North Dakota Weighs Adding Pink to Color Option for Hunters

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As a father of a 5 year old girl, I am surrounded by pink clothes, pink toys, pink everything. Then I escape to the great outdoors to hunt, and I am surrounded by camouflage and blaze orange. But that could soon change.

North Dakota State Senator Kristin Roers, R-Fargo introduced Bill 2143 that would add solid fluorescent pink, as well as 50% camouflage orange or pink, as color options for big game hunters.

Currently, during rifle and muzzleloader seasons, big game hunters in North Dakota are required to wear a head covering and other outer garment above the waist that covers a minimum of 400 square inches with a solid fluorescent orange color.

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On January 21, the Senate passed the bill 43-4, and has now sent it to the House for a vote expected at the end of February. If it becomes law, North Dakota would join other states with similar options of pink and camo/orange and camo/pink like Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Senator Kristin Roers testified at a Senate hearing, citing a study from Dr. Majid Sarmadi, a professor of Textile Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “…spectrometric analysis indicated that the blaze pink color had a visibility similar to, or better than, the blaze orange.”

I found his study widely cited in multiple articles by both journalists and politicians who found it after a quick Google search. However, I actually contacted Dr. Sarmadi, and he informed me the study published in 2015 was “small and preliminary”. In fact, this study consisted of college students sitting in a classroom viewing PowerPoint slides of pink and orange hats with both summer and fall foliage backgrounds, then selecting which one they thought was more visible.

I interviewed two local optometrists who are also avid hunters, and they were deeply concerned with North Dakota and other states passing laws based on the Dr. Sarmadi study. They both felt that a thorough study should include all the different proposed color options, with subjects of all ages, some subjects who are colorblind, against a few different backgrounds, at different distances, and actually done outdoors during different times of day when people would be hunting (dawn, midday, dusk).

I contacted Scott Peterson, Deputy Director of the North Dakota Game & Fish Department, for comment on the proposed Bill 2143. “When it comes to legislative bills, our department can choose to weigh in with recommendations of ‘pass’, ‘do not pass’, or stay ‘neutral’. Our main concern is safety. With the information we have at this time, we remain ‘neutral’ on this bill.”

In her testimony, Kristin Roers gave her reason for introducing the bill, “This change could allow some hunters more options when shopping, to be being slightly safer – when their clothes fit correctly – and maybe event attract more people to hunting.”

As an avid outdoorsman and father of a young daughter who loves to accompany me while I hunt, I am behind the popular R3 movement to help recruit, retain, and reactivate more hunters. But there is no current evidence that adding pink as an option for big game hunting would help with the R3 movement. However, an organization such as the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (CAHSS) would gladly perform such a study to see if adding pink would increase a desire for higher participation. A state like North Dakota just needs to step up, request it, and fund it.

I interviewed Alex Baer, Executive Director of the International Hunters Education Association-USA, whose 55,000 instructors teach hunting and shooting safety and responsibilities throughout the United States. While the CAHSS studies the R3 side, his organization of the IHEA-USA would gladly partner with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department to perform an in depth study on the safety side of different clothing options.

Perhaps instead of making a rash decision, the North Dakota House should kill Senate Bill 2143. And introduce and pass a bill that would provide for a legislative management study performed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and partnering with organizations like the CAHSS and IHEA-USA, to take the time to do more research.

If North Dakota truly wants to be a leader for the R3 movement, as well as continue to promote the safety of its hunters, then our State Legislature needs to have some skin in the game and fund research and programs to accomplish those goals.

I asked my daughter if she would prefer to wear pink instead of the blaze orange vest and hat she wears when accompanying me on deer and upland bird hunts. “No, dad! I don’t want to wear pink when we’re hunting! I want to wear orange like you.”

Jeff Benda

Cooking gives me a creative outlet to transform wild game and bring it into traditional recipes from around the world to help expand people's perceptions. My goal is to celebrate local fish and wild game and provide achievable, bright recipes designed to build confidence for new cooks, and inspire everyone to elevate their cooking. I hope that by sharing and celebrating the food I create with the fish and wild game I harvest, I can highlight the great contribution so many hunters and anglers have made to conservation in this country, and reflect the freedom we have to enjoy America's great outdoors.

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