Despite the uproar and moral indignation directed at hunting recently, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “trophy” hunting is enjoying a resurgence of popularity with guided hunts booked up two or three years in advance.
These are not your typical small game and bird hunts, but high-end, guided hunts lasting 10 days or more and costing tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the area and the animals pursued. In addition to the chance at a big animal, these hunts are tapping into the extreme fitness and adventure travel segments of the market. Some of the same clientele who once competed around the world in marathons or triathlons are now challenging themselves stalking game 10 miles or more up steep mountainsides carrying 50 lb. packs and essentially doubling or even tripling that weight once a successful kill has been made and the animal is packed out of the backcountry.
The new popularity of these extreme hunts have been a boon to companies like KUIU, who specialize in warm and light weight hunting apparel and gear designed specifically for the extreme conditions encountered in hunting the mountains for sheep or in the lowlands for big bears.
Surprisingly, many hunters find the hunts that are unsuccessful as memorable as those that are. Despite the costs involved, they look at the experience as having faced the most extreme conditions and pushed themselves to the limit to successfully meet nature on its terms. According to the WSJ article, these hunters appreciate the motivation to stay active and keep their mental and physical edge year round.
KUIU owner Jason Hairston sites a hunt in Alaska in the middle of an ice storm as one of his best hunts ever. He and his father had to wade through an icy river to reach their rendezvous point. Said Hairston, “My dad got frostbite and lost two fingertips. We all got frostbite on our feet from being in the water all day. It was awesome. I loved it. To know that you can make do in conditions that harsh, I thought was a big success.”