Family Tradition Influences Outdoor Industry Buying Habits

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Maybe it’s subconscious. Maybe I really do like the packaging or marketing. But it is crazy how every year I tend to gravitate towards the same products, the same brands, and in some cases the same models, year after year when it comes to hunting and fishing products. Hank Jr. said “he was just carrying on a family tradition,” and in most cases I am too.

See my dad and I hunt and fish together whenever possible. Growing up he taught me everything he knew, and those lessons grew into a passion, which eventually grew into a career. I think back to a lot of those trips and successful or not, they are some of my most cherished trips afield often dwarfing some of my major successes when hunting or fishing alone. But this isn’t a reminiscence story; this is about how my family and our choices years ago still influence my buying habits today.

I guess the only thing that comes close to relating to this phenomenon is vehicles or food. See my dad was a Ford truck guy. I can clearly remember many trips into the Spring turkey woods, riding in the Ford. Always dependable, and to me (mainly since I didn’t pay for gas or service) never failing when we needed it. Those experiences carried down to me, now the owner of an F-150, I have never owned a vehicle (besides my wife’s) that was not a Ford truck (2 Rangers and an F-150). So regardless of what I see on TV or in magazines, or hear from others, I will likely never buy anything but a Ford.

Food is often the same way. Everyone has their preferences. Growing up outside Pittsburgh you did not use any ketchup beside Heinz 57…what do you think is in my refrigerator right now? As new foods come out, of course I try them, but those old standbys have not changed (even though the prices have).

So now let’s talk hunting and fishing. I could go on and on about products and brands here, but there are several examples that stick in my brain. I was, for a long time, a trout fishing fanatic (until I lived in Mississippi for 3 years). I was a live bait kind of guy…wax worms, mealworms, and minnows. I took pride in being able to read the flowing stream picking out the proper delivery so that my bait would hit the perfect depth and speed where I thought fish would be hanging. Like any stream fisherman, you lose hooks and split shots a lot.

This is where it gets a little freaky.

I can’t ever remember looking in the fishing section and seeing any hooks but one brand…Eagle Claw. Specifically size 10 Eagle Claw hooks with the leader. It’s like I was

a moth coming in towards the light. I would walk back, laser beam in on the Eagle Claw, size 10 with leaders grab a few packs and I was out. It blows my mind that just because that’s what my dad bought us when I was young, I buy them now. It’s not like a never lost a fish on them, and even crazier is that I am extremely superstitious about it. If I use another type of hook, I feel awkward and almost less confident. How is that possible!

The same goes for split shots. For the longest time I didn’t even remember the name of the brand I bought! I only knew what the package looked like, and instinctively I bought it. I didn’t even have to check the size label…BB…I knew simply by the look and feel of the split shots in the mostly clear package with some small ugly little man on it. Guess the brand yet? It’s Water Gremlin. Even typing it here makes me say (I should “Google” that to make sure), only because I just know the look of the package! But that’s what I grew up using and I still buy today. Not sure why? There are cheaper ones, there are more “flashy” brands, but in my gut I do not feel comfortable on a trout stream without those BB size, Water Gremlins. Scary…

The hunting market is not much better. We all wash our hunting clothes (or at least we should), and although I don’t have a brand I’ve use since I was little (I now use

Scentblocker), I always make sure to drop a few of those magical, make your toes curl because it smells like hunting, wafers in with them for storage. Yes it looks like I was playing Frisbee golf with the amount of black scent-wafers around my hunting room. But when I get dressed for a morning hunt, I want to smell that one smell that takes me back to when I first started hunting. Fresh Earth is its name…and it makes me feel like I am going to have one heck of a good hunt. Hunter Specialties is the brand of the wafer, but honestly I know it by the little tan cup that they are held in. I make sure the package says “Fresh Earth” on it, but other than that nothing matters. I can smell it now (maybe because I probably have some in my office), but it is absolutely what makes me feel like my scent is masked as I head to the treestand. Hell I even use it in turkey season, and I know I could be cooking sauerkraut next to me and a turkey couldn’t smell it! It’s just because it smells like hunting to me, and that almost makes me feel crazy. But I am sure many of you are the same.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, every child who was part of a hunting family could not wait to turn 12. At 12, you were able to buy your first hunting license (now they have

the mentor program which is SO much better). Opening day of rifle for deer was a deep tradition in the state. Schools are closed on the Monday after thanksgiving, and close to a MILLION hunters decked out in blaze orange head to the woods. My first couple seasons, my dad had me use a pump 12-guage with slugs; it was so that I would learn to be patient. By the 3rdseason, it was time to get my first rifle. Not only in my family, but in most hunting families in Pennsylvania, there was one caliber that was “The Deer Gun.” The 30–30, lever action was probably the most popular deer rifle in the state of Pennsylvania. My dad had one in which he had taken several bucks, with one shot. So naturally when it came time to buy my first rifle what did I get…of course a 30–30. But not just any 30–30, like my dad, I opted for the Marlin Model 336A which boasted an “extra” hammer-lock safety. So rather than being “live” when the hammer was fully cocked, the shotgun-like, push-button safety on the side was still in protection mode. I actually harvested my first buck (a spike) with my dad’s gun, and the next year took my second buck (a 7-point) from the same stand with my gun. Guess what gun my son will likely shoot as his first rifle?

Though the outdoor industry has evolved into a multi-billion dollar marketplace, and thousands of new products hit the shelves every year, there is something about the stuff that seems to never fade in our minds. The products that molded us into who we are as sportsmen and women. The products that take us back to some of the fondest memories, often the reasons why we still head afield today. Someday my now 2-year old son will walk into a sporting goods store to buy some hooks for trout fishing. Without a single word from me, I can guarantee which pack he’ll reach for…Eagle Claw, number 10s with the leader.

Originally published at on March 6, 2014.

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