There have been a lot of Skre customers and supporters asking when we would be starting a podcast. So here it is - we are proud to introduce today the Skre Country Podcast with Locke Wheeler and Mike Nielsen.
What is Skre Country?
You may have seen the hashtag #skrecountry floating around if you have followed Skre on any social media platforms for the last few years. But what is Skre country?
Ultimately Skre Country is anywhere where you can get out hunting and enjoy the outdoors. Whether that is dangerous game hunting in the Alaskan wilderness, whitetail hunting in the hardwoods of the Midwest, trekking the backcountry for Western Big Game, exotic hunting in South Africa, or conquering the high country for those monster mulies.
What does Skre mean?
One of the most recurring questions that have come up is “What is Skre?” “Does it stand for something?”
Skre (pronounced scree) is not an acronym and is derived from an actual word.
If you've ever hunted in the West, Alaska, or any of the mountainous areas, you will have probably crossed what we call “a miserable pile of rocks.” Over thousands of years, you get water that will gather in the cracks of cliff faces and then that water freezes each winter. When it freezes it cracks more. And with this ongoing process of water gathering and freezing and cracking, the rock starts to tumble off of the cliff faces and forms a giant pile of rocks. This is known as a scree slide.
When we were coming up with a name for our brand, we wanted to find a name that represented our brand and we felt that a scree did. Rugged. Durable. Tough. Built for the outdoors.
And while didn’t necessarily care for the aesthetics of scree as a logo, the phonetic form caught our eye. So we adopted the spelling S-K-R-E.
State of the Union for Outdoor Industry
There have been a lot of questions circling, wondering what is going on in the outdoor industry. While there have been some challenges with inventory the last couple of years due to the pandemic, at Skre, we believe that generally the industry itself is super robust and healthy.
Never in the history of hunting has there been more options for hunting gear. There are new companies popping up daily. And we believe that healthy competition is great. And while we did have a glitch with the supply chain issues, we believe that we have made it past that part. We believe that hunters are going to start seeing a lot more products and outdoor gear in stock.
We believe that this is going to be the first year that the pandemic and other changes in society will fade into memory. The limitations on shopping, traveling, and even the inherent fear of people being out in public is moving more and more into the rear view mirror.
One thing that the pandemic did as a positive for the hunting industry is that it almost forced more exposure to the sport, especially in the Midwest/Eastern states where tags are more easily accessible. With the travel restrictions in place and lower fuel prices, there were more people out in the woods hunting because they had nothing else to do. They could get into their car and drive all over the place hunting. This is a great thing, because it allows for a greater opportunity to keep the hunting spirit alive, when we have always been so worried about it dying.
However, with the lifting of all those restrictions, we have the new challenge of an increase in expenses.
The economy as it sits currently is tough for the average hunter. And even though we are business owners, we are still concerned about the issues that the current economic state is presenting not only to our customers and colleagues, but for ourselves as well.
Mike just took a trip to Canada, where they drove from Utah to Saskatchewan to hunt with an outfitter. With gas being over $5 a gallon (and more in a lot of areas), the gas alone for that trip cost over a thousand dollars.
And for those back East, we are seeing an increase in cost to lease hunting land. We are seeing good hunting land that you can enjoy year round increasing to $50-$60 per acre.
Some say that hunting is turning into a “rich man’s sport.” But we believe that as crazy as the world is right now, hunting is a major outlet for people. Being able to get out into God’s greatest creation - Mother Nature - and spending time with family and friends is what keeps a lot of people sane. While hunters may need to get a little more creative, the bottom line is that hunters are going to hunt.
The biggest challenge that we see the economy putting on hunting isn’t for those established hunters but to those trying to get their youth involved in the sport to preserve it for future generations.
When it comes to hunting in the Midwest and Eastern states, there isn’t much public land access. If you aren’t willing to spend $5,000 to $6,000 a year for access to quality hunting property, you are going to find yourself trying to take your children out hunting on overcrowded, public land.
In Western states, we have access to more public land, but have a different problem that limits our youth. Tag availability. And while there are some Departments of Wildlife that reserve a select number of tags for youth, we are still seeing a lot less youth being able to draw tags and actually get out and hunt.
Both of these scenarios provide a less than ideal hunting scenario for youth. With their attention being pulled in so many different directions - sports, video games, friends, if you don’t make sure that they have an unforgettable experience hunting, they aren’t going to stay interested.
Locke recalls taking his 13 year old son out on his first whitetail archery hunt and how it truly got him excited and into the sport being able to tag out on a whitetail buck.
But having a great experience doesn’t always have to mean tagging out.
Mike remembers taking his youngest son out hunting mule deer and after a couple of days of hard hunting and not seeing anything, Mike could tell his son was losing interest. One night, he loaded up his son and his other 2 kids and took them to a new area to do some glassing. While they were driving and glassing they came across a giant buck. Mike got his son on the buck with binos, but the light was fading quickly and they never had a chance for a shot. But seeing this monster buck was just enough to get his son excited again.
It took very little effort for Mike to get his son up hunting the next morning, because his son was ready to chase after that buck.
Pretty soon we're going to have to pass the torch of conservation and the future of hunting onto our youth. If they aren’t getting the opportunity to hunt and developing that deep rooted love of hunting and the outdoors, the hunting industry is going to die. Ultimately we need to put a heavier focus on our youth hunters, whether that is reserving more youth tags or even outfitters and private landowners donating more youth hunts.
Hunting Ease and Availability
Western Hunting Tags
In western states, we are seeing that it is getting progressively harder and harder to draw tags and this is largely due to the fact that we are experiencing a prolonged drought in the western states that is affecting the mule deer population. There are other forces against them as well, such as CWD. But ultimately the population is hurting, which means that tags are not nearly as readily available as they have been in the past.
With mule deer and elk tags decreasing in the West, we are seeing a lot more hunters traveling farther distances to get their “hunting fix.” We think that this is where we are seeing an increase in Western hunters traveling to the Midwest and even north to Alaska or Canada for more hunting opportunities.
Midwest Hunting Tags
With the influx of out of state hunters, you can see a decrease in opportunities for local hunters to purchase “left-over tags” in states like Kansas. 10 years ago, there used to be tags left-over from the draw that could be purchased by locals the day after the draw. We aren’t seeing that nearly as often as more and more out of state hunters (and locals) are putting in for those draw tags.
While you do have some circumstances in the Midwest that require a draw, most Midwestern states have a large established hunting culture and a healthy population of whitetail and turkey that allow for over-the-counter tag purchase.
And not only are the whitetail populations healthy, in most areas it is exploding. Sure you can find breakouts of EHD and CWD, but those are very regionally concentrated. The biggest threat to hunting in the Midwest is a loss of hunting land. We are seeing a loss of hunting land in a lot of areas due to fragmentation, development, and suburban/metropolitan growth. This leaves very limited opportunities for public land hunting, which is often overcrowded.
Evolution of Hunting
The Evolution of hunting and hunting gear has changed dramatically as technology has advanced. The advancements that have been made have made for a large increase in individual success for hunters in the 21st Century. Which also has had a negative impact on the modern day trophy hunter side of the sport, but has provided a lot more opportunities for success for all hunters.
High Quality Hunting Clothes
Mike Nielsen grew up hunting from a very young age. And he loved it. Mostly he loved the memories of hunting with his dad. He remembers his father spreading his gear out over the living room floor and taking an inventory. It was nothing like the gear that we have today. Essentially, it was a rope, pocket knife, a couple of apples and some snacks in a little backpack. Eventually for Mike, this evolved into a fascination with gear and realizing that being properly equipped with the right kind of gear would help to facilitate success.
Mike recalls the exact trip where the idea for Skre materialized. He was on a hunting trip with a friend in Alaska. They had a wide variety of tags; grizzly bear, dall sheep, and moose. They were dropped back in the Alaskan wilderness in a remote location and started with the dall sheep hunt.
It was only day three when Mike’s pants came unstitched in the crotch. Understandably he was pretty frustrated - these were the best of the best, brand new, expensive, and they couldn’t even last one hunt.
He knew there had to be a better way to produce high end hunting clothes at a responsible price. And so Skre was born with a no-compromise attitude in craftsmanship, quality, or performance.
In 2016 at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo, Skre released their first seven pieces of gear. From there, the company has grown immensely. And it is because blue collar hunters relate to the brand. They recognize that the high quality hunting clothes not only check all the performance boxes (great anatomical fit, good range of motion, rugged, durable), but that they would get all of this at a responsible price.
Mapping technology like OnX, HuntStand, and BaseMap allow for hunters to search out small little pockets and corners of public ground available for hunting. Even if they are hunting in an area with little to no public land, they can find out the owners of the private land and try to gain permission to hunt private land. This type of technology has also gone a long way in helping foster relationships between public land hunters and private landowners, by allowing hunters to be able to more accurately navigate around private land that they don’t have permission to access.
The advancements made in the glass of optics that hunters use, whether that is binoculars, spotting scopes, or rifle scopes, is vastly different from what it was even just 10 years ago. The quality of the glass allows for more clarity, eye relief, and longer viewing distances.
Is Hunting A Dying Sport?
You can categorize hunters into two main categories. First category is what is often-times referred to as the “weekend warriors.” These are the hunters that are going to go out on opening weekend of the deer hunt, but that is about it. They love to hunt, but it isn’t a true passion or obsession. They may find themselves deterred from hunting by some of these challenges that our industry is currently facing.
Then there are the passionate hunters. These are the guys that are going to find a way to hunt, no matter what challenges they face. They will get creative in ways to overcome the obstacles mentioned in this article to get out into the woods and go hunting. They are the ones that can’t imagine life without it. And they are the ones who are going to do what they can to make sure that the sport doesn’t die.
Future Skre Country Podcast Episodes
While we talked about so many different topics in our first episode, we really want to dive into some of the topics that our customers, colleagues, and audience want to hear about. We are going to do more in depth episodes on the evolution of hunting, youth hunting opportunities, hunting gear, and survival topics. but if there is any subject you want to hear about specifically, send an email to Locke Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike Nielsen at email@example.com. We want to entertain, inform, and educate on topics that are important to you. So drop us a message and you’ll hear from us on our next episode soon!