Camo: It's Not A Fashion Statement.

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I always have mixed feelings about the SHOT Show. On one hand, it's in Las Vegas. Which means I will endure a week of crowded, smoke-filled, noisy hotels and casinos. I'll share elevators with people wearing boots that cost more than my truck.

I will pass Dennis Rodman in the hall. He will be wearing some strange combination of leather, feathers and lace. I will be wearing a Realtree hoody, jeans that were last worn while butchering a deer in my barn and socks that don't match (an unintentional bit of fashion flair). We will make eye contact. He'll nod. I'll nod. And neither one of us will think the chance passing to be anything more than it is: Just another morning in Vegas.

I'll pay $25 for a burger that ain't all that great and see all breeds of strange-looking folks. Vegas is everything the outdoors is not.

On the other hand, the show features just about every manufacturer and developer of hunting-related gear on the planet. A fair number of them make things that have no real functional use in the woods. That's a fact that seems to draw the ire of some people.

Alongside the new guns, trail cameras and treestands, we highlight products like headphones, women's boots, sneakers and game boards. We saw camo sunglasses, pet accessories, vehicle accessories and a host of other stuff that we didn't have the time or space to feature. We even posted a video of a guy who can dance better than most people can walk. What does that have to do with hunting? Well, that dancer, and all the items mentioned above, have a common thread: Realtree camo.

What do I -- a guy from rural Michigan who has difficulty climbing stairs without tripping -- have in common with an urban hip-hop dancer? What do headphones made by a company best known for advertising in skateboard magazines have to do with a hunting trade show? Why would we feature a company making high-end designer fashions for women during the SHOT Show?

Because of the ties that bind. And that bind is Realtree.

Being a hunter is my primary source of pride and passion. I don't think about hunting only when there is a season open. Hunting consumes my entire existence. I live a hunting lifestyle. And it's a product of that lifestyle statement that has so many companies using Realtree patterns on their products. Do you need a camouflage cell phone case to kill a deer? Of course not. But when it's on your hip in Las Vegas, it tells people at a glance who you are.

Rather than decide that it's stupid to highlight products seemingly unrelated to hunting, or that hip-hop dancing has no place at a hunting trade show (much less on a hunting website), step back and ask yourself: Why are those companies there? Why is Marquese Scott, an urban hip-hop dancer, there?

It's because we brought them. Hunters have stepped out of the shade and into the sun. We have elevated the outdoors into an economic and social powerhouse. The fact that "non-endemic" companies -- companies who don't make hunting gear -- are wrapping their products in camo means that people who aren't familiar with the hunting lifestyle will, in some small way, become part of it. You're naive if you think that doesn't matter.

As Realtree becomes mainstream, so does hunting. It's not about making a fashion statement. It's about making a statement.