AN INITIAL REACTION TO RANA BROWN AND THE SIXSITE SYSTEM:
“What I really need is some camo that makes you shoot better.”
That’s the first thing Pryor Blackwell says when asked about his most recent Colorado elk bow hunt. He also says it with the laugh of an experienced hunter who's traveled the world and taken his share of trophy animals on several continents over the years.
This past August, Blackwell, a successful commercial real estate developer, found himself on the side of a mountain outside Estes Park, Colorado. Wearing a Gunnison Soft Shell Jacket and Pant system in SIXSITE’s new RANA Brown camo pattern, he and his guide were searching for one of North America’s largest land mammals.
“After a few days, we found them. Or to be more precise, they found us,” Blackwell recounts with almost a smile. “My guide was calling about 40 to 50 yards behind me. In what felt like seconds of him throwing out a few calls, a bull charged in. Came right up and over a small hill. He stopped about seven yards from where I was standing.”
“Seven yards. When my brain finally processed what was happening, I quickly stepped behind the closest tree,” Blackwell explains. The problem? “The tree he pinned me behind was small. Heck, I was wider than this pine tree. My shoulders had to be sticking out on either side and there’s no way he didn’t see me. But he just stopped and stood there.”
“That,” Blackwell argues, “ is how effective this new RANA Brown pattern is at keeping you hidden.”
Completely locked down behind a too-small- to-really- hide-behind Ponderosa Pine by a bull elk he couldn’t see, the veteran hunter slowly poked his head out to one side of the tree. “He saw my movement, froze for a brief second and then jumped backwards like he had no idea I was there,” Blackwell says. “Being that close, I know I scared the daylights out of him.”
With the elk quickly quartering away, Blackwell ranged him at 38 yards and let his arrow fly. “I thought I thumped him hard,” he says. “It felt like a good hit but in the moment you really never know.”
The animal moved over a small hill that fed into a larger drainage system and disappeared from sight. After waiting almost two hours, Blackwell and his guide started tracking the elk. “Found some blood but no arrow.”
The team followed the trail into the drainage but didn’t find the bull where they expected him to have dropped. Hours later, several additional people were called in to help canvas the area.
With each passing hour, Blackwell grew more anxious. The bull had to be somewhere in the vicinity. They expanded their search grid. Backtracked to retrace their trail. Swept up and down the valley looking for blood splatter, hair, disturbed vegetation or anything that would point them in the right direction. After countless hours spent searching the rugged Colorado backcountry, they finally had to accept the inevitable.
“We never found him,” he admits with a sense of anguish. “It was absolutely crushing.”
Blackwell is all too familiar with loss. After the death of a family member a decade earlier, he hung up his gear and quit hunting altogether. “Didn’t want to do it anymore,” he states matter of factly. “I was allergic to it and just had no desire. I sat on the sideline for several years until I met this guy who gave me a bow.”
“This guy” was former Navy SEAL and SIXSITE Founder Stephen Holley.
“He said ‘here, do something you love but in a different way,’” Blackwell remembers. Not long after that, Pryor found himself learning how to bow hunt with Holley as his teacher.
“One day while we were practicing in the back yard,” Blackwell recounts, “Stephen makes me climb up on a tiny fence to shoot at various targets set at different distances down range. I told him there’s no way I can do something like that. His simple response? ‘Yes, Pryor, you can. So let’s go.’”
“Sure enough, I climbed up on this small fence and started hitting a few targets. All because I finally figured out I actually could.”
That rekindled Blackwell’s love of the hunt. Since being handed that Matthew’s bow, Blackwell has been chasing elk around North America. He chose to use SIXSITE’s RANA Grey camo system on a hunt last year near Pagosa Springs, Colorado and the RANA Brown on this most recent hunt around Estes Park.
“Both color patterns worked perfectly for me,” Blackwell contends. “Did I see a difference between the two? Not personally. Both have that same cool-looking blend of organic and digital textures. I know some guys think the brown works better in a more arid, Southwest environment but I hunted in both colors at elevation and had success with both. I think the whole grey/brown thing just come down to personal preference.”
“This entire camo system is just phenomenal,” he continues to explain. “It’s light enough to give you great range of motion but warm enough to keep you moving when the temperature drops or weather moves in. And I never dreamed I’d be within seven yards of an elk like that. Guess this RANA shading really does create depth that animals can’t track.”
“After I bought my SIXSITE systems,” Blackwell says, “I literally cleaned out an entire closet of old camo gear. Didn’t need it anymore. I simply can’t say enough about this gear or the man behind it.”
“I’m proud to wear it.”