More than a decade ago, two brothers and a childhood best friend were on a hunting trip to South Alabama. John Wydner, the current president of Hunter Safety System and the elder of the three, was in his climber and headed up a tree when the bottom platform slipped from his feet and fell to the ground. John was lucky enough to grab the tree. “He just kind of slid himself down the tree. It shook him up a bit, and he lost some skin, but was otherwise OK,” recounted David Langston, director of marketing for Hunter Safety System.
Once on the ground, John got on the radio and called for the others to come and check him out. When Jerry (John’s brother) arrived and realized John was OK, he exclaimed, “You dummy! You weren’t wearing your safety harness.” John looked up and asked, “Well, were you?” “No, but I’m not the one who fell,” Jerry Wydner replied.
“That’s the story. After that they went back to their camper and the realization that they had wives, kids, and grandkids at home. What a shame it would have been to get crippled or killed doing something we love to do,” said Langston.
It wasn’t that they didn’t know better. They all owned safety harnesses; they just felt they were too bulky, too hard to put on, and overall were too cumbersome. “John, in his way of thinking, just figured that if he could find a way to put the harness in a coat or vest, he would be more likely to wear it—and that is how Hunter Safety System was born in 2001,” proclaimed David.
“They had a great first year and sold about 1,400 units. Fast-forward 10 years, and we will likely sell 200,000 units this year,” Langston proudly exclaimed. “One of the best things about HSS is that we listen to the consumer. In the beginning we had a reversible model with camo on one side and blaze orange on the other. Then we heard from hunters in the South and realized the vest was heavy for warmer climates. Adapting to that, the guys came out with the [cool mesh] Pro Series, which became our premier product.”
Hunters responded favorably to the new mesh design, but didn’t like the way it picked at the bark on the tree. David continued, “A couple of years after addressing the bark issue, we added a bino system. We went from a two-buckle to a one-buckle system, not losing anything on the safety side, but reducing the overall weight by almost two pounds.”
For 2011 HSS has added the Ultra Lite (black) and Ultra Lite X-treme (camo) models. Again listening to the customer, HSS is most excited about its new Lady Pro Series designed specifically for the ladies. “One thing a bunch of redneck, bowhunter guys from Alabama know about a ladies’ product is that we don’t know nothing,” chuckled Langston. “Fortunately, we have just about every major hunting TV personality—male and female—using our products, so we had a great pool of dedicated talent to draw feedback from.”
(256) 773-7732; www.huntersafetysystem.com