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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, January 12, 2018
I swear, it was THIS BIG!
Friday, February 02, 2018
Better or worse?


Kings of the Wild Frontier
“Freedom is being able to do what you want…

… Happiness is enjoying what you do!”


We’re in the vast caver­nous bowels of the Denver Convention Center setting up our Tailhunter Sportfishing booth for what will be our 23rd year running trips in La Paz. It’s my 20th continuous year on the show circuit. Maybe my 40th year doing shows. I can’t remember!


For three months, we leave Baja and spend our time in the U.S.


We do 12 to 14 shows that usually run 3 to 5 days each. In the booth talking, shaking hands, and socializing with friends, clients and the public. “Meet-and Greet” time.


Each show has hundreds of other vendors from around the world exhibiting hunting, fishing, camping, boating and all manners of associated gear. There are barkers and hawkers and seminars, and it’s basically our “outdoor version” of the circus-come-to-town.


This week, Denver. Then Sacramento. Followed by Portland… Salt Lake City… Bakersfield and Boise… Long Beach and Phoenix… and…


Well, I get confused after that! I have a small brain. I’ve been doing this a long time.


And we look forward to the carnival and being on the road and seeing all our old friends and clients. It’s a good time to catch up. A good time to relive great adventures!


But, as we set up our booth for the first time this year, I look around at the other vendors setting up. I especially look forward to seeing them.


It’s been a year since the last show season ended.


How’d YOUR season go? Did the salmon show up in numbers? Did those snowstorms hit you? Look at the rack on that elk! Dang, that was a huge halibut! An avalanche trapped you in the pass for a week? You broke your foot when a water buffalo charged you? And the client trampled you? Congratu­lations on the new lodge you built!


After several decades, it’s good to know who’s still standing… who’s retired… who’s trying to retire… who’s got their kids running the operation now… and who sadly, “finally got pulled down by the wolves.”


Anyone worth their salt in the outdoor business will tell you it’s not easy being a survivor and thriver.


Your livelihood is dependent on the capriciousness of Mother Nature; the seeming illogic of politics, economy and regulations; the ever-changing tastes of the public; the encroachment of “civilization.”


And just plain luck.


Yup, they put a dam on our river.


A hurricane hit us the busiest week of the year when we were sold out.


The snowpack never pushed the herds of game down the mountain.


The new regulations cut the limits in half and the season cut by a month.


Gas prices went up another 20 cents.


Those lands are now closed to public hunting.


They just jacked up the tourist tax by 10 percent.


Some rich guy bought up that whole side of the mountain… and fenced it off.


CNN just reported that 10 more people got sick at that resort.


Two of the three airlines that fly to us just up and quit flying to us.


There’s a new mega-resort being built on that pristine beach.


But, I look around.


And there’s Joe and Mary. Forty years of trophy hunting. They operate a pack train in Alberta, Canada. Up a mountain. They say it gets -30 degrees in the winter and they don’t / can’t leave their cabin. Completely off the grid. She can skin a deer. He can still chop trees… with an axe. He can spot game with his eyes that you can only see looking through your high-powered scope.


Ralph, Paul and Cole are up there somewhere near the Arctic Circle. Built themselves a lodge with their own hands and native help. Fly in. Fly out. No phones. But 200 miles of empty river and shore to fish and hunt. Need something? Bring it in or do without. Build it yourself or improvise.


Sammy is somewhere in the South American jungles.


Found an isolated village of natives along a river straight out’ve Jurassic Park. Built a rustic fishing resort for fishing peacock bass and 400-pound arapaima that lurk in those tea-colored waters.


In the meantime, Sam also built a school, medical facility and several industries so his locals would have regular jobs. He’s working on a small lumber mill too.


And there’s Joey. He’s like a modern-day Daniel Boone or Jeremiah Johnson. If you saw Leo de Caprio in the “Revenant,” that’s Joe.


He’s a bush pilot, airplane mechanic, tractor-operator, river guide, naturalist, eco-guide, and during the season — a big game hunter. His specialty is giant Kodiak grizzly bears. GIANT bears that can stand 10 feet tall and weigh almost one ton, with a 24-inch paw to boot.


He spends weeks in the bush climbing mountains, crossing frozen streams and trekking over glaciers with a 150-pound pack and rifle with his clients. He’s the guy standing BEHIND his client with an even BIGGER rifle in case his client misses. He makes sure an even bigger bear doesn’t come up from behind!


Oh… then he carries the meat on his back DOWN the darned mountain for you too. And, our course, you want the hide and head for a trophy!


And, it’s good to see Louie over there setting up his booth. He’s 70 now, but has the swimmer’s physique of a 30-year-old. He’s from South Africa. He’ll take you to free-dive with “Mr. Grinner,” the great white shark. No cage. No tanks. You hold your breath. And your heart!


I’ve seen Louie hold his breath for almost five minutes underwater!


Just you, a mask, a snorkel and a wetsuit that makes you look just like a tasty sea lion. Lovely.


South Africa is where “Shark Week” gets all its great footage to boost its ratings. I once asked him what do you do when a great white swims overhead and you’re on the bottom?


“You keep very still and hold your breath as long as you can!” He laughed back.


But what if you can’t hold your breath that long? “You’d be amazed how a 20-foot great white can keep you from breathing!”


And on and on and on. There are several hundred of these incredible spirits exhibiting at these hunting and fishing shows. But with each year, they dwindle. Just like the outdoors they inhabit.


It does my heart good to know there are folks like this still out there. And to call them my friends.


And there are still places to go to find people like this. And you and I can still go there. Hope you come to visit!


giantkodiakgrizzly
GIANT KODIAK GRIZZLY

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