What Happens Now?

It is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

It is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. I am not aware of any other camera manufacturer that actually designs, develops and MANUFACTURES their product in the United States.  Seriously, some camera companies brag about how their cameras are made in China to save you money….. *cough* c u d d e b a c k *cough* Seriously what kind of backward BS is that? Claiming they are designed in the US – More like copied in the US…. But I digress… smart people know what I am talking about….

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Moving forward, given the entirely new landscape and what is seemingly becoming a distaste for products being made in China. I wonder how that is going to affect all those companies having all their products manufactured in China.
Aside from the fact that the consumers are now seeking out and demanding products be made entirely in the US, I wonder how the supply chain is going to handle the transition? I wonder how those companies that are solely reliant on China for their everything are going to fare?
There are already tariffs plus limited shipping sizes and delays on cargo shipping. So one is going to assume that will cause a mass panic within the manufacturers attempting to retool and bring their manufacturing back in to the US to avoid the inevitable seen on the horizon.. The trade war already started a pause within the manufacturing sector and re-evaluate their positions in 2019

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Fast forward to 1st quarter in 2020, add more tariffs, major shipping delays and then……. BAM! The Wuhan Virus comes in to play and sets everything on fire. We could debate the virus was a purpose set in motion to disrupt the economies in hopes that China would prevail on top…. But there is really no point at this point to…..
It’s obvious that going forward the trade between China and the US is going to see a dramatic change.
For the first time in 23 years, we have been contacted by several large companies to see if we would be interested in contract manufacturing for them. I would have taken in the work except what they are needing is not in our wheelhouse. We are however seeing more and more interest in having printed circuit boards actually manufactured in the US – We recently installed our first surface mount SMT Juki system in January to bring all our board production in house and also in hopes to be able to offer contract engineering and production services to other companies wanting to stay in the US for their everything. It was good timing on our part to walk out on the edge to better see what was coming……

All in all 2020 may be the year that America finally comes home. Finally pays up for true American made products.

Maybe this will be the year…..

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Made In America

 

Made In The USA

When we first started manufacturing our BuckEye Cams in early 2003 – we didn’t have a choice but to make them in house. Going overseas just wasn’t an option for us as we were just too small (and honestly didn’t know how). We had always designed and manufactured all of our equipment in house so it was not a really big deal for us to apply the same principals to the new “BuckEye Cam” product line. You have to remember we had designed and built the very first wireless camera system well before the iphone – Black Berry was a “new” thing and the entire concept of sending images wireless had to be explained. I’m serious, people would ask us all the time, “Why would I ever want to have pictures sent wirelessly?”…. I guess we were way ahead of our time then (and now) but we had created something that we knew was a hit.

So at a time when everything was beginning to be sent overseas to be manufactured we just stayed with what we knew. We knew how to design and manufacture products. So that is what we did. It wasn’t easy and on top of having to explain why someone needed a wireless system, I also took a tremendous amount of heat for our “price”. At the time our retail price for a camera was not cheap, so it was a bit of sticker shock for everyone back in the day. But what we had designed had never been done before. This was when trail cameras weren’t really a “thing”, infrared was unheard of, as was something that actually functioned in the field for longer than a couple of days. And Wireless? usually at the point of trying to explain the wireless function it became information overload… People tuned out.   Trail cameras where hacked film cameras, there was such a thing called a trail timer out that was basically a roll of dental floss connected to a little digital timer – you would string the floss across the trail like a trip wire. Then when the unsuspecting target broke through the floss, the digital timer would stop thus recording the time the target passed through the floss trap. The trail timer always perplexed me – why? Not sure… Any way….

So we cut our teeth – heard plenty of laughs at our product line, too expensive, no one would want it, why wireless, etc. etc. But we stayed true to a couple of beliefs: We knew what we had was a hit, we knew we had to keep it current and we were going to make them in Athens, OH

Keeping it current meant that we could not just have them made in huge batches because we had so many great ideas and concepts to incorporate into the product. If we built them in huge batches, we would limit ourselves so we just kept building them 1 at time right in our Athens, OH facility. At that time I think we may have had 8 employees total and almost half of them were engineers.

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Outside of our highly engineered and cutting edge design, I always felt since our systems were made in Athens, OH that would mean something to people. People would certainly see the value in a technical product really manufactured in the US right? Not so much. I guess I can understand but it did really aggravate me to discover that our society had forgotten what it meant to be made in America. It seemed to have lost it’s value to the consumer. Price was king and we were becoming a throw away society when it came to anything electronic. I mean no one serviced anything electronic. They just didn’t. You could send it in for a refund or replacement but not a repair. That was mainly because electronics were largely being made overseas and no one in the states COULD repair them.  That is something however, we really took pride in offering. We built our products and knew how to service and repair them.  We designed our systems to last for decades not days. We designed our systems to operate in some of the harshest environments and we EXPECTED them to last for decades. And if the time ever came that you needed to service or get your BuckEye Cam system repaired you could count on us.  We took pride in our ability to service and repair our systems. We took pride in knowing that we were the resident experts and could solve any issue regrading our systems. This came directly from our dedication to keep our engineering and manufacturing in house.

It was mostly a hard sell. People wanted cheap first, quality second and made in America just didn’t seem to matter. Either that or half the people were so used to being lied to about being made in America they really didn’t believe anything was made in America. You know, Made in America or Manufactured In America, Assembled In America etc. Just seem to have lost its value.

You can literally see other camera “manufactures” boast about their product being made in China because “almost all cameras are made in China and we know how important price it to our customers” – Wait, What? You got it – They have gone from Made in America to Made in China because “they know you want it cheap”.  They are basically saying you are “darn right we are made in China”. How mess up is that?

Well in light of the recent pandemic and more and more people release how reliant our country once was on foreign countries, maybe now it will become a value to do business with US companies.. Real US manufacturing, made in America company. Our company shut down but didn’t lay anyone off – we ran a skeleton crew and everyone else just worked from home. It is how American companies operate.  We aren’t the cheapest but we are here for the long haul and still making them, 1 at a time in Athens OH…

COVID-19 Spam attack

Apparently since the pandemic outbreak, it is ok for every single company on the universe to spam the crap out of everyone.

Every single company out there has taken the liberty to circumvent the Can-Spam Act in order to remind us that they will now supply hand sanitizer to their customers that visit their location. Which is great, except you are an online company!
Or “we have implemented a hand washing policy and wanted to let you know”… Adding buzz words like committed or diligent…

I mean seriously everyone can do without the soft spamming that is going on right now. I think it’s great that every corporation out there is stepping up and taking this seriously. However, I do not think it is great that their marketing department has also stepped up their email game so as not to be left out.

This is just in from our ONLINE Bank…. that we have never visited, ever and have zero plans on ever visiting….. It’s just a way for them to send me a marketing script and remind me that I may want to use their online services and oh don’t forget to wash your hands….

“We have long had contingency plans in place that will ensure that your banking experience remains as normal as possible during this emergency. We plan to do this in a way that protects the health and safety of you and your community bankers.

The other side of this is why are companies feeling it is necessary to tell me (or admit rather) something they should have been doing all along. But now they make it sound like science break through that they are going to start cleaning things commonly touched by large groups of customers?

We have asked employees who are exhibiting symptoms to stay home, and our employees who can work from home are doing so. Our sick time procedures provide compensation and support for our employees to do so.

I mean was it your policy to have sick employees come to work before the outbreak?? Seems odd to send this to me in an email….

Probably even worse is that most of these read like – “We never really cleaned ANYTHING before the outbreak but now we want you to know we are absolutely committed to washing our hands and, you know, cleaning the office every now and then…..”  I mean for Pete’s sake, what the heck were you doing before????

Seriously, I am going to start posting every one of these I get if they don’t stop…. (Just kidding I wouldn’t do that to you)… But it is bad….

I have to go wash my hands now and sing happy birthday 2 times….

Stay clean everyone….. Stay clean…..

Strange times for sure…..

Just finished up a conference meeting with the entire company in light of the recent events.  We wanted to come up with a plan in order to try and reduce the exposure risks to all the employees without having it affect their income.

What we came up with is for the next two weeks is a fluid plan focusing on reducing and in some cases eliminating exposure as much as possible. Some of our employees will be working remotely 4 to 5 days a week for the next couple of weeks. Others may be working every other day or even skip 1 week and work the next. Trying to be most considerate of those who at higher risks but in the end the key is trying to keep everyone safe.

Financially, we have it set that everyone will still get their normal pay regardless if they work completely from home, have nothing to do or those who will alternate days as needed.
As with most things we do at ATSI our focus is keeping our employees successful. Some will get paid to stay at home and others may have to work remotely and still other may come in a couple days a week. But even those can choose to not come in at all if they so desire.

In a nut shell, everyone is going to get paid for the next two weeks – regardless of the time they actually work. They won’t have to use vacation time or miss out on hours worked. They will just get paid.

In a couple of weeks this may be over with and we can go back to normal as we know it. But until that time we are committed to backing our employees through this uncertain time. We have their back…

 

Can’t Force Creativity

Constantly hearing about the things that need to change, made easier or even made fair for “everyone”.
We are suppose to buy in that we should look down on those who have made fortunes and guilt them in to giving it all to those that haven’t.

You know the viscous 1%ers, the Satan’s of the world, that apparently hold all answers, power and money.
Some are so busy trying to bring down others, they don’t notice how high their own soap box has become. Isn’t it from their own wealth and success that they now have the platform? That’s a bone to be chewed for sure but not today.

All these new proposed (and mandatory in some cases) changes are just not how we operate in this country. Expecting someone to be forced to do anything just isn’t productive. You can’t pick winners and losers in our society. The salt of our country is based on the unlimited possibilities, not the entrenchment of single sided views.

You know why most “renewable energy products” aren’t strong enough to stand on their own without the government funding. It isn’t because of anything other than the fact that it’s a forced concept. You can’t force creativity. You can’t force an ideology.

In a capitalistic market, you have to have something that the market wants and can actually compete with the existing markets -WITHOUT the government prop up strategy.. It has to make sense (or cents if you will). Think about it, why would anyone want to spend massive amounts of money on solar or wind for a 30 year break even stance? Plus the irony of this is only the very wealthy can afford that type of program and yet at the same time they are being attacked by those who are forcing the renewable’s – you know those awful 1%ers again…. interesting..

I’m not against renewable’s in the least bit – I just believe it should come to market organically. That is how we come up with our greatest inventions and technology gains!

Like I said you can’t force creativity. The greatness comes from the blood, sweat, tears and fears. It’s an organic process and to try and force it only insures it will fail. Solyndra anyone?
Some of the greatest advancements in technology started in a garage and they weren’t doing it because they were being paid or anything other than the desire and limitless potential.
It was all for the “potential and possibility”…Passion and greatness comes when most everyone else is sleeping.
Being told a product will fail or can’t be done will fuel the fire of creativity 100 times more than making it a “mandatory success”. The potential is what keeps creators creative. The challenges that all products have to surpass in order to become successful must not be bypassed if you want long term success.
As my engineers remind me daily, great products have to stand up to arguments, if they cannot stand up to the arguments they will never make it in the market.

Coming full circle on this post, if we keep those creators down with threats of limiting their potential and possibilities we are as a society limiting our creativity.
If society is told that the 1%er’s are Satan and should give up everything, then where are you going to get the next great invention?
Who is going to be willing to sacrifice everything to gain mediocrity?
I guess my point is, if you really want results, stop threatening those who are the 1%er’s because for some, that potential is what stokes their fire. The endless possibilities is what sometimes stokes their fire.. Being able to change their world can be what keeps them up every night working.


Here’s an idea, stop telling people what they have to, but rather tell them it can’t be done and watch them prove you wrong.
You can’t force creativity…..

Border Security

Drug Mules

Border Security seems to be on everyone’s mind recently so I figured I would cover this topic slightly…….Since we have been assisting countries secure and monitor their borders all over the world for over a decade now, we are asked about what is really going on at the US border. .

“Is it as bad as some say or not?”
Short answer – it has been bad for quite some time and it’s only getting worse. Over the years the dynamics have drastically changed at the border. No longer is it only an issue of just illegal immigration – its drug trafficking, firearm trafficking, human smuggling, money trafficking and the list goes on.
If you have spent any time on the border – one thing becomes crystal clear….It’s no place to spend time and the border agents have their work cut out.
The agents we deal with daily are great people, they are very committed to doing what they can with the tools they have. They are forced to deal with a very diverse and complex problem, every shift. Maybe they are going to apprehend drug cartel or MS13 members, have a high speed chase or respond to a rescue beacon, they just never know.

Rescue Beacon in the middle of the AZ desert

How have we helped?
Our wireless systems have brought an entirely new level of monitoring and response for border agents and border police worldwide.
Different countries do have specific goals/directives but regardless, we have been able to assist them in meeting and exceeding those goals. One of the biggest advantages to our systems is we can be extremely fluid with software/hardware to meet certain requirements that may only apply to a single country. I can’t go into detail for security reasons, but lets just say we assist them in ways that only we can and only our system can perform in ways they require..

Stop Responding Blind

The BuckEye Cam Tactical site’s the moto is “Don’t Respond Blind”.

We actually came up with that tag after we heard what agents were saying. As countries switched to our wireless cameras and sensors for their border monitoring, the first thing we heard was they no longer respond blindly. At first we were a little perplexed as to what they meant but quickly understood as we discussed it in detail.

Prior to implementing our systems, agents would get a notification from a field sensor that something “triggered it”. Think of being an agent and getting a text saying sensor 341 was triggered – that’s all you get…. Say the sensor was 45 miles from your current location and now you have to respond without knowing what triggered the sensor. So you drive for an hour and half, arrive and see if you can figure out what triggered the sensor. Was it an animal, false trigger or was it a “bad guy”?
Since you didn’t receive any other information other than that you had to figure it out on your own by searching for clues at location.
It was a very archaic and the agents were becoming very complacent with sensor “triggers” as more times than not it was an animal or a false trigger (rain/weather for example).
So once agents started using our BuckEye Cam wireless system, they were no longer responding blind. They knew the instant they received the notification from their BuckEye Cams how they would respond because they had a picture or video included. The system took all the guesswork out of what was triggering their sensors. Many agents have told us our systems have put the excitement and drive back into their jobs.
As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to remain excited about responding to “another unknown sensor trigger” when you don’t know what set it off. So after a while you just lose interest in the sensors because they were always crying wolf.
Once they first started using the BuckEye Cam System and began actually SEEING what was triggering sensors they told us it was a paradigm shift. All of the sudden they were “back in the game”. They were excited to know what they were responding to and were prepared when they arrived.
The other side of this was they were now able to weed out all the “no response needed” triggers which ended up saving them countless hours and hundreds of miles traveled every week.
I can’t tell you how many agents have told us this same scenario over and over and over with great excitement. They were extremely motivated to be back in the game.

They also explained to us the advantage of our systems over their fixed tower systems they currently used. Basically, the fixed tower systems are just that, fixed.. The cameras on those towers can pan tilt and zoom and see for miles, but they can’t be moved. They typically had operators on the other end monitoring them 24/7 constantly viewing them waiting for something to happen.
As we have been told on numerous occasions to defeat the camera towers, you need 1 guy with a radio and decent set of binoculars. He waits for the camera to “look away” and then they call in the crossing.
The difference with our portable systems is they can be constantly moved around or they can sit in an area you just never know where they are. They can sit undisturbed, patiently waiting for months with no activity, then when the activity starts, agents get notified immediately. This ability gives the agents a huge advantage of the unknown…. Maybe there are cameras hidden on the obscure trail in the middle of the mountains or maybe not. The more cameras the agents have deployed, the more advantage they have – they can see travel direction, speed, number of people in the group – are they armed, carrying drugs, etc. you get the picture – literally.

BuckEye Cam Wireless Systems

A Different Company

I get asked all the time about our company, how long have we been in business, how big our we, how many employees do we have and so on. 

We are a small company located in Athens Ohio or “Appalachia” as it is known.
We have been in business since the mid 80’s and are a SBA and HUBZONE company..
We have 13 full time employees, Mike Hart, being the newest guy with just over 2 months of service and Eric Householder being here the longest at just over 22 years. 
With only a couple of exceptions, people who come to work for ATSI tend to stay here for a very long time. For example, prior to Mike Hart coming to work for us, Levi Boring was the last “new guy” being here just over 3 1/2 years.  Hailee has over 5 years, and the rest of the employee pool ranges from 10 years to 22 years of service. So as you can see people stay with the company for a very long time. 

We run a very tight, relaxed, drama free ship here…. Sounds strange, but everyone here knows their job (very well!) and basically sets their own schedule. We are highly productive without all the hype and stress. It is a very unique place to work and that isn’t by accident but rather by design.

Engineers…. 

Our Electrical Engineering staff consists of Jeff McKnight (EE) – SR Engineering Manager and Genna Kiryukhin (EE). Both of our engineers are highly educated (Graduates of Ohio University and both hold Masters Degrees) with over 55 years combined actual engineering experience.  This is how we write our own code, design and develop our own products from start to finish. This means our products remain up to date unlike other manufacturers that take a design and then just build it. We take a design and make that a starting point not the finish line. By keeping our product fluid, we can improve as we go in most cases without having to change any hardware. This process keeps us ahead of the curve not behind the curve. 

Our most senior staff member is Eric householder. Eric plays a vital role in our company managing inventory flow, invoicing, as well as engineering and production support. Basically nothing comes in or goes out without Eric’s stamp on it….

Steven Beckner handles the majority of the tester calibration, service and repair. Steven also assist with BuckEye Cam products and MAC assistance when needed. The test equipment side of things keeps Steven extremely busy. 

Tim Smith have been with the company going on 17 years now. Tim is over our IT dept, writes all the MAC code and also assists Steven with tester calibration and service.

 Ben Hartley handles Test Equipment Sales and most of the Overseas sales for BuckEye Cam. Ben started with the company over 20 years ago and has worked up from a technician’s position into sales. Ben is one of 3 sales people we have on staff so if you call in for sales there is a good chance you will speak to Ben. 

Hailee Hart also handles Test Equipment sales, BuckEye Cam sales as well as service orders too. She also assists in production when needed at times too… If you call in, there is a good chance you will speak with Hailee. 

Becky White also does BuckEye Cam Sales (US and Foreign Government orders GSA, fedbid, etc.). She also helps in production when needed (everyone gets to help in production from time to time!).  

Becky and Hailee

Tom Spiller, Levi Boring and Mike Hart all work mainly on the BuckEye Cam side of things. Handling production, service and the nationwide BuckEye Cam setups.
They all work together making sure production requirements are being met while taking care of service and troubleshooting when needed. 

Levi and Tom

As for me?
I just ride around on a horse looking at my phone….

(kidding…. this is not me, my horse or my phone in this picture)

What makes BuckEye Cam different?

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So what makes BuckEye Cam different than others?
That’s an open ended question that when asked, usually there is a point to be made either one side or the other.
What makes us different? Well usually the biggest point is that we have been in business since 1985. In our industry, that’s unheard of….. Most companies in our industry are moving on 2 year cycles. They pop up, hang around for 2 years and then disappear..

Knowing that most want a flashy “we participated in the moon landing” sort of answer, only to find out one of our biggest differences is that we have been in business basically forever, is less than dazzling. But in reality it is a big deal.
What good is a “lifetime warranty” if the company offering it is going to be out of business next year?

Yes, we service what we sell…..
We actually have a real life service department that actually performs repairs. We actually have trained technicians that specialize in our wireless products that will answer the phone, respond to emails and online chat’s. That kind of makes us different.
Remote assistance – in the rare chance you have an issue that we can’t seem to figure out over the phone or via email we also offer free remote assistance. So, if you require remote assistance, we can and then just walk through it together.

We design and manufacturer everything we sell…..
Seems strange to have to say it but it does need to be said. We have real engineers on staff that are constantly working on improving our wireless systems. This is extremely important because as with most electronic devices regular updates and improvements are required. Think of your smart phone and how often you get an update from them. We do the same thing – as a matter of fact we have an entire page devoted to firmware and software updates for all our products. And since we are wireless, you can choose to have the updates performed automatically so all your equipment in the field will have the latest firmware. That is a huge deal…. It’s pretty common to receive a new feature on your existing products, just with a free firmware update.. I’m not aware of anyone offering that….
It is extremely common for “new camera companies” to show up and start promoting their “brand new camera” with all “new features”. But when they actually hit the market, they are really no different than all the other “new companies” that have gone out of business, because they all get the same design from overseas – Then have it put in a slightly different enclosure and call it theirs… Seen it time and time again…. The main problem is intellectual property being held in China is for sale…. anyone can buy and make it their own…. What we have learned is if you want to stay in this business you have to design and manufacture everything yourself. This is what keeps us ahead of the competition. Sure, we have people trying to replicate our equipment and steal our ideas but it is way more difficult than just putting the hardware in a box (but don’t tell them)…

We write our own code and software.
This is a big one… probably the biggest. Having complete control over our entire product line is what really separates us from everyone else. This keeps us current and always keeps our customers VERY happy as they will never get stuck with a faulty system ever. If you look at the typical camera “manufacturer”, they receive their shipment of cameras in their pretty retail packaging. Everyone one of them made exactly alike – and then they find out they have an issue that causes failures in the field. So, they have thousands of cameras that all have the same issue, all sealed up ready to be sold. This is why so many camera companies go out of business.
We are constantly testing  all the systems as they go through production. Since we designed it, we know how to test it and how to fix any issues that may come up during production. Having complete control of the process makes a huge difference. This applies to not only the product firmware but also the software. Software has to be able to operate on a large variety of platforms including MAC and Windows. We normally receive advance copies of the next operating system to be released by either MAC or Windows so we can test our software to make sure it is completely compatible. There’s just a lot more to it than having a website….

Bottom line is we have always done things differently because our product line demands it. We would have never gotten to where we have today if we wouldn’t have made our own roads. It is what we still do today. It’s not the easiest route but it is the best way to get there.

The Hunting “Industry”

Having been in this “industry” longer than I care to admit (makes me seem old) it always seems to surprise most people when I give them a glimpse “behind the curtain” so to speak about the hunting “industry”.

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At my first trade show (kidding – that’s my son, Hunter)

Loyalty 
I can recall a time early on when I was giving trail camera seminars at trade shows, there was still some loyalty left in the industry. The big name guys were also at these same shows giving seminars and meeting with the crowds. At that time in the industry they stood behind a product because they believed in it not because they were being paid. There was almost a pride in their opinion and it mattered to them that they believed in a product before they would even think about being associated with the product. The industry strives to get acceptance from these experienced industry experts by producing a superior product, not by writing bigger checks. “Buying” opinions wasn’t an option in those days. Guys stayed with the same product for years, because they truly believed in the product, not just because they were getting paid. The irony is the standards were set by those that truly knew industry and it felt almost like they were obligated to tell the rest of us if the product was worthy or not. Did it meet their standards? If it did, why? It was a great time for the industry, because it was an honest shake on the products being produced.
Not so much now. Hunting industry “stars” come and go now pretty regularly, this happens about every 2 years. I have often joked that I could get just about anyone in the industry to sponsor my new “AIJ” (Air In a Jar) product line if the check I wrote them was big enough.

“This segment brought to you in part by:”
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Hunting TV and Cable Shows
The last couple of decades I have spent my fair share of “marketing” money on hunting shows. In the beginning we started off locally with a very small but talented group of videographers. They were like us, small but motivated and very eager to show their wares so to speak. What they produced was entertaining and well produced. It had a small town “real to life” charm and was humorous without trying to be funny. At the time we couldn’t afford to go “big time” and get our own, show so we stayed with producing hunting videos.
The videos didn’t do bad and we did finally get to the point where we were able to start sponsoring shows, but it seemed like the times were changing. I can’t really say if the marketing money helped us get there or was it just our shear will to survive, but we did manage to keep our head above water in an ocean full of sharks.

At the height of our “TV marketing” efforts we had our own show plus major sponsorships on 2 others at the same time. We were spending A LOT of money to “advertise” but what struck me most was the more we spent on TV shows the more we were being approached by others wanting us to sponsor their shows. It seemed as though the only real bump we got of all the marketing was offers to spend more money on marketing.
The Hunting show industry was full of people trying to make a name for themselves by, well, making a name for themselves. It’s an ocean full of sharks trying to get famous for being on a hunting show… This is what everyone with a product to sell in the industry thought you had to do to make it, you had to sponsor a hunting show. It’s simply not true. Not then and certainly not now. The outdoor/hunting channels used to have limits on how much “Advertising” you could do during the show. The reason, which I agreed with, was because they were trying to make sure the shows actually had content, versus ending up just being an 30 minute infomercial. Since that time, it seems that the channels no longer have any limits to advertising during the shows. It is not surprising to have 27 minutes of advertising (soft and hard) during a 30 minute show. It seems that content has taken the back seat to advertising, which probably explains the extreme decline in the amount of hunting related shows and channels now available. The channels that used to have a 1 year waiting list now are running old westerns to fill the spots. It’s sad to see the decline, as it used to be very entertaining.

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Retail’s Race to the Bottom
At the same time the big online retailers “box shops” were just starting to gain momentum. There were still small “Mom and Pop” shops around, but their extinction was all but a certainty at that point. For a new manufacturer in the world of up and coming box shops the goal, as I understood it, was if you wanted to make it in the hunting industry you had to get in with the box shops. So off we went to get in with the box shops. After years of trying we finally made it! We finally made it in to a couple of the bigger box shops. Product was now officially in the “made it” column right?
Not so fast there… Let’s back up a bit.
See to get in the big box shops you have to pay a fairly large percentage. That understandable right? Sure it is, you set up your terms, agree to percentages, agree to give them a little bit extra percentage if they pay at 30 days versus their standard 60 day term (side note here, they will take the early pay percentage and still pay you late…welcome to world of “made it”)
Then you agree to give them a little bit extra to be in their catalog, even more to be on their shelves and even more to be in the prime locations on their shelves (you will also be required to buy out all the current inventory on the shelf).
Ok so once you get past all that – you’re in…. You’re in the catalog and your product has finally made it right? Well you get paid very late, give away huge percentages and the next thing you are hit with is one of two choices….
One is they contact you saying the competition is coming out with a similar product and they are giving better percentages and/or they are cheaper so you need to give up more to stay in the game.
The other is they decide that they are just going to make a similar product and brand label their name on it and no longer need you, thanks for playing.
All the time you are lead to believe that this is your only way to make it in the industry. Increase your percentages to them and reduce your price only for the end game to get bumped out by the big box shop. So basically you could be signing up for the end of your product line by going with a box shop.
There is always an absolute base cost model for any product. There are ways to cut costs but you do get to a point on any product where the base is and no matter how much you’d like to make them cheaper it’s just not possible.
So early on I realized that this was a race that I did not want to be any part of – The Race to the Bottom as a I call it. Basically, it’s ‘who can go out of business first trying to do business in the box shop industry’ is not really a business model I want to be a participant.
Maybe you have noticed this pattern, maybe not, but the next time you get a catalog or are on their online shop, look to see how many actual brand name products are there. Then notice how many brand name products have been replaced by their own label over the years.

top-ten-

Magazines, Editors picks and Top 10 Best
Maybe it doesn’t come to you as a surprise but it certainly did to us. Along the same time as we were cutting our teeth on box shops and hunting shows, we started getting inundated with requests from writers and magazine editors who wanted to write about our products.
Really?? Just out of the blue they wanted to write about us? Awesome, we have made it big time now for sure……full stop.
What I was about to discover was this part of the industry had many unspoken rules…. Want an article written? Just give the writer loads of product then send them what you want written. Don’t expect to ever get that equipment back by the way….
Want to make Editor’s pick or the Top 10 List? Buy a big ad in the magazine. You are not going to make that or any list without paying for it.
Want to be featured in their magazine? You better be buying a huge amount of ads to substantiate the “amount of coverage you will receive”….
It really all came as a surprise to me that the inner workings of that industry had some really deeply concerning “practices” that shed an entirely new light on all those editor picks and top 10s I had read over the years.  I didn’t expect any favors or special treatment but I certainly didn’t expect it to be a pay to play either for what was suppose to be an unbiased ranking … unfortunately it was.

Don’t get me wrong, there used to be a time when writers in the hunting industry were extremely well versed, knowledgeable and respected. These are not the guys I’m referring to. By the time we got into the industry the great writers were enjoying their retirement with grand kids and had gotten out of the industry.
‘Tip of the Hat’ to many of these greats I consider great friends and still legends of their time.

Probably nothing that hasn’t been covered hundreds of times over with people in the industry, but I have found more than once people seemed to be amazed at just how it all works (and in some cases, doesn’t work at)…….

So, if you are just up and coming into the industry, be cautiously suspicious of the industry.

Know that you can make it without having to fall prey to the industry pitfalls.

Trail Camera Gain and Exposure

Just a quick little note covering gain and exposure:

To help shed some light, so to speak ironically, on night pictures I will try and explain what some of the biggest factors in getting good quality night photos.  As with most things a lot of it is open to interpretation and what you personally feel is a good picture.
For us, we try and achieve the maximum brightness while maintaining the lowest gain and exposure settings while attaining the furthest range/distance.
Distance is important because most cameras out there use a wide angle lens – which makes targets appear much further away then they actually are – giving the perception that the flash range is also much further then it actually is. So always know the distance. And since I have already covered the differences between red glow and no glow we will just compare only no glow in the article.
What is gain and exposure?
Gain is pretty simply explained by artificially increasing the brightness – there is more to it in reality but for the general term that is what you are doing by increasing gain.
To some, this is acceptable.

Normal picture from our system:cropped-p_049085

Now if we increase the gain a little you get something like this: Does the picture look brighter?
High Gain

We have this conversation quite a bit about what looks “good” and what doesn’t.  For us, quite simply, the less gain means a better picture. You get more contrast with less gain and better detail. Some will still argue that more gain means a brighter picture but in all actuality it isn’t. The target (in this case the deer) has more clarity and brightness in the normal picture with little gain. Because as you add gain you also add noise which will add to the pixelation to picture which then loses detail. It also adds that ghost look to your picture.

The other side of brightness to a night picture is the amount of exposure being used. The longer exposure you use the brighter the picture will be. The downside is that any target that is moving with long exposure times will end up very blurry. So with most cameras they are forced to use a very long exposure and lots of gain to appear to have bright pictures. Our systems use a very short exposure and very minimum amount of gain trying to achieve a nice balance of brightness and contrast so we can maintain the highest level of detail possible.