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Safari Club International: A show of shows
What is promoted as SCI's Annual Hunter' Convention in Las Vegas, Nev. has expanded it's presence among outdoor enthusiasts to include just about every destination around the world offering big game and upland game bird hunting options, prime big game fishing locations, worldly travel, the finest in wildlife art, jewelry and a wonderful display of taxidermy.

awesometaxidermyAWESOME TAXIDERMY — This male lion was just one of the many great mounts on the show room floor. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Over 20,000 attendees were able to meet with lodge owners, outfitters, master guides, booking agents, artists, firearms manufacturers representing more than 33 countries and 6 continents, of which, there were 34 different hunting related product categories including 67 of the world's finest gun makers.

The 45th Annual Safari Club International Hunters' Convention was held at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino last week and was open to the general public and included over 1,200 exhibitors and the show floors covered in excess of one million square feet. Funds raised during the SCI Convention account for over 70 percent of the money raised during the year to support key SCI programs in Conservation, Hunter Advocacy, humanitarian needs and hunter education.

This WON hunting editor spent three days at the convention talking with hunting friends, renewing old relationships with fellow SCI members and most importantly meeting with a lot of outfitters, guides and hunting and fishing destination owners; while enjoying seeing wildlife art and amazing taxidermy displays of a wide variety of wild game exhibits.

ALMOST LOOKS ALIVE — This wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt atop a camel looked so real you to look hard to make sure it didn't blink. It was an tremendous eye catcher at the SCI convention. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Most of those who head to the SCI convention in Las Vegas every year attend this show looking to book a hunting or fishing trip of a life time. This editor discovered an even more valuable reason to attend this show, that of being able to talk to different exhibitors in order to make a decision on what destination offered exactly what you are looking forward to at the most affordable cost. Such was the case with my wife Toni and I, as we researched at least 20 Argentina destinations to finalize a fall combination trip with Argentina Bighunting for a combo expedition to hunt ducks, dove, perdiz, wild pigeons and, with the same outfitter, head up river to attempt to catch a record class Golden Dorado.

At a show of this magnitude it is almost impossible to spend time at each and every exhibitor's booth... time and your feet just won't all this to happen. This venue is on such a huge scale that attendees often find themselves walking in circles amid a mass of hunting theme or western dressed show goers. It would be this editor's suggestion that you plan out your day(s) at the show using the directory and floor map handed out at the registration desk.

SHOOT OUT OF A WWII TANK IN TEXAS — WW11 vintage tanks, other war time vehicles and machine guns await hunters when spending a few days at the OX Ranch located in Uvalde, TX. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

With so much to see and people to talk to, it often leads to less time to attend informative seminars presented by the most knowledgeable speakers in their field of specialty. As this avid hunter gets up in age, and still wants to keep in shape to hunt with my yellow Lab Sierra, it was a must to attend veteran outfitter Wayne Long's seminar: The Easiest and Best Way of Getting and Staying in Shape For Hunting , which was specially designed for those of us on the other side of 60 years of age. Other seminars were equally interesting and all those who attended any seminar walked away with greater insight in the particular subject matter of that seminar.

While the SCI convention offers a different collection of firearms and related accessories than does SHOT Show, it's a great place to check out the latest in rifles, pistols, shotguns, ammunition and the show offers up an awesome presentation of some the finest antique high-end shotguns and big bore rifles ever show cased in one show.

A few of the highlights of this year's convention were: 1) the booth of the OX Ranch based out of Uvalde, TX. This 18,000 acre Texas hill country ranch offers hunting for native big game and exotics, but tops off a stay at the ranch with the option to drive and shoot/live fire WWII tanks, machine gun shooting or spend part of your day arrowhead hunting; 2) While there were perhaps over 200 exhibitors offering Rocky Mountain Elk, Roosevelt Elk and Red Stag hunts, only a couple of outfitters offered California Tule Elk hunts. Chad Wiebe of Oak Stone Outfitters, 805- 748-2787 based outside of Paso Robles and Central Coast Outfitters were swamped with interest from those considering booking a hunt for this highly prized elk to finish off a Grand Slam of North American elk; 3) WON spent a lot of talking time with western guides and outfitters from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Africa, New Zealand and down into Sonora, Sinaloa and Yucatan Mexico in order to get a feeling of just how much interest in hunting there is out there. Based on bookings through the first three days of the show most all exhibitors were very happy and optimistic about the future of hunting; 4) With the South African Rand now trading for an exchange rate of nearly 14 Rand to $1 American a lot of flights were booked to take advantage of this value. At last year's SCI convention the Rand was trading at only about 7 Rand to $1 American, 5) Wines produced in California rate as some of the best in the world and there was a new wine introduced at the convention: The name of this new wine is AMMUNITION. It is produced and distributed out of their winery in Sonoma County and just earned 2 gold and 3 silver medals at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, beating out some of the biggest names in the wine industry; 6) High lighting this event was a Saturday night gala celebration that featured country singing icon Hank Williams, Jr.

Next year Safari Club International will be expanding the Hunters' Convention with a move to the newly enlarged Las Vegas Convention Center. Dates for next year's convention are January 31 - Feb. 3. For more information log on to the SCI website at

CLASSIC SHOTGUNS — This gun rack filled with side-by-side vintage shotguns was just one of the many booths at the SCI Convention that caught the attention of attendees. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

****SPRING TURKEY UPDATE: It's not too early to start thinking about spring turkey season. All pre-season reports coming into Western Outdoor News are promising for a good season of young adults and lots of jakes. The Annual 2017 Spring Turkey Tune Up for turkey hunts at Sutherland Reservoir, just outside of the city of Ramona, is set for Sat. February 18 starting at 8:30 a.m. rain or shine! This event is co-sponsored by the City of San Diego and the San Diego Chapter for the National Wild Turkey Federation. There is a $10 entry fee to access registration for the spring hunt draw, seminars, vendor booths and raffle entry. General Reservation entries will only be issued to those of an age to purchase a hunting permit (8 years of age or older).

The agenda for the day is as follows: 8:30 a.m. gates and vendor booths open, 9:15 a.m. seminars followed by Lake Sutherland hunt rules and procedures, then comes the raffle and demonstrations. The deadline for entry in all draws will be at 11:20 a.m. and the hunt draw will begin at 11:30. Only one entry per person, duplicates will disqualify your entry. Winner may register one partner who must be registered as well: both parties must present a valid California hunting license when registering. Turkey hunts will be on each Wed. and Sat. during the spring season only, gates will open at 4:00 a.m. and all hunters must be back to the boat dock no later than 4:30 p.m. Motorboats, at the rate of $29.50, can be rented for the day of the hunt and can be paid at the lake.

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