By: Cindy Lavender

Some of the women hunters out there who have been hunting for a decade or so can relate to me when I look back to the not so good ol’ days when you go to a sporting goods store and there wasn’t a single item or piece of clothing for women, in the entire store! There were no pink bows, guns with pink grips; you couldn’t even find a pair of long johns that didn’t have a useless opening in the front. I remember trying on some blaze orange bibs, and the smallest size they made were a man’s medium. I said to myself, “a fine thing! I’ll just have to take it in. I’ll have them shorten the hem”.

As for the man’s jacket that I had no choice but to wear, I could get away with it, but it added a lot of bulk when you were using a man’s rifle that had an already too-long stock that had a scope you could barely reach to get the right perspective. Even though I felt defeated in the gear that was available to me, I still did not give up what truly became ingrained in my very soul.

I slogged over deep snow-covered terrain; the man’s hunting boots I had worn were weighing about a ton and a half each. At least I got a good workout, I rationalized. Hunting, and being outdoors in the wintertime, challenging myself constantly in the extreme cold, walking and existing outside – rest was even an illusion during those long days but still, nothing made me feel more alive.

I recollect my first kill, a doe at 30 yards. I shot her with my boyfriend’s 30.06, right at the end of shooting time. It was a humane kill and although my husband (boyfriend at the time), offered to gut her out for me, I refused. No self-respecting hunter lets someone else gut their deer out. I opened her up carefully; her belly was barely lit by the shadows of an unsteady flashlight. I still remember the way her empty carcass kept filling with blood. ‘Where was all this blood coming from?’ I was a mixture of innocence and wonder.

I am grateful to have learned from the very beginning all of the ways to be a responsible hunter and to respect the animals and respect the weapons that I was privileged to use for my kill. Those lessons, which developed into skills, and experiences which became memories. These skills which I will pass onto possibly another generation to perpetuate and encourage more of my kind to preserve and keep alive what instinctively, I believe, humans have an predisposition to do. I am an insignificant part of what I can pass on, but there are many women out there like me (that I was not aware of until social networking), who are connected with me. Women hunters are no longer a rare breed. What I have learned from social networking is there are so many remarkable women out there, who have by far superseded my accomplishments, who I have not known that have been out there the whole time, going through the pains I went through with the industry being geared only for men. Now that women hunters have a demographic, our growing numbers finally made an impact on gear and clothing manufacturers over the past few years.

I find things that I need now. Guns and bows that fit me; clothing in a variety of styles, with a decent variety of features and a range of patterns that I can choose from. I’m not big on pink gear but I like a touch of pink here and there. I did not realize that pink and tree leaf patterns go so damn well together!

For the first time since the beginning of my love for hunting, I found the Prois brand; serious hunting gear, specifically designed for women. The first time I had a firsthand look was at the Archer Trade Show show in 2010. My initial reaction was, why the high price tag? Now I understand. This isn’t just a hunting jacket. This is performance gear that was designed by woman hunter, Kirstie Pike. I believe founder and CEO of Prois, Kirstie was at her local Cabela’s looking to purchase women’s hunting clothes and found everything for men in quality, fit and styles. Given the fact that Kirstie is an accomplished hunter herself, I believe she designed the Xtreme line to accommodate what women need in extreme hunting situations. One of the most essential features in hunting clothes for women is protection from cold temperatures when sitting long hours in a cold environment.

I recently put the Prois Xtreme Jacket and Pants to the test …
The fresh, cold air early in the morning is usually a brutal wakeup me and takes sleepiness right out of me. Normally, I anticipate the bitter chill trying to get through to me as soon as I step out of my truck. When I walk to my hunting location, I do not put on my Xtreme Jacket until I reach my tree. I fold up the jacket and strap it to my climber, and then I strap the climber to my back.

The first thing I notice was how warm my legs were in the Prois Xtreme pants. My hands, and other parts of me do not get very cold, but my legs are the first thing that do. If my legs aren’t warm, I become uncomfortable and all I can think about is how cold it is, and then I am done. I am already impressed with how distinctively different these pants feel. What peaked my curiosity was what materials are these made of. I hadn’t looked at the tags initially, but now I am interested.

Prois Founder Kiristie Pike wears her Extreme Jacket.

It is a dark 400 yard walk as the partial moon hardly lit the woods. I pass a fence line and see the shadows of the quagmire that is behind it. Huge stacks of fallen logs with dirty snowdrifts on top and the broken limbs and leaves were billowing in the wind. I am alone in these woods (I think), and there is none of the anxiety I imagine that I would have of walking alone in the dark. I am just not finding that tree yet in the beam of my flashlight. ‘I thought it looked like this one, no, it’s that one over there.’ I wish I had marked it better.

I am taking note of and very impressed with the fit and so far, the performance of these pants. ‘What is this stuff made out of?’ I think. I have tried many types of materials and when something isn’t keeping me warm; I take note of and will purchase something else. As some of you women hunters may relate to, I’ve spent a ton of money on camo clothing. When I see something that may work better than what I currently own, I will find a way to buy it. When one day, my husband, also a hunter, hung up all of my hunting clothes, jackets, bibs, waders, did I realize how carried away I had been in, I have an excessive amount of hunting clothes.

Setting up the climber is always a noisy task. I was careful not to get very sweaty on my walk here so I walked with a steady pace. It’s hard to do when you have a lot to carry; a 20 lbs. climber, bow, day pack, and sometimes camera equipment. After I strap the safety harness and the climber to the tree, I tied my Xtreme jacket to the day pack and put the flashlight away and switch to my cap light and begin my slow and cumbersome ascend. Good thing it is early, all this noise I am making has got to clear the area of any animals within the proximity of a square mile.

After I decide to get situated, I can’t really tell how high I am. It always seems like from my tree stand perspective that I am never high enough. So I end up climbing a lot higher than I intend. I look down and take myself up a couple more feet. As I work my way up the tree, I am also moving my safety harness above me.

There was a crack of a log or branch below and I looked to that direction, but did not see anything that I could tell might be something that had been there watching me only to vanish into the darkness. I am now locked in good and well in my climber and have my bow and pack hung on the tree, and I put my Prois Xtreme jacket on. Then, I load my bow with an arrow. I’m not very cold yet, but the jacket provided me with extra warmth, which is welcoming for the beginning of the long sit.

The wind was whipping a little more and I can see some flurries swirling past me on a slight angle. It is 21 degrees now with a wind chill of 9 degrees and winds at around 10mph from the north. I am in perfect upwind position of my prey.

In late season bowhunting and these temperatures, the Prois Xtreme jacket was quiet, comfortable, and exceptionally warm without bulk. I draw my bow back as I usually do before I begin hunting. I am able to move freely while drawing my bow, without any constraints in the arm and shoulder area.

The material used is 150 gm Thinsulate Ultra. Prois uses 3M’s warmest insulation; it is soft, and traps and holds body heat and dries quickly when wet. This is my first experience with Thinsualte Ultra, and I am very impressed. Nothing excites me more than when I am able to spend all day out in very cold environments and be so comfortable with ease of movement that I don’t think at all about the biting cold trying to get in.

The Prois Xtreme line is for women hunters who require maximum warmth in the most extreme climates. I need to point out that nothing was overlooked when Kirstie designed this gear. There are so many unique features that were considered such as the safety harness opening, which I really like. The pockets are deep, and if you are silently stalking and need to stop and sit on cold and wet surfaces, there is an awesome snap out ducktail! The pants have an elastic waistband, I can’t think of any other women’s insulated pants that have this!

When I find something that performs this well for me, I need to share it. I know some women get colder easier than our male counterparts; I am no different to those needs. I get cold just as easily as anyone else if I am not outfitted for the cold. I am urging all women hunters take a look at the Prois Xtreme gear and invest in the key component of a successful hunt.

For more go to: Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women