LINDSEY SIMMONS WAS RAISED WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE LARGEST SPORTING GOODS STORE IN THE SOUTH. HUNTING IS IN HER BLOOD, DEMANDING PHYSICAL COMMITMENT AND INDEPENDENT THINKING. SHE TALKS WITH BAYOULIFE ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FEMALE OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST AND HOW HER PASSION FOR HUNTING HAS IMPACTED HER LIFE.
Courtesy of BayouLife Magazine
When I revisit 1994, on one of my many trips to Bastrop, I can vividly remember meeting with Jeff or Robin Simmons, sponsors of my television show. In those meetings, there was usually a third person present. Whether sitting by the desk in her mom’s office or shadowing her towering father, there stood a little girl named Lindsey. Little did I know, more than 24 years later I would sit with Lindsey who has become an ever-present fixture in northeast Louisiana’s outdoor industry.
Lindsey grew up within the walls of what we all know as the largest sporting goods store in the South, Simmons’ Sporting Goods. As with most children of prominent figures, the shadows can harbor the need to move out when given a chance. These children experience the natural desire to feel their oats, follow their dreams, and see what else—other than what they learned to tolerate as a kid—is out there. It is not an easy life. I can identify with Lindsey; I experienced the same struggle at my house with my children as I attempted to make my mark in the outdoor business during that same time frame.
Lindsey says that her first memory of hunting was the feeling of being cold. Her dad, Jeff, is a die-hard duck hunter. When you are young, riding into the water in the frigid air and sitting in a duck blind can be a very uncomfortable memory. However, she wanted to go because it was a way to enjoy some “Dad-Time,” away from the store. Lindsey didn’t take to hunting early, and it was only after her younger brother Hunter started hunting that she developed the itch to join. She says the stories that Hunter and Jeff would tell upon their return made her want to join the family tradition. Their stories also ignited a curiosity as to what all the fuss was about. She soon learned the answer when she sat in the turkey blind for the first time.
“I absolutely learned to love turkey hunting,” Lindsey said. “Now, of course, I had an edge that most people don’t as I had my dad to guide me.” She says that the thunder of a gobbling turkey soon entered her blood, and there was no eliminating it. “When I was younger, going to Texas for a week just did not fit my social calendar. But after one trip, I was absolutely hooked.” Soon those trips included deer hunts, dove hunting in exotic places like Argentina, and of course, many trips to Jeff’s blinds in Morehouse Parish. “People don’t understand just how many folks come here to duck hunt. We have people from Canada and all across the United States who come here to hunt.” When I asked her about those people, she had a fascinating perspective. “You can have a man walk in from another area, who speaks differently, who acts differently and can be completely different from you. The moment that we start talking about hunting, there is a common ground, and we become friends. It is the same way with our customers. They are just good people with whom we interact in an area we all love. Hunting is a bond that has no boundaries.”
Lindsey has embraced her area of the store—the soft goods side of the business. Whether it is hunting clothes, boots, casual wear or just gear, Lindsey has become the go-to person when shopping at Simmons’. She credits a lot of listening and learning to her expertise in the area. “When you walk this store seven days a week and listen to the best hunters in the world, you learn. I was lucky to have my mom and dad to guide me, but the biggest secret is to become a sponge. Everyone who comes in here has some tidbit of information, some objectivity or experiences that I can take and learn to make me better at what I do.” This attitude has been a key in the molding of this outdoorswoman. Not only is she a proficient hunter as it pertains to gear and knowing how to direct a curious customer, but she is the expert that customers have learned to count on when choosing what to buy.
I asked Lindsey about the secret to the store’s success. Other sporting goods stores have come and gone, and of course, competition exists in box stores and online shopping. “Our secret is our expert salespeople. Take, for example, Richard Albritton. People drive long distances just to let Richard work on their bow. He is known as the best in the business. On the fishing side, we have Chuckie Darnell. Chuckie is a proficient and diehard fisherman. If you want to know what to buy and what to use, Chuckie not only knows the product line, he knows what to use and when.”
I can attest to this as I have never let another man touch my bow other than Richard. When it comes to fishing, Chuckie has been a reliable asset to my career for more than 30 years. Then there are the guys at the gun counter, including her brother Hunter. These guys don’t just sell guns, they live guns. They are known to personally field test guns and accessories to assure they know what they are selling. When you combine this crew with Lindsey, you have a professional staff that can set you up for success.
Business has changed over the last few years. According to Lindsey, much has changed in the sporting goods world, especially in the last five years and in retail in general. So many technological advancements have changed shopping forever. “It has been a challenge for us, but Hunter and I came together and decided that we had to change with the times and increase our footprint outside of the LA, MS, and AR regions. We knew we had to keep our identity and maintain the level of customer service that got us where we are. We just needed to expand our reach a bit because we knew that our competition was ever-present and trying to establish a digital presence right here in our back yard. So, that’s exactly what we did. We redid our website, started selling through many of the digital marketplaces and started thinking outside the box in a customer acquisition sense. All the while, we kept the in-store experience what it has been for over 35 years. Let’s face it, we are a family-owned, small-town sporting goods store that has built a reputation for taking care of our customers, and that’s who we are, and who we always will be. Now, we’re trying to carry that philosophy across the World Wide Web. So far, the results have been amazing—so amazing that we are currently in the middle of tripling our shipping department to accommodate the growth.”
Back in the “old days,” it was rare for a female to be heavily involved in the hunting industry. It was a boy’s club, and women joined when invited. It has evolved; many outdoor television shows utilize female hosts who are as good or are better than their male counterparts. This evolving trend was perfectly timed for Lindsey. After graduating high school, she took to the road and enrolled at LSU. During a university break, she returned to her roots for the holidays to “help out.” She never left. Lindsey had found her niche. She is now an integral part of the store’s success and the family’s legacy.
What impressed me about the adult Lindsey, was something more than the mature, articulate woman who sat in front of me. I was struck by the passion she exhibited for her customers and her family. I asked her about the future of the outdoors and her role in attracting more women to the sport. “I would recommend to any woman that is considering hunting to think about this: hunting has made me a different person. Hunting demands independent thinking. It demands physical commitment. It demands a person to challenge themselves. This sport has affected me in my personal and professional life, and it has made me a better person. It is not about killing something. It is about the preparation, dedication, and the awesome rewards to enjoying the beauty that God has given us.” It reminded me of a Phil Robertson talk, “Arise, kill, and eat.” It’s a desire to pursue a sport unlike any other.
Those doors remain open to anyone wanting to join the millions of outdoor enthusiasts. Lindsey reaffirmed that. “We are fortunate to live in an area where there are many opportunities for women and girls to get involved in hunting and fishing. We welcome them to come up and shoot a bow. Go to the National Hunting and Fishing Day put on by Wildlife and Fisheries. Be inquisitive. Go online and research. Read outdoor-related publications. Challenge yourself, and I guarantee you that you will find a welcoming world of hunters and anglers that will help you on your way.”
This interview could not have taken place unless I asked the one question that everyone wanted to ask. I asked Lindsey to describe Jeff Simmons in one sentence. She lit up, and a big smile crossed her face as she said, “Hard on the outside and soft on the inside.” When I asked her how being outdoors affected her relationship with her father, she said, “Hunting is where we connect, leave business at home, and just be daughter and father.” When I asked her how it was to work in a family business, it garnered a laugh, but also a good response. “There are tense times, but we share it all. The joy, the aggravation, and successes are shared. I would not trade it for anything. Sometimes it is hard to take off the daughter hat and put on the employee hat.”
The few times that Lindsey can break away to hunt alone are the ones that she cherishes. A few years back, Lindsey was on the trail of a magnificent buck. “I had hunted this buck and hunted this buck. I was determined to get him. And then out of nowhere, I saw him! He was moving fast, and I was unable to get him in the scope. I put my gun back down, and honestly, I was extremely disappointed. I had missed my chance. I sat there watching and was trying to get my mind off of it when I saw movement to the right. This buck was right on top of me! My heart was pounding, and I was able to get my gun up and make a good shot. That hunt goes down as one of the most memorable because I did the scouting, I did the work, and I did the time in the stand. This is a pure example of the work/reward aspect of hunting. I was fortunate, but that is one buck I will never forget.”
One of the biggest reasons Lindsey has a passion for hunting is because it has taught her to be more patient. “In today’s world, we want things now. We don’t slow down long enough to enjoy the simple things. Hunting has taught me patience, which has carried over to my everyday life. I was not nearly the person I was as I am today when it comes to being patient. That is important in business as impatience can cause you to make poor decisions. Hunting has made me appreciate my family and challenged me in ways I never thought possible. If you had told me at age 17 that I would be traipsing through the desert chasing a turkey, I would have laughed at you. Now I can’t wait to be in that environment. I live for those moments now. Those memories that I had alone in a deer stand or hunting with friends and family—you can’t get them anywhere else.”
Everyone has a bucket list, and I could not resist asking Lindsey about hers. I would think that a young woman would have dreams of Paris at midnight or of a beach in the Caribbean. I must not have remembered who I was interviewing when she gave me her one item. “I want to harvest an oscillated turkey in Mexico. This turkey is beautiful with various colors of turquoise and pink, and it looks a lot like a peacock. I can’t wait to have that hunting experience.”
I should have known. Lindsey is her daddy’s daughter.