Karen Gillespie didn't think shopping for her grandson's birthday gift was going to be challenging.
He asked for new hunting clothes and she figured it would be the perfect gift for a 22-year-old hunter who was struggling to pay off student loan debt and had just started his first job out of college.
Gillespie headed to a local retailer figuring all she needed to know was the right size.
She needed to know a whole lot more.
"When he said he needed some new clothes, I figured that meant I had to go buy camouflage gear," Gillespie said. "Easy enough, right? I never would have guessed there are different types of camo clothing. Camo is camo, brown, green and other leafy colors. I learned you better be well versed with what you're buying. I clearly wasn't."
Gillespie wouldn't have guessed she needed to know what her grandson was hunting, when he was hunting it and where he might be.
The retail clerk was helpful, she said, but asked a lot of questions.
"I listen to the stories my grandson tells, but I don't know everything he does," Gillespie said. "I told the clerk he likes to hunt deer, ducks and turkey. Those are the basics, right? So I figured there had to be a basic camo that covered them all. Once again, I was wrong."
Gillespie had heard her grandson mention Realtree and Mossy Oak, so when the clerk asked what type of camo clothing she wanted, she was quick to mention both brands.
That's when the questions kept coming.
Hardwoods, timber or classic? Waterfowl, blaze orange or original? Green, leafy or grassy?
That was just the Realtree varieties.
Mossy Oak offers Break-Up, Obsession, Brush, Treestand, Shadow Grass Blades and other trademarked options.
There also are colored varieties, specifically pink and orange that are suited for deer and upland game hunting.
"I had no idea it was so complex," Gillespie said. "I didn't buy anything because I figured I'd buy the wrong kind."
Instead, she went home and started taking notes.
She asked her grandson, Thomas WIlliams, to describe his hunts. She acted interested in all the details and had to listen to stories that made her a little queasy.
It was done to collect information, and she knew there was nowhere else to get it.
Gillespie discovered Williams hunted deer in Pike County, ducks in Hancock County and turkey wherever he can find someone willing to let him on their land. He also hunts rabbits, squirrels and frogs, although there is no need for specific camo clothing for frog hunting.
He dreams of going moose hunting and has made plans to go on his first black bear hunt next year.
"I felt so close to my grandson because I learned so much about his life," Gillespie said. "Yet, it made my job so much harder. I could have bought him different outfits for every season."
Had it been affordable, she might have done just that.
"I was spending enough on him with one set of clothing," Gillespie said. "The cost of hunting clothes really adds up."
So what she settled on was something she felt could be used in a variety of locations when hunting a variety of game.
She bought Williams some Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity, which features "digitally photographed elements with unmatched detail, dimension, and exhaustively accurate color tones to help you blend in unlike anything the industry has ever seen," according to the Mossy Oak website.
Williams plans to wear his new gear during the Illinois archery deer season, which opens Oct. 1, and he plans to buy himself some grass blades camo for waterfowl hunting.
"I bet I buy him more camo gear for Christmas," Gillespie said. "He needs it and I know he appreciates it.
"Plus, now I know what I'm looking for. And I have advice for any other grandmothers, moms or aunts who head out to buy a birthday or Christmas gift. Study up. It's good to be well-informed."