Being 6-foot-3 and more than 300 pounds was a big benefit when Eric Brown was an offensive lineman in college. Now, at 28, it can be a problem when he goes hunting or fishing.
“I wear a size-15 boot, and it seems most boots I like stop at size 14,” said Brown, of Emporia. “Most of the camo you see for sale ends at XXL. There a lot of us out there that need bigger. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve seen wearing the biggest camo shirt they can find, but their belly is still showing around the bottom. I’ve always known I’m not the only one going through those kinds of things so I can go hunting and fishing.”
No, he is not.
Jason Coke is a serious bowhunter who averages 100 hours in a treestand every year. At 280 pounds, he’d like to know he’s as safe 20 or more feet in the air as other hunters.
“Most of the treestands out there aren’t rated for that much weight,” said Coke. “And then there’s the safety harness everybody needs, but it’s harder to find those in a bigger size so I can protect myself while I’m hunting. It’s frustrating.”
Several months ago, Brown decided to see if there was an organization for large hunters and anglers,. Brown said he didn’t find much.
Hoping to organize others with the same challenges, Brown spread the word the best way he knew how – on Facebook. It didn’t take long for him to see he was on to something with his Livin’ Large Outdoors Facebook page.
Cyber hunting, fishing clubs
“It actually got a really big response … pretty impressive,” said Brown, an automobile salesman. “There’s definitely an interest. I’ve heard from people all across the country. We’re at 400 followers and it’s only been a few weeks.”
It’s not Brown’s first time to use social media to get sportsmen organized. His Kansas Hunting and Fishing Facebook page has more than 13,800 followers after 18 months. It, too, came from humble beginnings and Brown’s desire to fill a need.
While fishing for bass on his family’s Flint Hills ranch, Brown explained how that page got its start when he was trying to plan a wild pig hunt in Oklahoma or Texas with some friends in the fall of 2015.
During his search, he found Facebook pages for both states where sportsmen shared knowledge, opinions and photos.
“But when I started looking for something like that in Kansas, there was nothing, really,” said Brown. “I kind of started it because I wanted to see what was going on in Kansas. I’ve always loved the outdoors. It’s an important part of who I am.”
Since its beginning, Brown has limited the Kansas page to basically a gathering of hunters and anglers sharing stories, photos and answering questions posted by others. Advertising for goods or services isn’t allowed.
Brown’s favorite posts are when a follower shares photos, of a child’s first bluegill or whitetail buck. He likes that the page has a solid appeal to Kansas families that like to hunt and fish together.
Still, he’s proud the Kansas Hunting and Fishing page has developed into more than a place to brag and show photos.
By selling clothing with the page’s logo, and from a special bass tournament on Flint Hills ponds, the Brown’s Kansas page has raised funds for a youth deer hunt. The child, selected by drawing, gets a totally outfitted deer hunt this fall. Rifle, guide, custom knife and taxidermy services will be purchased by the page or have been donated by members.
In its short history, the page has also sparked friendships. Brown has hosted other hunters and anglers, and been invited to go other places. He’s benefited from the skills of others and helped others when he could. A few minutes trolling the Kansas page shows many others have done the same.
Proving the need
Brown and Coke are hoping Livin’ Large Outdoors does the same and more. Blake Rapp, one of the page’s first followers, hopes the online gathering gets the attention of manufacturers.
“Our country is getting bigger, all the time, every generation. It’s silly to keep making things the way they are,” said Rapp. Like Brown and Coke, he complained he hasn’t been able to find a sturdy folding chair for putting in ground blinds.
“Some of these things have, maybe a 200- or 250-pound rating. Think how many guys are bigger than that? A lot,” he said. “You lean forward in the blind, you relax letting your (drawn) bow down and that’s when it gets you. It collapses.” Brown said he’s broken multiple folding chairs in a single hunting season.
All three said they hope the new Facebook page gets enough attention to break some stereotypes and common problems.
Rapp said he struggles to find waders that will fit his weight, and foot size. They’re seldom tall enough for his 6-4 frame.
“When you go to the store, it’s like they think every big guy is only 5-foot-6,” he said. “It’s like we’re all supposed to be short and fat. We’re just big. I’ve been big since birth. I played sports through college. I can get out there and walk all day on a hunt. There are a lot of smaller guys who can’t keep up with us big guys.”
Brown hopes to eventually work with manufacturers, especially of hunting gear, and convince them there’s a need and a market. He’s convinced such goods would sell.
“I’ll spend the extra money it might take, so I can stay hunting and know I’m safe,” said Coke. “We want to be safe out there, and we want to be comfortable.”
That includes helping big hunters and anglers to feel more comfortable physically and mentally outdoors.
“I know a lot of big guys get discouraged because it is so hard to find the right equipment,” said Coke. “Then they look at all the hunting and fishing shows and you don’t see many bigger guys. I’m really hoping (the Facebook page) shows them there are so many others are out there doing it. Hopefully somebody like that can learn how others are doing it and enjoy the outdoors as much as they’d like.”