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Sportsman’s Quest: A look at the great convention quest

Updated March 5, 2018 - 5:56 pm

January and February are the months of outdoor conventions and banquets.

The Wild Sheep Foundation had theirs in Reno, while the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show and the Grand Slam Club Ovis have just concluded in Las Vegas. They were followed by the Safari Club International (SCI) convention and the SCI Las Vegas chapter banquet.

They afforded us an opportunity to visit with sportsmen from around the world, discuss new equipment, as well as the changing state, national and international governmental policies.

I began with the SHOT show, feeling sorry for myself due to the week-long cold spell we in Southern Nevada endured. Then I met folks from Atlanta and other Eastern cities who were experiencing record snowfall and low temperatures.

As the conventions began, the sun came back, temperatures were in the 70-degree range and many of our out-of-town guests were dreading going home, and even thinking of relocating. I guess that’s what is driving our population boom, not to mention a thriving economy and one of the best-kept secrets, Nevada’s big game hunting opportunities.

There were significant trends at the conventions and banquets this year. The most noticeable was the positive effect of a booming American and international economy. The retail buyers and sportsmen were spending as they haven’t in years. Firearms, camping equipment, outdoor vehicles and art sales were all at recent highs.

Outdoor travel, guided hunting and photo safaris were also being actively booked, but an interesting change has also occurred. U.S., Canadian and local trips were going at an all-time high as demonstrated by the sale of the Nevada Governor’s Sheep Hunting Tag going for nearly $250,000 at the Wild Sheep Foundation’s convention. Nevada, Montana, Arizona and Alaska packages were going for full retail prices and above.

By comparison, African safaris and other foreign travel adventures were hard sales, except for luxury sheep, elk, deer and wild boar hunting in Europe with the opportunity to tour these beautiful countries. In response, more hunting safari groups have begun offering photo safaris, sport fishing and other non-hunting outdoor adventures. This may be a reflection of changing demographics and perceived international travel dangers. We’ll see.

All of the shows were an assault on a sportsman’s senses. Of course, there was lots of new “stuff” you “need” but there are also things you need but didn’t even know existed.

One of my favorites was Swab-its firearms cleaning patches. These are multiple-use disposable preformed patches that make bore cleaning easy, quick and simple. I for one admit that I find firearm cleaning a messy chore. I’m a convert to this new system, but I’ll still rely on Hoppe’s cleaning solvent with its smell that brings back memories of childhood and later adventures.

There was even a new non-toxic environmentally-friendly vegetable-based oil and cleaning system by Metalloid Firearms and Sports. I tried it and it works.

Another area of major product innovation this year revolves around extreme high-tech rifles, scopes and cartridges that are accurate up to a mile. At the other end of the spectrum are lighter classic hunting rifles following in the mode of Kimber’s Adirondack and Mountain Ascent models which weigh five pounds or less and are now being offered by other major manufacturers.

Cartridges with greater power and less recoil are now popular, like the Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) and Super Short (WSSM) magnums which appear to be here to stay while expanding their selection and popularity.

Then there’s the all-wheel-drive Rokon motorcycles. This bike is not made for the Harley or Yamaha crowd, but it is designed to out-trail a horse and it doesn’t eat as much. It can even pull sleds or plows.

As I get a bit greyer, OK a lot grayer, I find the hills steeper, the trails longer and the packing heavier, but I’m admittedly not a fan of those noisy, overbuilt quads. The Rokon is the quiet alternative, as may be the electric bicycle and quad alternatives but I’m still waiting for their increased range and durability.

Another positive note seen at the conventions was the expanded presence of organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited and my favorite, the Wild Sheep Foundation, in cooperation with our local Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn.

Wild game cooking was also omnipresent with dozens of booths demonstrating smoking, marinating, seasonings as well as many new equipment items. I’ll be sharing some of the best of these in future recipe articles.

Where have tradition and skill gone? Will it be left with us who are mechanically or technologically challenged to just enjoy a simple day in the field with a friend, a quality traditional firearm and a good dog? Will the tradition be maintained by those who simply can’t afford the many possible, but very pricey toys? Or, like with most things, will the pendulum once again swing back to the values hunting and the outdoors exemplify?

The conventions are wonderful with all the fun stuff and outdoor aids imaginable for our comfort and “skill” enhancement.

My suggestions, keep it simple, practice true outdoor skills and keep in shape. Most of all, slow down and enjoy nature’s beauty and the wonders we’ve been given.

Does this all sound like fun? Well it was, but don’t tell the editors, they think I sacrificed days to grueling meetings and interviews. Let’s keep them thinking that, after all, “someone’s got to do it.”

If you have a story or something to share, email me at sportsmansquest.dan@gmail.com

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