The Wisconsin Sportsmen's Caucus wants people to hit the woods and "hunt pink."
A bill being proposed by Reps. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, would allow deer hunters to wear blaze pink for safety, in addition to the traditional blaze orange. While Milroy said it's an effort to recognize and encourage the growing number of women who hunt in Wisconsin, Kleefisch added that he thinks the addition of pink could appeal to men and women alike.
Under current state law, a person cannot hunt anything besides waterfowl during a gun deer season unless half of each clothing item worn above his or her waist is blaze orange.
"Wisconsin has a hunting heritage that is really a strong part of the fabric of who we are as Wisconsinites," Milroy told reporters on Tuesday, adding that legislators are searching for new ways to attract and retain hunters as the number of people purchasing hunting licences is on a downward trend.
Milroy said the largest increase in new hunters has been among women. In 2014, women deer hunters accounted for 35 percent of resident first-time gun deer licenses and 36 percent of resident first-time junior gun deer licenses, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
"We want to try to capitalize on this," he said. "What I noticed over the last several years was a trend amongst outdoor apparel manufacturers that have really been marketing to women with blaze camo. Now you can purchase pink hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols, hunting knives made in this pink camo."
Milroy said he's also noticed apparel manufacturers partnering with nonprofits to raise money for a variety of causes, adding that he hopes the bill will give those companies an opportunity to partner with nonprofits to help recruit and retain participation in Wisconsin's outdoor heritage.
Milroy, Kleefisch and Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, talked to reporters about the bill on Tuesday, while sporting bright pink shirts emblazoned with the phrase, "HUNT PINK."
Joining them was Majid Sarmadi, a color scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studied the safety of blaze pink as compared to blaze orange.
Sarmadi said his study concluded that blaze pink is just as visible or more visible to the human eye than blaze orange. He also suggested that deer might have a more difficult time seeing pink than orange, giving hunters a slight advantage. However, he said, other factors including smell are more important for deer.
Still, Milroy and Kleefisch said they think the possibility of that advantage could lead hunters of all genders to sport pink in the woods.
"It's not just for women," Milroy said. "It's my hope that this will become universally acceptable and create revenue for some of these (outdoor recreation) programs. But there has been a recent trend among manufacturers to appeal to young women. You see a lot of camouflage pink products."
Milroy said it's important to provide options for hunters that are safe and effective, adding that he'd spoken with Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, about the dearth of clothing designed specifically to fit women. He said he hopes the bill would encourage manufacturers to adjust their fits, as well.
He said he thinks it's "kind of a stretch" that someone would be influenced to hunt entirely by the availability of blaze pink as an option, but said the more options people have, the more likely they are to take to the woods.
"I think the long-term trend will be that if young people see people in the woods that have unique clothing, maybe more comfortable clothing, that they would be more likely to participate," Milroy said.
Kleefisch underscored the importance of giving hunters another option. He said the bill "gets government out of the way of a couple color choices" people can wear in the woods, adding that the private sector will take over the rest.
"There’s a reason, it’s not coincidence that pink guns, pink camouflage are hot sellers right now. Part of that reason is because we have such a large influx, the largest growing segment of the hunting industry right now is women," Kleefisch said. "If women want to wear blaze pink, great. If women want to wear blaze orange, great. If a man who’s out there hunting wants to wear blaze pink, great. If he wants to wear blaze orange, great."
Asked whether the "Hunt Pink" t-shirts would have any use beyond Tuesday's press conference, Kleefisch said he thought they would just be used for the day.
Some on Twitter were quick to give their own snarky take on the shirts.
But Kleefisch opted for a tamer interpretation, joking that he didn't want to use the slogan too long lest the singer, Pink, sue the lawmakers.
"But we'd love to send her a shirt, if she wants to wear one," he said.