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For hunters, pink may be new blaze orange

MADISON, Wis. - In a move that could both liberate hunting apparel aisles and underscore unease around gender stereotypes in the outdoors, a group of Wisconsin state lawmakers Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow fluorescent pink to be...

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch (left) and Rep. Nick Milroy (center) unveil their bill to legalize blaze pink attire for hunters. Photo courtesy Andrew Hahn / <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/blaze-pink-would-be-in-fashion-for-hunting-under-wisconsin-bill-b99507555z1-305060131.html">Milwaukee Journal Sentinel</a>

MADISON, Wis. – In a move that could both liberate hunting apparel aisles and underscore unease around gender stereotypes in the outdoors, a group of Wisconsin state lawmakers Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow fluorescent pink to be worn by hunters.

Armed with a scientific analysis suggesting bright pink could be just as safe as blaze orange-and perhaps less visible to deer-members of the bipartisan, all-male Wisconsin Sportsmen's Caucus donned bright pink T-shirts that read "HUNT PINK" to unveil their proposal in Madison.

"I think real hunters are going to be wearing pink if this becomes legal," Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, said after the event. "I know I will."

Milroy said he came up with the idea of legalizing pink-believed to be the first attempt anywhere to do so-while mulling national trends of declining numbers of hunters. Yet women and girls are the fastest-growing groups of new hunters, and he couldn't help but witness what's being sold in sporting goods stores.

Various shades and camouflage patterns of pinks have crept into outdoors fashion with the same ubiquity as they have in other female wares.


Early goods of the lady-slipper hue, such as shotgun shells and clay targets, often called attention to proceeds benefiting women's causes-notably breast cancer research.

But today, mossy oak camouflage patterns are accented in bright pink, and gun cases, bows and parkas are pinked to the nines.

"It seemed like the perfect opportunity to capitalize on something that is trending already in the outdoor world," Milroy said.

Blaze orange, often called hunter orange, is required for most hunting endeavors in most U.S. states and Canadian provinces for one reason: hunter safety.

The color is unnatural and obnoxiously bright to the human eye. Its proliferation, especially during the busy days of fall deer hunting, is credited, in conjunction with hunter safety courses, with reducing the number of times hunters mistakenly shoot other hunters. Orange is opposite blue on the color wheel, making it especially visible against a crisp fall sky.

But orange isn't uniquely bright. Fluorescent lime, or chartreuse, has become the standard for nighttime construction workers, as well as joggers and cyclists, in many parts of the world for its contrast against the blackness of night.

And pink is poised to join the ranks, according to Majid Sarmadi, a professor and expert on the science of color at the University of Wisconsin.

At the request of the Sportsmen's Caucus, Sarmadi studied the light qualities of various store-bought items of fluorescent pink and compared them with blaze orange garments.


"The right pink and the right blaze orange, they could be equally safe," Sarmadi said in a phone interview.

In fact, he said, pink might be a better choice for fall deer hunters because shades of orange do appear in autumn foliage, but pink doesn't.

Furthermore, deer, which are color-blind to red, can detect very little pink. Deer can see yellow well-the Achilles' heel of chartreuse. Blaze orange, on the other hand, appears as a dull shade of gray or green to a deer but it has more yellow than pink, Sarmadi said. So: Brighter to people, duller to deer.

'As long as it's safe'

Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the proposal. In Minnesota, where blaze orange is similarly required, Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith of the DNR's enforcement division said the agency would have to look closely at the science before agreeing to permit pink.

Several leaders in women's hunting recruitment and instruction said safety, not fashion, should be the first concern.

"As long as it's safe, if pink outerwear is what floats your boat, then to each her own," said Jane Heinks of New Brighton, Minn., who volunteers to teach deer hunting and other courses as part of the DNR's "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" series.

But pink isn't for her, Heinks added.


"I would not wear it personally," Heinks said. "I'm a woman and a hunter. But I never put those two together. Why pink? Hunters don't wear pink. Does Danica Patrick have to wear pink to drive a race car?"

Jean Bergerson, past president of Minnesota-based Women Hunting & Fishing in All Seasons, echoed the support for safety, but also the unease with the color potentially being seen as an attractant to women and girls.

"I don't care what color it is as long as it's safe," Bergerson said. "But I guess what disturbs me a little is there should be far more reasons for women to go outdoors and explore hunting and shooting than because you can wear pink. It kind of implies women are so shallow that all they want is pink."

Scientifically, Sarmadi said, it's noteworthy that some store-bought examples of both bright pink and blaze orange fared better than others in his visibility tests. He noted neither Wisconsin nor Minnesota has technical scientific standards for orange, and the Wisconsin proposal doesn't carry one for pink.

"Some are horrible," he said of garments he tested. "It has to be the right pink and the right blaze orange."

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