Feature Article: KUIU Founder Dead

Jason Hairston, KUIU founder, dead at 47

Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Sep 14, 2018

Jason Hairston, the founder and owner of KUIU, an outdoor clothing and gear company specializing in high-quality hunting products, died this past week at 47. The cause of his sudden death has not been released.

Hairston had just returned from a successful sheep hunt in Alaska with Donald Trump Jr., and the hunting community was still green with envy since last fall, when Hairston shot the new California record and Nelson bighorn sheep world record in the Orocopia Mountains in November. He contributed $235,000 to sheep management for that hunting tag.

KUIU FOUNDER JASON HAIRSTON on a recent sheep hunt in Alaska with Donald Trump Jr. Hairston was found dead this past week at the age of 47. The cause of death is not yet known.

A professional football player with short stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, Hairston retired in 1996 at just 24 due to the lingering effects from a broken neck he suffered during his junior season at UC Davis during a Division II playoff game. In a 2016 interview with the Daily Mail, Hairston believed he was suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma like those endured by football players.

"I played linebacker, and the way I played the game, I led with my head. I played the way they tell us not to play now," he said then. "I have all the symptoms of CTE."

A native of Orange County who was living in Dixon, Hairston founded KUIU in 2009 and built it into a company that did $50 million in sales in 2016, according to Forbes.

Donald Trump Jr. posted a tweet to Hairston after hearing of his death.

“Jason, I have no words. I will always remember our adventures and sharing a campfire with you. They will be some of my fondest experiences in the outdoors. You were and will continue to be an inspiration to all outdoorsmen and women for generations to come. Thanks for the friendship and the memories buddy. I’m going to miss you.”

On Aug. 20, Hairston wrote on Instagram, “It is not easy to find a great hunting partner who appreciates the suffering of a tough sheep hunt. @donaldjtrumpjr and I covered a lot of tough miles. We were pounded with rain, snow, fog and high winds. It made this hunt one we will never forget.”

Jake Franklin, a friend of Hairston’s and his guide (KIKA Worldwide) on the hunt for the world record desert sheep, posted a photo of Hairston and his young son Cash with the record sheep on Saturday.

“We are among the few lucky enough to spend time afield with Jason. He was the man that inspired us and fueled our direction. His drive, positivity and complete confidence radiated throughout those that surrounded him. Jason breathed new life into our industry and fought without cease to insure our hunting heritage continues for generations. His torch has been passed on and it’s up to all of us to continue his legacy and take on his drive to better the world we live in,” wrote Franklin.

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