The Column, No. 56:
The 2010 Safari Club International Convention
The 2010 SCI convention in Reno, Nevada, from January 20-23rd was a tremendous success. Exhibitors came from every continent on the planet, except Antarctica. Attending SCI is like taking a four day “cruise” around the world. We had the pleasure of talking with folks from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Europe just to mention a few.
Nearly 20,000 hunting enthusiasts attended this year’s convention. They had the opportunity to visit over 1,000 exhibitors which filled the Reno-Sparks Convention Center to capacity. Although our country is faced with a tough economy, the success of the 38th convention confirms the strong commitment of SCI members and their supporters to Safari Club’s overall mission of being First for Hunters.
If you were looking to book a hunt in the coming year, the SCI convention was the place to go. The exhibitors offered convention hunting packages that are not available on their websites or in trade magazines; in some cases, airfares that were cheaper than flying in the U.S. An example of that was illustrated by Elmarie and Danie of Hunters-Rock Safaris, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. They offered a roundtrip airfare of under $1,000 to their clients. However, what impressed us most about these folks was that they include pictures of their trackers, skinners and staff in their brochures. In short, they value their staff and want folks to know that when you arrive as clients, you leave as friends. After chatting with them for two days and looking over their extensive list of references, which included telephone numbers that you could call for more information, there is no doubt in our mind that if you are going to Africa for a safari, you need to consider Hunter-Rock. Almost forgot, they can also arrange for you to tour the Kruger National Park, Africa’s oldest and most famous national park.
Moving from Africa to New Zealand, we met Stu-e and Judy Rees of ASJ Trophy Hunting at Argyle Station on south island. They specialize in gold medal plus red stags. We said “plus” because they harvest the most magnificent red deer we’ve ever seen. We mean the kind of animals that you dream about and usually only see on television. About their fallow deer, well we’ve never seen as large a set of antlers on fallow deer in North America. In fact, when we first glanced at one of their fallows, we thought it must have been crossed with a moose, it was that big. Of course, they have some beautiful Tahr for diversion. While these hunts aren’t cheap, they are well worth the money, as you are likely to harvest a trophy of a lifetime, while receiving personal one-on-one treatment from Stu-e and Judy. They only book a limited number of hunters each year and guide every hunt themselves. They also offer bronze and silver medal hunts for those folks that have a more restricted budget. However, you get the same personal service, regardless of the hunt you choose.
Back in the U.S., we discovered a plethora of great hunting opportunities for elk, whitetail, mule deer, antelope and exotics of all kind. One that really stood out was the J-Bar-J Scorpion Ranch near San Antonio, Texas. Jim Combs and Jimmy Johnson have been hunting and fishing partners for 35 years and the J-Bar-J is their dream come true. The ranch is ideal for businessmen, professionals and working folks who cannot afford a lot of time off, but would like a quality hunt for a few days. These good-old-boys will treat you like family and guarantee that you will have a fantastic hunting experience and their prices are very reasonable.
If you were just browsing for potential hunts, but were more interested in guns and equipment, you found the best at SCI. The custom rifle makers are among the most interesting of all the exhibitors. They have several “stock” rifles made up for off-the-rack sales, but will put together anything you desire, for a price.
The one that stood out for us, above all of the others, and we mean no disrespect, were the Kilimanjaro rifles of Erik Eike. We both have custom rifles made by two of the best gunsmiths in the U.S. and Jim shot a customized Weatherby for years, personally set up by Roy Weatherby. However, Erik’s rifles are truly magnificent. He developed a new stealth laminated wood stock that has all of the appearances of a piece of fine walnut. In fact, it is made from the finest Turkish walnut available. If Erik did not tell you how to spot the two small laminate lines, you would never know. This is because they utilize a three-plank lamination, all cut from the same original stock blank. The process is much more involved than most readers can imagine, since precise, even cuts are essential, as is the surface preparation afterward prior to lamination. The lamination process itself is under high pressure (approximately 50,000 pounds). In the fifteen years of use in the field, there has never been a single de-lamination.
Kilimanjaro’s proprietary lamination process is important for three different reasons: First, it provides the stability of a synthetic stock for accuracy and constant point of impact in all temperature and humidity conditions. (Regular wood stocks which are susceptible to swelling and warping with changing moisture and temperature.) Second, it provides far greater strength and durability such that they can chamber for cartridges like the .338 Lapua and .458 Lott in highly figured wood, which might split normal wood stocks and a good many synthetic stocks. Third, the stability provides a full-length bed for their barrels to reduce harmonic variability, improve accuracy and achieve an exact wood to metal fit. Accent the stock with diamond fleur checkering, add in Erik’s customized Serengeti action which appears “as one” with the barrel and you have the finest rifle that we have ever seen.
In short, Jim would be willing to sell all of his hunting rifles to own just ONE of Erik’s guns; they are that good. If you see a bunch of rifles offered at auction in the coming months from central New Mexico, you can bet that Jim decided to unload everything he has in favor of a Kilimanjaro rifle. The picture does not nearly begin to capture the beauty and precision of this rifle, but it will have to do.
We browsed the exhibits at the convention center every day, returning to our rooms at Boomtown around 5pm each afternoon. If there was ever a time to appreciate those pillow top mattresses at the hotel, that was it. There are lots of hotel accommodations in Reno and many are in the area closer to the Reno-Sparks Convention center. We have stayed at Boomtown for the past two years for several reasons. You won’t find more comfortable beds anywhere, which is really important if you have back problems. The prime rib at Cassidy’s is absolutely the best in the west, bar none. Neither of us could finish our meal, so we took doggie bags up to the room to snack on while traveling home. That prime rib was just as good cold as it was hot. The Boomtown all-you-can-eat whole lobster buffet is a dream come true for seafood lovers. Combine that with the on-site Denny’s for breakfast and Cabela’s across the parking lot and you can’t beat the amenities at Boomtown.
Case in point: One morning we were sitting in the keno area drinking our coffee and a well-dressed man walked by and asked if everything was OK. We informed him that everything was perfect, at which time he asked if we would like some more coffee. He then escorted Jim to Peet’s coffee shop and ordered two new coffees, on the house. The man was Jeff Babinski, the General Manager of Boomtown. How often has that ever happened to anyone staying downtown?
There were a couple of downsides to our visit this year. We had no time to shop at Cabela’s and were too tired to go to the lobster buffet. However, judging from the crowd of folks waiting in line, we missed out on a really great meal. Next year, we won’t make those mistakes!
Copyright 2010 by Jim Clary. All rights reserved.