Almost three years ago, I did an interview with Mike Slinkard, the President of HECS® Stealthscreen. A week or two ago I was watching his show on the Pursuit Channel and thought it might be cool to check in with him. As always, I’d like to thank Mike for taking time to answer my questions. It was great to catch up! ~DesertRat
1. You were kind enough to be interviewed by me 3 years ago. What big things have happened since then?
We have been very busy! Besides continuing to substantially grow the hunting business, we have also entered into more categories where HECS® technology can make a difference in people’s lives.
We launched the HECS® wildlife company in 2018 and a lot of our focus recently has been on that project. HECS® Wildlife is focused on wildlife photographers, birdwatchers, animal handlers, researchers, veterinarians, and really any general animal/wildlife enthusiast who wants to get closer, be safer, and have a more natural minimally invasive interaction with animals. We are learning more about how extreme low frequency electromagnetic fields effect animals all the time and by blocking these fields using HECS® technology people are getting closer and staying safer around all kinds of animals and wildlife. We are seeing HECS® used more and more in scientific testing and even some veterinary clinics to keep the patient’s more calm.
HECS® is also popping up in some other interesting places! Our Aquatic technology has been featured on many of the popular “Shark Week” programs on the Discovery Channel, and was also featured on History Channels mini-series “Face the Beast” last summer. HECS® is also extremely blessed to have Animals Planets Forrest Galante on our team of experts. Forrest stars in the huge hit series “Extinct or Alive” on Animals Planet and he has used HECS® technology to help him actually find several species that were previously thought to be extinct. Forrest is a biologist by degree and plays a major research and marketing role for HECS® Wildlife.
Our HECS® Aquatic line was previously administered by a licensee however in 2019 we have rescinded that license and we are currently in process of redeveloping that entire product line. Look for a much improved HECS® Aquatic product line in 2012!
2. Is this technology improving or has it remained relatively constant?
HECS® technology itself has stayed pretty consistent in the fact that we still use a highly electrically conductive grid of carbon yarn woven into the specific grid pattern and conductivity to attenuate the human electrical output. We have however made some major improvements to our basic camo hunting suit for 2020. We have adjusted the cut to a much more comfortable action cut style and have added a super comfortable 1 ½” wide elastic waistband to the pants.
We also introduced a limited run of our new HECS® wildlife Sarai gear consisting of a shirt and pant outerwear combination. We think we made a very nice product but on this first run we wanted to give our customers a chance to comment on what they like and possibly dislike and then use those suggestions to finalize the features of the broader line. For this help we are offering this gear at a very reasonable introductory price. We feel like real customer input is the best way to help insure that future HECS® products will have all the features people want.
3. What is the most astounding customer testimonial you have received?
We get hundreds of awesome testimonials each year but some really stand out as true testaments to the effectiveness of HECS® technology. One that comes to mind was the video and testimonial from Jonah Stout of Tennessee a couple of years ago. Jonah was turkey hunting when he had a jake come into his set up. Since he was hoping for an older bird Jonah decided to crawl out to the bird and literally got to within 2 feet of the bird. Even then it never ran but rather just moved off slowly. By blocking his electrical output (which birds see visually) with his HECS® suit the bird saw him clearly yet never saw him as a living being and so to the bird he was not a threat. We now regularly get videos of other who are doing the same.
There are many other awesome testimonials that we have received over the years and I never get tired of seeing them. One thing that always amazes me is that we almost never get a negative email or comment from someone who has actually used the HECS® system. I have been involved with several other products in my career but never one that has such an astonishing customer satisfaction rate. Once people actually try the technology that all it takes!
4. What does the future hold for HECS®? More of the same formula that made you successful, or diversification?
As most people know we launched HECS® in the hunting industry back in 2010. This was mainly because our CEO Scott Eastman and I had devoted our professional lives to the hunting industry. The HECS® discovery was actually made in the hunting woods as well so launching it there just made sense. We always realized however that HECS® technology had many applications that were unrelated to hunting. While we will never stop improving HECS® hunting gear, we are making some major moves into other areas where HECS® technology will help improve experiences.
We are very excited about the future of both HECS® Wildlife and HECS® Aquatic and we will be focusing a lot of our effort going forward in these two sectors. We feel that HECS® wildlife is potentially the most wide reaching of all the HECS® entities. We are focusing in the short term on birdwatching and wildlife photography as these activities have many of the technical elements of hunting and we see it as the “low hanging fruit” for this entity however there is also major potential in other areas as well.
We are finding that most animals both wild and domestic will react in a calmer manner and sometimes even a bit of confusion to a person who is not emitting strong EMR fields. This has great implications for anyone who desires to get in close to animals without adding undo stress on them. Preliminary results with several veterinarians has shown calmer and easier to work with animals in the clinic. Also people who are venturing into wild areas for hiking, camping or other recreation will be a little safer and less detectable if they encounter a wild animal and will also have less impact on the environment and the animals that live there. We have even seen evidence of reduced dog aggression to people wearing HECS® technology so we can envision a garment line for delivery personnel or anyone who regularly encounters canines and needs a passive technology that will help reduce those dangerous encounters.
In fact the ability to stay less detectable by dogs is one of the main reasons some US special forces utilize HECS® technology in their covert missions. Oh and yes, We do have the HECS® tactical entity that serves our military and police markets with both terrestrial and aquatic gear. Dealing with military and government agencies is never fast or easy but we are making progress. It is a very cool feeling knowing that your technology is actually helping out the ones that keep us safe!
As noted above, HECS® Aquatic is another exciting area we are moving forward in as well. Up until mid-2019 HECS® aquatic was being managed by a licensee. Unfortunately the licensee was not seeing the overall vision or meeting the goals of the company and so HECS® decided to rescinded the licenses and redevelop the entire product line to better fit the market and the application. This is quite an extensive process, however we plan to have that HECS® Aquatic products on the market to recreational swimmers, snorkelers and divers in early 2021.
All in all HECS® is quickly moving forward in all areas and we are excited to see our technology helping ever more people in all walks of life to have a better more enjoyable experience with animals, birds, and fish.
5. Even today, there are lots of skeptics. What do you say to them?
Yes we do still have our skeptics but the interesting thing about them is that 99.8% of them have no actual experience with the technology. The internet is especially full of “experts” that are quick to criticize our technology. But this has been the case since we first launched the product back in 2010. We have been called “snake oil salesmen” and much worse for the past decade however to this day we almost never get a negative comment from someone who has actually used the product in the field.
One great example of this is our annual pilgrimage to the National Wild Turkey convention in Nashville every February. We have been there since 2014 and sold several thousand HECS® suits to the attendees. To date we have not received even one complaint from a customer about how the technology works in the turkey woods. Now we even take our cameras to that show so we can film some of the incredible testimonials we get from our customers there for use on our TV show Hunting with HECS® which airs on the Pursuit channel. The NWTF is a show that we look forward to every year but we hear the same thing at all of the outdoor shows we attend. HECS® simply works and I can tell you for certain that if it didn’t we wouldn’t still be doing over 30 outdoor retail shows a year!
6. What is the most exciting personal experience you have had with HECS® gear?
Over the years I have had so many great animals encounters where HECS® played a significant role it is difficult to pick. As a bowhunter getting close is always the first and most important goal and with HECS® I find myself at sub 10 yards of wild game on a very regular basis. I have stalked mule deer in wide open fields and got close enough for an archery shot on many occasions and several times been inches from wild elk. On one occasion we actually had a cow elk stick her head completely inside our ground blind then just moved away calmly (the deadly combination of HECS® and Ozonics was at play that day).
Probably the most exciting (and nervous) experience was with my daughter Kaitlyn in Colorado a few years ago. We encountered an enormous cinnamon colored black bear that was aggressively chasing other bears out of his favorite acorn patch. Neither of us had a bear tag but Kaitlyn decided to stalk the bruin anyway just to see how close she could get. I was on the camera filming but I really never expected her to get to within 8 yards of the feeding bear. When that bear raised his head with Kaitlyn so close my heart was in my throat but he never had a clue she was there even though she was standing up in plain sight. The bear slowly walked past her at less than 5 yards and then walked over to the next tree and began gorging on more acorns. Kaitlyn slipped back out and the bear never knew we were ever there.
In retrospect I never should have let me daughter even try that and my wife is still not too happy about it but thanks to HECS® technology Kaitlyn got the close up experience of a lifetime and I was able to capture it on film for all to see.
7. When it comes to the skeptics, do they get you down? Do you just ignore the chatter or are you even more driven to demonstrate the product’s effectiveness?
Back when we first started and only a select few people had ever used HECS®, the skeptics were really brutal and I will admit it got to me a bit. In all honesty I couldn’t really blame them however as we were making some pretty bold claims for that time and most hunters didn’t even know that they emitted EMR let alone that an animal might pick up on it. Some of the comments were nasty and personal but since we had tested the technology thoroughly I knew that we had something very special. I always believed that if you have a product that truly works the skeptics would eventually have to accept it. To a large extent that is exactly what has happened with HECS®. As our company matures and the technology gets accepted in more and more places the skeptics are getting fewer and fewer. Now I just consider them to be the uninformed and I truly hope that they will give HECS® a try so they too can see the HECS® advantage for themselves.
8. Between manufacturing, marketing and selling/shipping product, what is the biggest challenge for your company?
Nowadays the biggest recurring challenge is keeping enough inventory to satisfy the ever growing market. The textile industry in general deals with very long lead times but our fabrics are also very specialized and much more time consuming and expensive to produce. We must forecast our expected need plus try to figure out the growth in demand at least 8 to 9 months in advance. This has been very challenging and while we hit close most of the time there are certainly some items that become out of stock much sooner that we project. We are getting better every year however but due to the growth curve we are experiencing it is still good advice for customers to buy their HECS® gear early before the rush seasons hit to insure availability.
9. You’re a hunter – what’s left on your bucket list?
I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have traveled around the world shooting arrows either at the target range back when I shot professionally or more recently at a wide variation of big game animals. I have hunted 30 states here in the USA, been to Africa 3 times (and heading back in July) to New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Alaska. I have taken 45 elk, all 3 moose species and around 20 African species and the majority of other north American game species using archery gear.
The one big “Bucket list” animal for me is the giant brown bears of Kodiak and the Alaskan peninsula. To me these monsters are the ultimate bowhunting challenge! They are huge and formidable animals that require close shots and a perfect shot angle. Top that off with a very real danger aspect and that makes for a adrenaline rush that will be hard to beat!
I actually had a premiere hunt on the Alaskan Peninsula scheduled this May with one of the best archery bear guides in the region- Preston Cavner of Cavner and Julian Outfitters. Unfortunately I have been fighting a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder for the past year and had to have my 2nd surgery in December. This put me out for being able to pull the kind of bow weight required for those big guys this year but fortunately I was able to reschedule that hunt for May of 2022. This area only allows spring hunting for brown bears every other year so this is the earliest we could get it. Also this specific area is well known to have some of the biggest brown bears on the planet! I am really looking forward to that adventure and to putting HECS® technology to yet another test!
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