Hunter uses own experience to develop hunting aid

Houston, Pa. (AP) – With more than 30 years of hunting in the hills and valleys of Western Pennsylvania under his belt, Scott Gump has always enjoyed the experience, except for one nagging thing.

After several hours in the field, when his rifle would get heavy on his shoulder, he'd slip it off to take a break.

"After four or five hours, you get fatigued and set the rifle down,'' he said. "About that time, an opportunity comes, and you miss the shot.''

A couple of years ago, he noticed the long hours in the field having the same effect on his sons and he decided to do something about it, but his first request surprised his wife, Sandy.

"He came home from hunting one day and asked me if he could use my sewing machine and asked me for some foam material,'' Sandy recalled.

After a few tries, Scott created a padded sling that cradles a rifle or a hunting bow that can be quickly raised if a target presents itself.

Scott has turned his creation into the "Ready Aim Carrier,'' a patent-pending invention that's catching the attention of hunters of all types around the country.

"It took a long time to come up with the concept,'' said Scott, 53, of Houston, who owns a contracting company focusing on home additions.

But as the Gumps were to discover, launching the carrier and All Day Gear, the company created for it, would take much longer – between two and three years – working with a patent attorney, a designer and finding a manufacturer to produce the cradles.

"It was the business of creating the business that was the biggest challenge,'' said Sandy Gump, who has a background in marketing and wrote a business plan for the product.

The tasks involved studying the retail business for the product, developing specifications to be interpreted and designed by another company, learning how international shipping functions, operating an e-business and developing a website, as well as licensing and patent development and the necessity of a bar code.

But the family acknowledges it had a lot of help along the way from friends who knew business people who could lend a hand.

When they received prototypes of the Ready Aim Carrier from the China-based manufacturer, they could see the improvements the company had made on Scott's original design. In place of a plain black front, the final design included the company logo over a camouflage field.

The Gumps' first trip of this year was a long drive to an outdoors show in Nebraska, where they had only salesmen's samples to show at their booth, Scott said. Despite that limitation, they wrote some orders.

At another show, they were introduced to a man in the outdoors business who offered to show the product to 10 other hunters in a focus group.

It was the positive feedback from the focus group that let them know their product had what it takes to attract customers, Scott said.

But it was their participation in subsequent outdoor shows this winter where the family discovered exactly how big and diverse their market would be.

"The scope of the numbers of people who attend these shows was overwhelming to us,'' Scott said, noting that the shows, which encompass everything from hunting, fishing, camping, boating and other outdoor sports, attract huge numbers of people from the U.S. and Canada.

One of the biggest in the U.S. is the Eastern Outdoors Sports Show in Harrisburg, held in the buildings that house the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show.

"At 9 a.m., there were thousands of people standing in the cold, waiting to get in,'' Scott said.

It was at a smaller show in Syracuse, where their sales were light, that Scott said he realized he could touch a demographic he hadn't considered when he designed the cradle.

"A man in a wheelchair bought one and said, `This will actually allow me to go back out and hunt again.''' Scott said. He's since learned that the item is also in demand from a wide range of hunters, including women, the elderly and young, first-time hunters.

The Gumps, who have been assisted in the business by their sons, Tanner, 20, Spencer, 16, and Tucker, 12, said they're now moving into the next phase of marketing the product. They're working with a manufacturing representative who has worked with sporting goods chains Dick's and Cabela's to help them place All Day Gear in bricks-and-mortar stores.

"We still have a long way to go,'' Scott said.

Sandy said the most critical thing they've learned about the business is that they need to stay in control of the product.

"You can't do everything yourself, but you have to be the one pressing the product through,'' she said, while Scott added that keeping costs under control is always a big consideration. He noted that they tried to source materials and manufacturing in the U.S., but the costs of a startup item were prohibitive.

The couple also found a patent lawyer through a friend who was willing to help them, but they did much of the research. They also reduced costs by running the company as a family business.

For anyone considering a similar effort, Sandy suggests letting your friends know what you want to do.

"People are thrilled to help you,'' she said.

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