Kip Fulks is the Chief Operating Officer of Under Armor, which is based in Maryland and produces performance apparel for sports, outdoors, recreation and casual consumers.
Fulks played lacrosse at the University of Maryland and professionally with the Baltimore Bayhawks. He spoke with Deer & Deer Hunting earlier this summer.
When get you start hunting?
My father is from Great Falls, Mont., so we hunted a lot of pheasant and geese, and dad was a big elk hunter. But he’s in the military and was stationed at the Pentagon so when we moved east, I had to pick up some different hunting. I didn’t do a lot of hunting in high school or college (while) playing sports. But I fell in love with deer hunting coming out of college and became infatuated with it.
You played lacrosse at Maryland. College life and sports probably kept you too busy to hunt?
Between beer and playing sports, we did a lot of camping and fishing. Hunting wasn’t even on the radar. It just took too much gear and too much expense. I didn’t shoot my first deer until I was 21 or 22 years old. I did a little elk and mule deer with my dad but not too much.
Tell us about your first deer.
It was a doe. I was on a friend’s farm north of Baltimore. We bought a license, knew it was shotgun season and just walked around in orange vests with jeans and boots. We didn’t understand tree stands, the rut, being quiet or anything. We just knew we could carry a firearm and shoot a deer. We hunted a day and a half and didn’t see anything because we were bouncing around. The second day a doe between two hay bales jumped out about 60 yards away and I double-lunged her. I said it was a great shot and my friend thought I was crazy. But that was my first deer.
Is learning to hunt similar to sports, like learning the field and how the players react?
Details are absorbed subconsciously. You pick up on signs, rubs, trails, the wind, maybe why someone parked in a specific spot, what a draw does with the terrain, different noises and sounds … but you don’t really recognize it. Then, at some point, it starts to all come together and you start processing it. It’s like ‘seeing’ the entire field in practice or a game. Deer hunting can be frustrating but it keeps you wanting to obsess even more.
How did Under Armor get into hunting?
It didn’t click for a while. In the hunting industry for years, the apparel didn’t advance very much. It was just cotton (apparel) and stores still sell a lot of cotton. But the performance attributes just started showing up well for hunters, in the cold months. So it was kind of like a pull … people started pulling us in there. A lot of athletes and former athletes hunt. Sons with dads, girls with moms, and generally they’re sporting families. There’s a nice connection and we saw the possibilities. Add some camouflage, add some anti-microbial. It was really kind of that simple. We are still super-excited to be in this space.
You guys were trendsetters.
I think we changed the industry. Now everyone is trying to do something with performance gear. We’re here to make athletes better and as a hunter, I’m able to stay out longer and warmer when years ago you would have been miserable. Think about growing up … you didn’t go out when weather was bad. Grandfather wouldn’t go out pheasant hunting if it was bad. Now, we can.
Was that a tough nut to crack, given the newness of your apparel and, to a degree, the cost?
Advancements in apparel are more difficult. There’s been so much development in a short period of time, and to bring it forward again you have to advance it that much further. It just takes time to advance the technologies. We’re working on projects that are three to four years old.
What’s coming down the road for Under Armor?
I believe you need to spend a ton of time with consumers and we have. If you’re spending time with them you’re going to pick up details. If you’re spending time with consumers you’re going to pick up details. If you’re behind the scenes with the concept, and not living and breathing it, it’s a hard way to go. You can’t just observe them or put out something because they say they want it. You have to pick up on what they’re doing and be able to add value to it.
We’re watching how guys climb stands, put stuff on, take stuff off … I can’t get into too many details, though. But we’re excited. We have some stuff that will turn some heads, some things we believe will break the mold on how you use you’re apparel