Jason Hairston is on the hunt for a different outdoorsman.
Killing a Canadian mountain sheep is a little like climbing Everest. It’s expensive and arduous and typically involves terrible weather. Clothing is critical, but hunters can’t wear the garish, down-stuffed suits that climbers in the Himalayas favor. Sheep, it turns out, have incredible eyesight: Sophisticated camouflage is essential. “I’d say 80 percent of the hunters I know wear Kuiu,” says Bob House, who charges $40,000 for guided expeditions in the Yukon. “I absolutely love it when my client steps off the plane and is fully outfitted in that stuff.” If paying tens of thousands of dollars and traveling to a remote part of Canada to kill sheep doesn’t already signal how serious someone is, Kuiu does.
Unless you’re an experienced sheep stalker, you’ve probably never heard of Kuiu, named after an Alaskan island and pronounced “koo-yoo.” But the company is conferring on hunting gear the status that Patagonia did for outdoorwear and Lululemon Athletica did for yoga pants. Kuiu is making it lighter, more water-resistant, more breathable, and better looking—an upgrade to what’s been previously available, which has been as oblivious to performance, fit, and aesthetics as a deer on the opening day of hunting season.
Depending on where you live and the number of Wunder Under pants you own, you may assume that hunting is a niche sport. You’d be wrong. Hunting is a huge and remarkably stable business opportunity: About 15 million people bought a license in the U.S. last year, a number that’s remained virtually unchanged for the past decade, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (it estimates that hunting gear and apparel take in about $23 billion annually). There are far more hunters in the U.S. than rock climbers or surfers, and almost as many as there are skiers and snowboarders, according to annual surveys by the Outdoor Foundation. Bowhunting, in particular, is booming; because it requires more tracking, young, fitness-focused people are picking it up. “We’re finding that it’s resonating with the farm-to-table movement,” says Jon Edwards, president of Schnee’s, a hunting retailer based in Bozeman, Mont.
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