Sometimes it’s necessary to give a little background, or in this case a timeline, to set the scene in order to make a point or make a story flow properly. So, here is a very brief breakdown of the last fifteen years of my life:
- 2002-2006 – Finished up a second degree while working a few different jobs in my chosen field to gain experience.
- 2006-2010 – Moved to Arizona for my career; a job at which I spent a good portion of my waking hours at.
From as far back as I can remember I loved being outdoors, hunting, shooting, fishing, etc. I grew up about 15 miles outside a small KS town of about 5000 people and was lucky enough to be able to hunt as much as I wanted in an area rich with deer, pheasant, coyote, and turkey. During the time period mentioned above I did virtually no hunting with the exception of our traditional opening weekend pheasant hunt and few sessions of predator calling. Life was simply too busy and I had to establish myself in my career. Looking back it might actually be some sort of crime for a hunter to live in AZ for four years and only hunt coyotes a few times…. one of life’s regrets. In 2010 I was able to transfer to CO and found work to be way less chaotic which allowed me to finally get back to hunting, but as I got back into it I realized hunting as an industry had changed. It was like falling asleep on Earth and waking up on Mars!
I remember going to Wal-Mart-type stores for all my hunting needs growing up. Our small town discount center had all the camo clothing, arrows, broadheads, knives, ammunition, bows, and guns you needed to successfully fill a tag or a bag limit, all tucked away in two convenient aisles just behind the clothing department and next to the electronics section. If you wanted the latest in technology, say a Johnny Stewart cassette call, the occasional road trip to Cabela’s had you covered. Fast forward to 2010 and I re-entered an industry packed to the brim with exotic broadheads, insanely fast, light, and advanced bows, clothing at department store prices with designer style, and endless gadgets and technology to “give you the edge”. As with everyday life, technology had settled in on hunting and turned it into a big industry. Don’t get me wrong, the new technology in apparel, gear, and weapons is amazing and I enjoy learning about and/or trying out some of the “latest and greatest”, but new technology brings competition, and sometimes competition chips away at the core values of customer-driven industry. I’ve had some less than stellar interactions with companies that sacrificed customer service, integrity, and character, presumably due to expansion and success. This is a separate topic altogether so, rather than get into that, I want to talk about the great experiences I have had with a few companies that I feel truly represent hunting not as an industry, but as a tradition. These companies do so by putting customer service, pride, and quality above everything else.
-Heads Up Decoy –A good business from a small town knows that customer service will make or break you. Garrett makes the absolute best decoy in the business and is one of the most approachable people you will ever talk to. The HUD has put me insanely close to animals more times than I can count. I probably brag this product up to people more than any other product out there because it truly a game changer.
-Pnuma Outdoors – I originally gave Pnuma gear a test run last year when they first released their product and I was instantly blown away. Pnuma has created the most comfortable, durable, and functional gear I have ever worn. I don’t know of any company that takes so much pride in their product that they ship it in dry bags with personalized tags for each customer. Top it off with pricing that is competitive with the top end apparel companies in the business and you have a company I will continue to stand behind.
-New Breed Archery – Pride in product. New Breed makes top of the line custom bows with the pride of a small business. It is definitely comforting when you call a company and they remember you and their previous dealings with you. Every “standard” feature of their bows, from the titanium fasteners to custom strings, highlights their commitment to being the best in the business, and they do so without sacrificing excellent customer service.
-Element Arrows – The first time I placed an order with Element I did so over the phone with Jeremy, the owner of the company. It was more like talking to someone I had known for years than placing an order for a product. Jeremy is insanely knowledgeable about all things bow and arrow, like the Yoda of archery! Not to mention that Element makes the toughest and most accurate arrows I have ever shot. Element is one of the very few companies I staff for because they stand behind their product and treat customers well.
-Warrior Fuel – A little outside the standard “hunting stuff”, Warrior Fuel makes an excellent line of training supplements. I have been using their supplements for a while and they perform very well. In addition to that, Warrior Fuel makes this list because of the way they interact with customers (you may see a pattern here). I have spoke with Ryan several times via messenger and, like others I have mentioned, it was more like I was messaging a buddy than a business person. Very approachable, knowledgeable, and always willing to answer questions.
Maybe my small town roots have helped mold what I look for and expect from a company. Maybe I have exceptionally high standards. In my eyes, an excellent product is only mediocre if the company that produces it doesn’t meet certain standards. In the modern big-business world of hunting there still exists companies that take pride in customer service and stand behind their products. Even though I enjoy the technological advances the hunting industry has to offer, at the end of the day I like the traditional feeling of hunting. These companies maintain a small-business mentality while producing the best products in the business and thus help the traditional feeling of hunting survive.