We are saddened to report the passing of KUIU founder Jason Hairston. Yesterday, September 5, 2018, the company announced his death through social media. Jason, a well-known hunter in the outdoor industry, was 47 at the time. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Jason Hairston got his start not in the outdoor industry but in the NFL. After playing football in high school he attended UC-Davis and was named starting linebacker for the Aggies. In 1993 he suffered fourteen fractures to his C5 and C6 vertebrae during a playoff game. By 1995 he had healed and was signed as a free agent by the San Francisco 49ers. He went to the Denver Broncos a year later and retired from football in 1996.
He got into the outdoor industry in an impressive manner by founding Sitka Gear in 2005. Although he grew up hearing stories of legends like Fred Bear, his path into the professional hunting world was an arduous one with a number of highlights along the way.
Eight years after killing a monster buck in eastern California with his father he was on a tough hunt with a friend in Idaho when they began discussing their camo. Each man was wearing a random combination of clothing which lead to their spending four days debating the relative merits of different materials and patterns. In the end the high-performance camo company Sitka Gear was born.
In 2009 Jason sold Sitka to Gore but rather than marking the end of his involvement in hunting gear it was simply a transition. He wanted to create the lightest, highest-quality camo possible for extreme hunting conditions. By 2010 he’d founded KUIU.
“What does ‘KUIU’ mean?” is a rather common question. Kuiu is actually an island in southeastern Alaska, a spot known for its sizeable bears. (It’s pronounced “koo-yoo”.)
KUIU and Jason became the face of the athlete hunter. Jason’s love of hunts in treacherous, breathtakingly beautiful areas for sheep and in the wilds of Alaska made him a credible source for serious gear.
KUIU patterns are designed to perform both in the trees and above the timberline while the materials are made to not only meet but exceed the specific needs of the hunt. From gaiters to packs to pants, they do it all. But KUIU isn’t just about hunters. Jason has also designed kits for Navy SEALs – not because he went to them, but because they came to him for help.
Now for the personal. Jason played a significant role in launching the Train to Hunt and Fit to Hunt lifestyles. He was a bonafide badass, a strong-willed, stubborn man happy to take on the shale and mud of any mountainside. For sheep hunters especially he was the face of persistence and success, an encouragement to keep working for your dreams no matter what. #fullcurlfriday was Jason’s realm in more ways than one.
He was a dad. Just ten days ago he was heading out on a caribou hunt in the Brooks Range with his father and his son, Cash. He’d just taken a stunning Dall ram on a hunt with Donald Trump, Jr., a detail the mainstream media will likely run with. He was known as the kind of guy who shook hands and chatted with customers at the KUIU store in Dixon, California; the guy at SHOT who was friendly and focused.
The details surrounding Jason’s death are currently unclear. Speculation and rumors are unnecessary. We will update you as more information is released.
Jason was a husband, a father, and a hunter. He had a brilliant mind for business and a keen eye for the needs of hunters. He was a revolutionary. He was uncompromising in his goals. He had a good heart. That last one – that’s the detail you need to know.
We are unspeakably diminished by his passing.
Our thoughts and love go out to his family at this tragic time.
Update: Sadly, Jason did take his own life. We’ll see you above the timberline, Jason. Rest easy.