Get outfitted in style for your hunt

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The fashionable crowd this season will show up at hunting camp wearing "scent blocking" camouflage over their "Got Elk" T-shirt and toting a Hoochie Mama elk call.

The hot color will be blaze orange, of course.

There is no doubt that hunting is big business every fall in Northwest Colorado. Thousands of hunters looking for last minute items, or those wanting to be outfitted from head-to-toe pour into the many stores in the area to spend money before heading into the field in search of a trophy elk or deer.

"It's not as big for us as it used to be," Brett Lee, owner and operator of Straightline Sports in Steamboat Spring said. "But I think it's huge for Northwest Colorado -- especially towns such as Craig and Kremmling where hunting season is the biggest of the year."

Lee said it's also big business in Steamboat, but competition among merchants and large retailers such as Wal-Mart have reduced the number of hunters walking through his doors.

Still, he said hunting season helps fill the time between the summer rush and the start of ski season and it's still important to his business.

"It's better than the alternative," Lee said. "It gives us something to do between the seasons."

In a store where most employees hunt or fish, he said hunters normally come in looking for more than an elk call, hunting license or knife. Of course they can find all the extras and a few other things in the outdoors store in the heart of downtown Steamboat, but many of them come in looking for information from his knowledgeable staff.

This year he expects the Hoochie Mama elk call to be one of the hottest items going. He said it has a great sound and, unlike most elk calls, you don't have to use your mouth.

"There is a bubble on one end, and you squeeze it to make it work," Lee said. "It's so easy that just about anybody can use it."

Other elk calls, which require the hunter to use his mouth, are harder to use and are more effective if the operator knows how to use it.

Lee said the squeeze calls were popular last season and he expects the same this time around.

He also thinks that the new camouflage Camelback series is also a great item for hunters.

"They can cut down on weight because they don't have to pack their water around in little bottles," Lee said. "It's also nice because they can have a drink whenever they want it -- without stopping."

But Lee thinks the hottest item in his store will be the "Got Elk" t-shirts. The shirts, which play on the "Got Milk" advertising campaign, come in blaze orange. Lee thinks the shirts are going to fly off his shelves and encourages hunters to come out early if they want one.

Jeff Corriveau of Cashway Distributors in Crag agreed that souvenirs are just as important to merchants as sleeping bags, guns and ammunition.

"We have a small jewelry selection in our store and it does well every year," Corriveau said. "T-shirts and hats are also very popular."

This year, he also expects hunters to be looking for sage and Rocky "scent blocker" camouflage.

He said the sage is the perfect pattern for Northwest Colorado and that the new scent blocking camo helps hunters by hiding the smells that animals sense in the wild.

Cashway also stocks all the knives; survival gear and other accessories hunters will need before heading into the backcountry.

Corriveau said hunters have already started to come into his store and that the season will run through January when hunting tails off in Northwest Colorado.

He said every hunter who walks through his door is different. Some need to be completely outfitted while others simply need a few last minute items.

Hunters can pay thousands to get completely outfitted. n

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