Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A new ethic for huntresses - or at least for this huntress

From the time I was a little kid, my mom raised me to "shop local." Support your local merchants, she told me. Make sure your tax money goes into local coffers.

I've tried to live up to that ideal my whole life, and when I started hunting, I applied the same standard, always aiming to shop at my local, independently owned hunting store unless it didn't carry something pretty close to I was looking for.

Going to the SHOT Show this weekend, however, changed that equation. From here on out, if there's a company that make women's hunting clothing that meets my needs, I resolve never to settle for the man's version of the clothing just because it's what my local store carries. And fellow huntresses, I really hope you'll make the same pledge.

Here's why:

When I was at the SHOT Show, I asked reps from a lot of clothing companies what they made for women - for hunting, not lingerie - and the answer was typically little or nothing. We already knew that, though, right?

But when I talked to the folks at Columbia, they told me they used to make a line of women's hunting clothing, and their retailers even did a great job of stocking it and promoting it, but women just didn't buy it. So Columbia pulled back - the company's not making women's hunting clothes anymore.

If I didn't know the statistics, I might've been taken aback by that. But I already knew that women hunters spend far less than the national average on hunting gear, according to the latest available stats on the matter from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Click to enlarge.

I already blogged in December about the need for huntresses to spend money if they want manufacturers to meet our needs.

But this weekend, I met the resistance: Pam Zaitz from SHE Safari. Shelah Zmigrosky from Foxy Huntress. Kirstie Pike from Prois. These are women just like us who went looking for hunting clothes, came up empty-handed and decided to do something about it and design their own clothing lines.

God bless 'em!

For Columbia, it doesn't pencil out to cater to our needs. Do you think it will be any easier for Pam, Shelah and Kirstie? Do you think they'll be in it for the long haul if we don't buy what they're selling?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting you buy anything that doesn't work for you. For me, the big test is how well pants fit, and how much of a pain in the pants it will be to return anything that doesn't work, because I know I'm going to have to buy this stuff online or over the phone. In the end (sorry, didn't mean to continue the pun), if their products don't work for me, I won't buy them. This ain't charity; it's commerce.

But we have options. And if we continue buying and wearing men's clothes and complaining about the dismal fit all the while, whose fault is it that there's not much on the market for us?

In case you're wondering, no, I'm not on the payroll of any of these companies. I'm just acting on the ethic my mom taught me: Support the merchants who support me.

L-R: The hunting apparel of SHE Safari, Foxy Huntress, Prois Hunting Apparel

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Anonymous said...

As someone who works for a company that manufactures a hunting product, I applaud this post so much. Buying local is great, but if a company makes a unique product that meets your needs and isn't local, buy all means support them.

You've hit the nail right on the head, companies won't make products that people don't buy. They wouldn't stay in business if they did.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks! I really hate buying clothes online if I haven't had a chance to try their fit previously (which is why I was so excited to try on the Foxy Huntress clothing at the show). But I realized I HAVE to bite the bullet, because it's going to be a long, long time before my local hunting stores start stocking women's hunting clothes in any sufficient quantity.

California Duckdogs said...

I remember when Columbia was making womens hunting clothes. They were nice, just not functional in the feild. I don't want to go out in the feild and say, "Hey, look at me. I'm women." I want to go out in the feild and say, "Damn, these clothes fit and are keeping me hidden and warm."

Take Wrangler jeans for example. My husband and I both wear them. One time he mistaked mine for his. (The only way to tell them apart without putting them on is the little red tag above the pocket on mine.) He came out of the room pulling out the excess material at the hips and said, "I guess these aren't mine. I don't have hips."

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, that's the important test, isn't it? That's disappointing to hear Columbia's stuff wasn't functional, since that's a company that obviously understands function for men.

I talked to Wrangler while I was at the show too, and they are making one camo pant for women. They used to make brush pants for women, but they weren't selling, and the rep I talked to said she always just wore the men's version anyway.

I agree with you on the look, sort of. Comfort matters more than appearance: I need room for hips and thighs, not for potbelly and appendages that I lack.

But I'm also not real fond of being mistaken for a guy in the field. When I'm bundled up like the Stay-Puf Marshmellow Man, that's one thing, but for upland game? I am woman, baby!

Phillip said...

Nice one, Holly!

The only way the products will be there is if someone buys them.

By the way, I wasn't sure if you'd seen the Prois booth, and it was in my notes to drop you a note about them.

And welcome home... I got in yesterday afternoon, sans half my luggage... but was so beat I was in bed before the sun was down good.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yeah, I really liked Prois too and can't wait to try Kirstie's clothes.

Now, Brad's recommendation to check out Girlie Gear? Well, you'll notice I didn't write about that company. Let's just say roses aren't very effective in camo.

Blessed said...

Great post, great point - I agree with you completely! I do like Cabelas waders for women - they fit so much better than the mens version...

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, one more reason for me to get to the new Cabela's up in Reno! Maybe when we're all done with storms making it a big pain to get over the Sierras...

Albert A Rasch said...


Glad you found stuff you needed and it makes sense to support industries that help you in your activities.

Having said that though, The only thing I fear is that with the ladies having their own reasons for going to Bass Pro Shops or Cabellas, I'll be resigned, once again, to answering questions that I would just as soon avoid. "Does this make me look too -fill in the blank-" and carrying bags.

With a wink and a smile,
Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, Albert, I would've thought the chivalry of carrying bags would be right up your alley!

And the answer to those questions is always, "No, you look HOT, baby!"

HELLEK said...

Well, while the manufacturer's may finally start making clothes for women, hell's gonna freeze over before they also make petite sizes. Being a woman of midget-like stature but not of boy-ish like figure, finding waders that didn't engulf me to the neck and a jacket that had sleeves that could be folded back and not let cold air rush up my arm was no small trick. I'm still waiting to find glove-mitts where the fingertips aren't and inch or two too long. Alas...