This year I elected to participate the SCI convention as a patron rather than an exhibitor. I have held a booth for over a quarter century and felt it time to view the event from the middle of the carpet for a change and spent Wednesday and Thursday walking the isles visiting old friends and meeting a few new ones. I had the notion that this means of doing the show would be less stressful and a layed back way to see friends but was always at a dead run between stops both days.
Shorty after getting my bearings I ran into the Phil Shoemaker his son Taj and later daughter Tia. Phil's wife Rocky had wisely chosen to give the convention floor wide berth for the time being. Over the next two days we re-grouped a couple of times and had a few laughs and discussed more than a few subjects. Gin somehow became the required lubricant during these brief encounters. Tia mentioned a possible opportunity that my daughter Lexi might be interested in so we'll see what transpires in the future. Being one of Alaska's few women Brown Bear guides she does indeed know where the bear craps in the woods and how to deal with the situation.
As many of you know Campbell Smith of Campbell Smith Safaris and I have shared a booth for well over a decade and a half and it was great to spend time with Cam and discuss his plans to start hunting In Mozambique along with his other opportunities in South Africa. Always at the top of game he was in prime condition and ready to engage anyone that stopped by. This year he was teamed up with Graeme Pollock and the two of them together form a wicked combination of wit and humor. Cam was eager to have a good show and then get back across the great blue as he had a Lion hunt looming on the immediate horizon.
John Oosthuizen of Hunters and Guides and I saw each other briefly and caught up on what his plans were for the up and coming Safari season. His company is spread throughout a variety of countries and offer diverse destinations and Safari packages. Cautiously optimistic he was looking forward to the convention season and then heading home to do what he does best.
I got to spend some time with Joe Coogan and discussing his new venture. As many are well aware Joe has spent most of his life involved in the African bush as a professional hunter, writer and celebrity. He is now teamed up with some old hands and collectively have formed Africa Allways who's business model is to plan, organize and outfit African Safaris in an all encompassing package to suit all taste. I understand these services will include Fishing Safaris, Photographic Safaris, Climbing Kilimanjaro, Bird Watching, Bird Hunting and Big Game Safaris as well as a broad spectrum of other travel opportunities and offered in a variety of destinations. If Joe is involved the company has a bright future.
Athol Frylinck of Luwata Safaris was again in attendance. Zambia as we are all aware has been closed to concession hunting for over a year and a half and Athol was patiently awaiting the Zambia Government to complete their tender allocations so he might get on with the business at hand. When I left the convention the situation in Zambia was still fluid and I hope is sorted before to long. Athol has a Legend chambered for 375 Ruger and has grown fond of seeing it the rack and reaching for it when its services are required. I only hope the powers to be come to their collective senses and allow the Zambian Pros to step back into the bush soon with the same quota they have had in the past.
The Bucks and Bulls booth was neck deep in potential and past clientele every time I walked by. Having guided for this Outfitter for many years myself I was not at all surprised at the traffic jam around their booth. Specializing in Trophy Mule Deer, Elk and Antelope their quota of slots is quickly filled every year. I managed this pic early Thursday morning before crowd control was required. Somehow I got sucked back into another year guiding for Antelope in New Mexico and look forward to going down again in August. The Antelope on their New Mexico leases are worth the long round trip drive and effort.
I stopped by had a chat with Martin Nel and we instantly got into discussion about his 450 Ackley Magnum. I met Martin while on a hunt in Tanzania and we have stayed in touch ever since. Martin has the distinction of having survived a Buffalo pounding while carrying a double and seems to have gone back to a magazine rifle. As he now feels having more than 2 rounds in reserve is better. Martin has been hunting in Zimbabwe's Bubye Conservancy for a number of years and his photo album proves that he certainly knows the lay of the land and how to pull the best trophies out of his area.
I ran into Rich Guthrie late Thursday afternoon as I was about to exit the convention hall and we caught up on his recent Brown Bear hunts in the short amount of time we had. Rich is a premier Alaskan Brown Bear Outfitter and his expertise spans many decades. He has the distinction of owning one of my Classic Rifles and we have hunted Antelope together in the past and are both Whitetail Deer Fanatics. Our conversation on Thursday ended with him detailing his exploits in Ohio and Illinois to me. It's always good to spend time with Rich.
Two full days did not allow enough time to see everyone I wanted to. You do the best you can and run like hell.