The cloth horns sewn on an airbrushed baseball cap didn't stay erect. A painted hardhat with a set of real antelope horns bolted on top was too heavy.
So Mark Renner of Bozeman, Mont., contacted a maker of foam hats in Seattle and finally got what he was looking for — a lightweight, closed-cell polyurethane foam cap designed to look like a pronghorn's head. One size fits all. Now he can stalk within bow range of the flighty critters during hunting season, and so can you. Renner is selling his SpeedGoat Hats online for $34.95 plus shipping, though he's running a $25 special through March.
"The response has been much greater than I expected," Renner said, "which has taken a lot of fear out of it for me."
For Renner, a new line of work couldn't have come at a better time. The 45-year-old home-builder had to take a sales job during the economic downturn.
Renner has long been a frustrated inventor. "I've always been the guy who comes up with the great idea that somebody else already has," he said.
But Renner is letting deception go to his head with his new invention. He is on the front end of a new line of BeTheDecoy.com products that he hopes to expand. Next up is a scent-free T-shirt and face mask to add to an archery hunter's pronghorn-like look.
"I think it's a pretty strong idea," said Jim Wantulok, Renner's father-in-law and a lifelong archery hunter, artist and now wildlife filmmaker. He's also the guy who introduced Renner to hunting and bowhunting six years ago.
Wantulok admitts that while standing around the pickup truck, the SpeedGoat Hat looks "goofy." But once Renner gets farther away and drops to all fours amid the grass and sagebrush, the disguise is surprisingly realistic.
Renner said he came up with the idea because he liked to have his hands free while archery hunting. Carrying decoys, hiding behind decoys or sitting in a blind at a water hole didn't appeal to him.
"I needed to be hands-free and able to spot and stalk," he said.
Renner said he hopes the business takes off well enough to become a full-time job, as well as allow him lots of time in the field for product testing. He says he's fallen in love with archery hunting thanks to his father-in-law's introduction.
"The coolest thing he taught me is hunting is not about killing," Renner said. "It's about fooling an animal with senses 20 times better than you."