflage they invented are still the most bought patterns today, Bill Jordan's Realtree and the famous Mossy Oak from Toxey Haas.

Crumbly, Jordan and Haas set out to make us all invisible in the woods. To sell their products, all three relied heavily on magazine advertisements and trade shows. All three men soon realized the value in showing their camo patterns in action. Filming hunts and putting them on VHS tapes was not only good advertising but also another way to make money.

What started out as a better concealing clothing, turned into an industry jump start as a whole. Their timing couldn't have been any better.

You may be wondering by now why I gave a brief camouflage history lesson given the title of the article. I did so because in my opinion, this is what started the warped mind syndrome in today's hunter.

As I said earlier, many of my first clients wore camo sweatshirts and blue jeans. That was a good 12 years after these patterns were developed and five years after Realtree's Monster Bucks video series came out. It took some time to get these companies to full fledge powerhouses but as technology advanced, they took off like a wildfire during a hot Montana summer.

The Monster Bucks series showed giant bucks being killed in all parts of the country. Realtree camouflage worked and if we wanted to kill big bucks, we'd better be wearing Realtree. We went out and bought Realtree camo. We bought into the propaganda. Our mindset started changing.

As other companies started seeing the camouflage businesses succeed, they too saw the advantage in video and creating something new.

Bows, arrows and broadheads soon followed suit. The camo companies were soon sponsored by these manufacturers. They used the equipment in their videos and pretty soon we all needed to be shooting a Jennings bow. We did just that.

The following year we realized, by watching the next Monster Bucks video, that not only did we need Realtree camo and a Jennings bow to kill giant bucks but now we also needed to be shooting Easton xx75 arrow shafts tipped with 145 grain Bear razorhead broadheads. These Bucks were getting harder and harder to kill. They were tougher and smarter than the previous year. If we wanted to be successful we needed to upgrade our equipment. We knew it must be true because we saw it on tv! So, we did.

The following year brought even more change. The old Savage model 99, chambered in .243 was no longer a big enough gun to kill a mature whitetail. If you really wanted to go after ole mossy horns and have any chance at all at bringing him home, you'd better leave the Jennings and the .243 at home. It was time to step up to a Remington model 700 chambered in .300 Win Mag. And.. we did.

We bought new equipment like a largemouth bass chases down a topwater lure on a hot humid night in Florida. We were hooked. New gear every year meant a better chance at putting our names in the record books, so we bought it. Our minds became totally warped into believing what we read in magazines and what we saw on tv. Not only did this form of advertising work for a few years, it still works this day, some 25 years later!

Today, there's thousands of products to choose from verses a couple hundred that were available a few decades ago. The majority of the products are good but few are great. And even fewer still, will actually increase your chances of killing a giant buck. But we still buy and try.

Ever changing

When the camo industry started to really take off, you were a member of the Realtree camp or the Mossy Oak camp. They were your choices early on. Both, are still fairly dominant in the whitetail world. Elk hunters on the other hand, are becoming parochial to names like First Lite, Sitka, Kuiu and Kryptek. The whole reason for this is due to where the money gets spent in advertising. One of these companies is gonna get your money year after year, it's just a matter of which one gets inside your head first. This all boils down to what you prefer to hunt.

Personally, I subscribe to 8 different magazines and I watch hunting tv whenever I get the chance. I can always tell the companies who are really pushing gear and what hunters they are trying to appeal to by which magazine or tv show they advertise with. I then get to see the fruits of their labor, as clients show up decked out in the latest gear.

Why did they buy it?

Their outfitter or guide recommended it, they saw it on tv or they read about it in a magazine. Guess I help warp minds too as a guide.

It's not all bad

We all have to buy gear. Either to replace old stuff or to buy new because we never did a certain kind of hunting before that needs “special” clothing.

Warped mind may be the wrong terminology to be using. The hunting industry has made so many advancements that it's kind of an evolution of the mind. The increase in monster bucks and bulls that are killed every year is due in part to our tv hunting heros that show it's possible to do so. They could do it because a manufacturer paid them to show off their products. This awareness, so to speak, gives the average Joe hope, that we too, can one day kill a wall hanger. All of this lead to better management practices, for all different types of species, across the entire country. Even though our warped thinking cost us a pile of money, in the end, I think it benefited us. Just not in the way we originally thought it would.

Conclusion

Hunting started out as a freezer filler. You had one gun for deer and elk, and another for small game and birds. You put on enough clothes until you were warm or until your ran out of clothes to put on. You shot whatever you came across and the number of points and inches per side mattered none. It's totally different today. Quite frankly, for a lot of us, it's a complete opposite to yesteryear. And you know, that's alright. The overspending we do on stuff we truly don't need creates jobs. The taxes we pay on that gear improves wildlife habitat. The confidence a particular piece of gear gives us, may make us more successful, even though the gear really had nothing to do with it.

That's a look into our warped mind from a gear perspective. I don't have the time to analyze our brains when it comes to trophy hunting and how that mindset has changed. I have to get back to guiding. I'm looking at three different kinds of camo laying in a heap on the floor while having trouble figuring out which one will work best with where I'm hunting tonight. Wish someone made something with rocks in it….

4 COMMENTS

  • Michael Rugola

    Michael Rugola

    Great read Lenny. Looking forward to hunting more great memories, 11 months to go. Bring what you got as long as it is safe!

  • Jacob Moore

    Jacob Moore

    Good article Lenny! I could care less what camo my clients ware... just wish more of the them could seal the deal at the moment of truth! After all, the indianas killed for a living for thousands of years without the gadgets and nothing but a sharp rock!

  • John Provost

    John Provost

    I couldn't agree with you more Len! I was one of those guys hunting in gean's back in the day (over half a century). I believe footwear is the most important piece of equipment. With the right boots you can hunt in your pj"s!

  • Frank Poirier

    Frank Poirier

    Good Article, I can sympathise with what you are saying after being an outfitter for over 40 years. Too many gadgets,,,, not enough hunter, lol