The Column, No. 66:
Safari Club International’s 39th Annual Hunters’ Convention
Once a year, outfitters and guides from all over the globe gather in one place for hunters to shop for their hunts for the coming year. This year’s convention in Reno, Nevada concluded on January 29, 2011. It ranked as the second highest convention ever, raising over $12 million dollars to “support SCI’s advocacy to protect our hunting freedoms, promoting international wildlife conservation and to increase wildlife management education.” Safari Club is the world leader in protecting the right to hunt as well as promoting conservation worldwide. There are approximately 190 chapters, representing all 50 states of the United States and 18 foreign countries. It is definitely an organization which every sportsman should join and support.
Contrary to the belief of some, the Safari Club is not just an organization for the “rich and famous.” In fact, the majority of the hunting opportunities that are offered are well within the budget of the average hunter. Of course, there are elephant hunts available for $60,000 through Jeff Rann Safaris, but there are also a plethora of deer, antelope and wild sheep hunts offered for under $3,000.
This year’s convention was attended by more than 18,000 sportsmen and women who were able to visit over 1,100 exhibitor’s booths. With over 650,000 square feet of exhibitions, it wasn’t possible to get to every booth in the four day period, but it was fun trying.
The SCI auctions raised over $200,000 to support the SCI Political Action Committee which works year-around to advance sportsmen’s interests in federal elections. The auctions were made possible by the very generous contributions of SCI members, exhibitors and companies. When we say generous, we mean GENEROUS. To give the reader an idea of the generosity demonstrated by these individuals, we would like to list just a few: Jeff Rann donated an elephant hunt valued at over $58,000, Erik Eike of Kilimanjaro Rifles donated a Doctari Rifle valued at over $15,000 and a trophy elk hunt on the Acoma Big Game Trophy Hunts, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico valued at $15,000. These and hundreds more, ranging in value from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, were offered at the daily live and silent auctions. There was jewelry, original artwork, custom knives, guns, ammunition and more, all auctioned off for the benefit of SCI conservation programs that benefit every sportsman across the globe.
We drove to Reno for SCI, after attending the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. As usual, we stayed at Boomtown Hotel and Casino. Although Boomtown is about twelve miles via expressway from the Reno-Sparks convention center, the prices are lower than downtown. Living in the country, as we do, we prefer the more relaxed and friendly atmosphere at Boomtown. The service is excellent, the amenities are superb and there is no better prime rib than is served at Cassidy’s Restaurant inside the casino. Couple those with the Denny’s on site for breakfast, open around the clock, Cabela’s across the parking lot and the all-you-can eat Lobster buffet and you have the ideal place to stay for the SCI convention, or for a vacation. A man approached Jim in the Casino and we found out he was staying there because of our articles. He made our day.
During the four day convention, we had the opportunity to meet and visit with Jeff Rann of Rann Safaris. You may remember Jeff from his “Dangerous Game” shows on the Outdoor Channel. Jeff also owns the Triple Seven Ranch (777 Ranch) in Hondo, Texas, which offers a variety of hunts for exotics right here in the U.S. We are pleased to report that Jeff is absolutely as nice an individual in person as he appears to be on television. He knew that we couldn’t afford one of his African elephant hunts, but that made no difference. He talked with us at length about elephant hunts and why they are necessary for the overall health of the elephant population, as well as their ecosystem.
We also ran into the owners and head guides of Record Buck Ranch at Utopia, Texas. Their hunt consultant, Houston Erskine, spent more than a half hour chatting with us about their place. He invited us to come down for a visit, just to check out everything for ourselves, prior to booking a hunt. That is an offer that we will probably take him up on in the coming year.
On the other side of the globe, we met Mike and Deborah Wilks from New Zealand, where our son lives. They operate South Pacific Safaris. They invited us to stop in and say hello when we visit our son and if we had time for a hunt, they would put something together that was affordable. If a hunt wasn’t possible, they still wanted us to visit. Very friendly folks!
As always, we saw a lot of old friends. For example, Nelson Freeman, the point man for SCI on Government Affairs and Public Relations and Erik Eike of Kilimanjaro Rifles, who had flown in from his home in Hawaii to attend the show. We are looking forward to completing a product review and field test on the Kilimanjaro Doctari rifle in the future. We mention the folks above for one reason. To let everyone know that SCI exhibitors and officials are not snobbish. They are real everyday folks who are dedicated to our sport. Sure, they have to make a living like the rest of us. However, they are more than willing to sit down and talk about hunting or shooting. It’s kind of like going on a vacation to various locations around the world without leaving the U.S.
In addition to the exhibits and auctions, there were a variety of seminars presented by industry experts and celebrities on planning your hunt, selecting the proper gear and cooking your catch. These provided a welcome break from all the walking around the 650,000+ square feet of exhibits. If you were looking for something out of the ordinary for yourself, or as a gift, there were lots of booths from specialty companies around the globe. We picked up some elephant hair bracelets and ivory key chains at a fraction of the regular price, as well as some greatly discounted Boyt’s clothing. Not too shabby for a working vacation.
If you have time, you should consider attending the 2012 Safari Club Hunters’ Convention. You won’t regret it and we guarantee that you will have a marvelous time, not to mention the opportunity to pick up some neat merchandise and/or book a hunt for the coming year. We’ll be there, for sure.
Copyright 2011 by Dr. Jim Clary. All rights reserved.