Friday, January 21, 2011

Something to cling to as duck season ends

OK, I have to admit I was a little obsessed with duck hunting stuff when I was walking the aisles of the SHOT Show this week in Las Vegas. It didn't help that I missed fantastic duck weather back in Northern California on Wednesday, and that every time I returned to my hotel room, I got to watch a mallard pair dozing in the Bally's fountain.

But at the back of my mind, a little voice was rising in panic. Oh no oh no oh no! Duck season's about to end!

There are just two weekends left before I'll have to put away the decoys and waders for 265 days. The rush will be over. Hunting will go into slow mode - a turkey here, a pig there. If I'm lucky.

Oh well, guess I'll have to spend my time at the ... Read more...
Oh yeah! The shooting range!

One of the first things I got to check out when I arrived at the SHOT Show on Wednesday was the Prois Hunting Apparel booth. As owner Kirstie Pike took me through the new additions to her clothing line, one thing leapt out at me: an awesome shooting vest.

I already have and enjoy one of Kirstie's Competitor shooting shirts and love it - there are shoulder patches on both sides, accommodating those of us who shoot left-handed, and the patches are well-padded.

But I'm really excited about the new vest, which will be available for sale this summer (and as a member of the Prois Field Staff, I might get access to it a little earlier).

Here's what makes this vest cool:

- Nice feminine cut, which you can see from the photo above. OK, I know, that's not the most important thing in the world. But it's NICE.

- In addition to front cargo pockets for shotshells, there's a rear pouch for hulls that also opens by zipper across the bottom to make it easy to dump the shells at the end of your shooting day. LOVE that!

- If you don't want to use the cargo pockets and rear pouch, you can actually remove them - they unzip completely.

Because the SHOT Show is a trade show, not a consumer show, you don't always get the opportunity to try things on there. But Kirstie had a floor model vest in my size and it fit beautifully. I especially liked the built-in belt that allows you to adjust fit perfectly.

The vest will retail for $139. If you'd like to see the full catalog description, click on the image below (and for that matter, if you'd like to see the full catalog, click here).

Nothing like a new article of clothing (or the hope of one) to brighten your outlook on the future. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to pack for tomorrow's duck hunt.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

OK, let's talk about this. As I read your posts from Vegas, my primary feeling was stuff-lust. I want those waders. I want that jacket. I want that vest. They look to be functional, well-designed, and attractive.

But there's a also a little voice saying, "Whoa there. This ain't what hunting's about." For me, it's a constructive pursuit which, if successful, satisfies the very primal need to feed ourselves and our families. Somehow, a $139. vest doesn't seem quite in the spirit of the thing.

I recognize the value of functional clothing and equipment, but those come in fairly basic versions. I remember, years ago, that David Mamet was involved in designing a line of hunting wear (Glengarry Glen Plaid, was the Wall St. Journal tagline) that he touted as being beautifully functional but was also ungodly expensive.

I'm all for hunting gear sized for women, but there's a point at which I feel like it stops being about hunting and starts being about acquisition. I'm not sure where that point is, and it's a different point for everyone. And, I suspect, my point will move as I get more experience and place a higher value on some of the clothing's features. Still, though ...

NorCal Cazadora said...

"Stuff lust" - great term, and I definitely felt it the whole time I was in Vegas. I think it replaced slot machine lust, which is always, always less fruitful.

To address your issues:

The prices don't bother me at all. My mom sews and I know the value of quality workmanship, and with companies like Prois that have their clothing made in America, that quality workmanship comes at a higher price.

That said, I was talking to some guides recently about a new hunting clothing company they liked (which I will not bother to name here because they don't bother to make women's clothes), and they said it's great technical gear, comparable to what you could get at REI, but you pay an extra premium for the camo. So there may be a bit of inflation here. But it's not a lot - good lord, I paid $90+ for smartwool longjohns at REI (which, BTW, makes a point of having no camo in its stores, even for products that come in camo).

As for want versus need: Because I review gear, I WANT everything I can get my hands on, and I get some of it free or discounted, which makes it easier. But let's take this vest: Do I need it? In strict terms, no, I can shoot skeet and clays without it. But I shoot skeet a LOT in the off season, and I can tell you that every bit of tailor-made gear I can get is useful. I use a belt-on pouch from Cabela's now, but it won't hold as many shells as Kirstie's vest pockets, and it doesn't have the separate hull pouch, and it is a pain to empty.

I think every hunter needs to decide what s/he can afford and get the best available within those parameters, because proper gear does make a big difference in comfort and function. The more you hunt, the more you'll see what I mean.

That said, of all the gear I try, there are some items that become must-have favorites for me, and others that sit in the closet. Problem is you don't know until you try them, and unless you're lucky, you've got to buy to try.

Kate said...

My reaction is pretty close to Tamar's. I'm a non-hunter who wants to start hunting to provide myself with food. As a homesteader, I know how much effort and expense goes into raising my own food. Hunting is interesting to me because it *seems* to provide an alternative to raising food myself while still ending up with clean meat. But in order to justify hunting, it's going to have to offer an improvement in either the expense or the effort category. It's already clear to me that hunting's fixed costs mean it's not a cheap pursuit. And based on general life experience, I'm guessing that becoming at all passable at hunting is going to require a non-trivial investment of time. If I can't make hunting work as either a cheaper or faster way to procure good food, it's not going to work for me. I already have a pretty sure thing going with the homesteading project. It wouldn't make sense to take money or time away from something sure in order to try for something less certain. This is all to say that however much the workmanship or convenience or attractiveness justifies a $139 price tag, that expense is out of the question for me. Nice if you can get a freebie to review though.

Hil said...

Kate, we get carried away with the "stuff" and the expensive gear, but you do not need to spend a lot of money to be a successful hunter. Once you own a gun, your expenses are ammo, licenses and time. Ammo and licenses aren't hugely expensive, particularly in big-game hunting where you're only going through a box a year or less.

You can get by with a $300 gun and layers upon layers of Dad's old hand-me-down clothes if you need to, and hunt just fine. Don't let the costs of all the fancy stuff scare you away! I honestly don't know a single "real life" hunter who uses this kind of expensive stuff. Only the folks in the industry who either got it for free or think they need to spend the money to keep up with their peers for appearance's sake. The fancy gear is nice, but by no means necessary.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Kate, I think it's possible for hunting to be an affordable way to acquire food, but it depends on a lot of factors.

Me, I live in a city, and the closest hunt I can do is 35 minutes from home; most hunts are 90+ minutes, so gas costs are a significant factor for me. During duck season, I've been spending probably $100 a week on gas. But I am insane.

Hil's right about big game hunting - you can do it cheaply and get a LOT of meat in return. Especially if you can hunt on your own property.

But duck hunting is spendy. My outlay my first year was $250 for a jacket (I wanted a good one), $150 for waders and $1,000 for a gun. I could've gotten all of those items cheaper, but when your favorite form of hunting often has you hunting in rain, a cheap jacket is a big mistake.

This year I added smarter base layers - all of which can be used for something besides hunting. They were expensive too.

I'd hate to count how much I spend on hunting - I know it's a lot. But I don't hunt for affordable food. I hunt for the best food on earth, I hunt in rejection of a food production system that values "cheap" above all else, and I hunt for the sheer joy of reconnecting with nature as a member of it, not an observer who believes herself to be above it (not an indictment of anyone in particular, but a commentary on the inflated human sense of self-importance). To me, these things are worth as much as I can afford to pay.

Hil said...

Good points. The all-told, price-per-pound of venison or wild pork is MUCH cheaper than ducks or dove and there are so many factors involved that the price per pound is going to be radically different for everyone.

NorCal Cazadora said...

But ducks and doves taste soooooooooooooooooo good!

Richard Mellott said...

Hi Holly,
I guess you've heard this one before, but...can't resist.
"Holly want some quackers?"
I've been itching to get back out in my waders, but chukars are more plentiful in the desert where I live. I also have two hunting buddies who neglected to get their stamps, so I would have to go solo, and that ain't gonna happen til I'm much more experienced, and then again, why would I want to do that, it's more fun to go with buddies. Anyway, thanks for providing me with some reading, and info about interesting shows. By next year, I want to be all geared up at the beginning of the season, and be a much better shot. So, I have to get a new gun, because my shotgun doesn't take the 3.5 in shells...and the barrel is crooked...

Albert A Rasch said...


Every woman should have a little black hunting outfit. Even I know that!

Best regards,
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
The Best Turkey Hunting Tips!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Albert, hunting clothing is as close as I get these days to having a little black outfit! And to think just five years ago I was a frequent shopper at Macy's and Nordstrom. Ah, how things change.

Swamp Thing said...

NorCal's comment on the cost of hunting going up with the cost of living is right.

Not just because "stuff is expensive" but because you will be competing with other hunters, their calling, their boats, and their decoy rigs.

When it's your own 1,000 acre homestead and no one else hunts there, sure, you can get by with some patched up mallard decoys that barely float. And wear dull brown instead of camo.

But if you plan on hunting the area more than twice a month, or if anyone else is hunting it, you will need better gear. It will cost more money.

Bottom line.

Once the factor of "competition with other hunters" comes into play, I believe that it becomes impossible to be a true subsistence hunter (by definition, not a full time hunter because of farm duties, etc) based on cost per unit effort (pounds of meat) alone.

If you're competing with other hunters, I'd wager that it's cheaper to farm ducks than hunt them!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Good points, Swamp Thing. I see that really clearly with motion decoys. If no one in the marsh had motion decoys, we'd all have pretty equal opportunity, but the minute one hunting party puts up a WindWhacker or RoboDuck, they've raised the bar, and they will get all the ducks until everyone else puts out the same motion decoys.

I agree it's cheaper to farm than to hunt - sort of. I mean, that's the reason agriculture took off in our species - for what felt like a minimal outlay, we could eat more animals, and fatter animals, without the investment of time and calories. Of course, I believe the true costs of agriculture to be unacceptably high, but that's a different soapbox :-).