Blaze Pink: An Evolving Hunting Tradition

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 3:13 PM CST
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We're well into the gun deer season, and this year, you're seeing more than just blaze orange in the woods.

This is the first time hunters have the option to wear blaze pink, but the new choice of attire isn't for everyone.

Stephanie Meuret is a hunter.

"It's always been a tradition in my family,” Meuret said. "I've been hunting since I was 12 years old."

She knows what it's like to get that fever every fall, while she sits and waits.

"We always get up around 4:30. Grandma cooks us breakfast, of course, [then] we grab our partner, and we go out to the woods,” Meuret explained.

The anticipation is exhilarating for Meuret every time to goes out to her tree stand.

"Just hearing little crunches through the woods, like even a squirrel. Like, just seeing a squirrel makes me happy. I don't know,” she smiled.

Meuret also helps instruct a hunters’ safety class, passing along a piece of her passion.

"Get more kids out in the woods, being safe and showing them what to do in the woods,” said Meuret.

Part of being safe is being visible. Meuret said blaze orange can be seen very well.

Blaze orange has been a Wisconsin hunting tradition for decades, but now with the option for hunters to choose between blaze orange and blaze pink, that’s getting mixed reactions.

"None of my family members are going to wear pink,” said Meuret.

However, Amy Schmidt is another hunter who is embracing her new choice and was happy to hear that she was allowed to wear blaze pink.

Schmidt is a 25-year veteran of the sport.

"I got my first deer when I was pregnant with our first son,” Schmidt smiled.

She added that while her husband and two sons will stick with orange, they weren’t surprised when she made the switch. Even her rifle is pink, which was a gift from her husband, Ken.

"I've talked to a few women hunters that I know, and they're still wearing the orange just because they have it and have always had it,” Schmidt explained. "Everybody knows pink's been my favorite color since I was a little girl.”

Area stores, like Fleet Farm in Wausau prepared early.

"This has been set and ready to go since the beginning of September, end of August,” said manager, Michael Richardson.

But it wasn’t until long that demand outweighed supply.

"The section was probably a good 10 times the size of what you see here,” said Richardson, pointing to the roughly seven lightweight blaze pink hoodies he still had in stock as of Nov. 10. “And very quickly we sold through it."

Richardson said the pink selection included everything from lightweight hoodies to heavy hunting coats, hats, gloves and bibs.

"As we move forward into the oncoming years, that selection's going to grow. So it's going to be exciting,” he said, smiling.

No matter which of the two colors hunters prefer, you need to be seen in the woods.

Conservation wardens with the Department of Natural Resources say that 50-percent of what you wear above the waist must be covered in one of the two bright colors, including on your hat.

"Those blaze orange and blaze pink colors tends to stand out against the greens and browns that are out there,” said Randy Dunkel, a DNR conservation warden. "Bullets travel long distances so we want hunters to be able to see if there's somebody across the field or in another portion of the woods."

Just a reminder, the pink cannot be just any shade. Dunkel said the pinks that are acceptable will be the florescent shades. He adds that most manufacturers work with the state to ensure the pinks are legal to be sold.

While hunters sit and wait some more for that big buck to come along, one thing that won't be waiting on them is an evolving tradition.

"I think [allowing blaze pink is] a good step in the right direction,” Schmidt said. “It shows that they're trying to do something to encourage more hunters."

University of Wisconsin-Madison textile expert Majid Sarmadi studied the visibility of blaze pink. He said the color is more visible against the orange fall landscape than blaze orange. Sarmadi added that the more visible choice will save lives.

He also said deer have an easier time seeing blaze orange than blaze pink, suggesting that blaze pink might camouflage hunters.

Wisconsin is the first state to approve blaze pink as an alternative hunting color. Since it was enacted in February, Colorado, Louisiana and New York have passed similar laws.

In Wisconsin, bi-partisan authors said it was designed to draw more women into hunting and provide hunters an option.

Some female hunters have described the bill as sexist.