There are some very real advantages to being near the bottom of the food chain. As the newest editor on the Outdoor Life editorial team, I’ve found my first SHOT show experience as an OL staffer to be an interesting one. My co-workers have been incredibly helpful and gracious all week, providing me with all manner of sage advice to help make this experience as fulfilling as possible.
For starters, OL’s digital guru Alex Robinson made certain that I was aware of the company dress code at SHOT so that I wouldn’t show up on Day One underdressed. I had no idea what a “sport coat” was but my wife took me shopping, stuffed me into a couple of jackets (which apparently are the same things as “sport coats”), lined me up with a few shirts to match, and then rewarded me with a trip to Culver’s for cheese curds. Not a bad deal overall.
Thanks to the color-coded printout placed in my suitcase to insure that I wore the right shirt with the right jacket with the right pants, I showed up on the show floor looking a bit less like Earl Dibbles, Jr. and a bit more like Wayne Newton. Let me tell you, I was ecstatic. Yee Yee. What I have been trying to figure out, however, is why the rest of the crew wasn’t wearing sport coats?
I must pause here to make an admission: I’m a bowhunter first and foremost. I have nothing against guns or hunting with them but my primary passion in the woods involves a bow, some arrows, and big whitetails. I will spend a fair amount of time each year chasing critters with firearms but would never pretend to be an expert on things that go bang. But I suppose that’s one of the traits I’ve both worked on and am proud of—I’m not at all afraid to admit that I’m wrong or that I make mistakes. And, clearly, after spending some time at the SHOT Show, I’ve been doing some things wrong.
I was tasked with collecting a photo gallery of images from some of the more unique items to be found here at SHOT 2017 and to look at these new offerings from the perspective of a diehard hunter and that the perhaps best to place to locate these hidden gems would be on the lower level of the show—the SHOT Show is massive, covering three levels of the Sands Expo Center.
Booth space at SHOT isn’t cheap. Young, up-and-coming companies usually lack the marketing budget of the traditional giants of the industry. Thus they save costs by booking smaller space away from the prime real estate of the first level.
And, so, with a fresh SD card, a heart full of hope, and an open mind, I made my way into the bowels of the SHOT Show. Here’s what I found.
I’m a firm believer in goal-setting. If you really want to do something, you simply have to tell yourself that you will. Set yourself up for that success. Take Ricky Bobby’s timeless advice to heart: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
I have long wanted to kill a really big whitetail. I’ve shot some pretty good ones but have not yet tagged one that tops that magical 180-inch mark. When I walked up to the Silver Stag booth and saw the error of my ways, I started to understand why that it is.
I’ve been doing it wrong. And it starts with the knife I carry in my pack.
You can’t expect to kill an over-sized whitetail when you’re toting around a blade that can be conveniently stashed in a pack pocket. Big bucks are not convenient. Your tools shouldn’t be either.
Nothing about my sensible locking folder says “big time.” And big bucks are “big time” defined. I know this because the TV celebrities I see piling up heavy-horned bucks each fall sign autographs at various booths throughout the SHOT Show. Which, of course, is the definition of “big time.”
Handling that knife with its heft of a Buick and the length of the Mackinac Bridge, I felt a bit foolish. Not because I was concerned that any sudden movements would lop off the hand of the man in the next aisle but because I had missed such an obvious connection.
Think about it. We have broadheads with cutting diameters designed to eviscerate and process upon impact. Bullets and slugs that that create a sonic boom when fired. High-tech clothing that requires a second mortgage to own. And yet we carry small knives to the woods? A rookie mistake.
This is the knife of men, a tool crafted from D2 steel, and featuring a handle made of real antler. Most, importantly, BIG antler.
Long before the days of treestands, tower blinds, and $15,000 shooting houses complete with their own satellite dish, there was the 5-gallon bucket.
White, plastic, a simple wire handle for fuss-free toting, the surplus bucket was my deer stand of choice for many seasons. And, as it turns out, I was using it wrong the whole time.
I would simply take a bucket to the woods, flip it over, and start hunting. I do feel a bit of shame in that simple admission. After spending a few moments admiring this must-have accessory, I can now clearly see the error of my ways.
Toting around that bucket for all those seasons, as it banged against my gun, the brush and every other encountered obstacle was truly an exercise in futility. Because without adding an oversized armchair to the mix, I was robbing myself of so much utilitarian value.
The common bucket setup just isn’t good enough anymore. In fact, looking back, I have no idea how I ever killed a single deer using a plain, ol’ bucket in the first place. The fact that I did is truly nothing short of a miracle.
I appreciate fine craftsmanship. And one look at the display models at the Boyd’s booth was all it took to understand these guys obviously know their way around a wood shop. A metal shop, however, seems to be a different story.
I found myself biting my tongue as the reps showed off their wares. I hate being that know-it-all guy who points out flaws in the work of others. So we’ll start with the positive.
These things are cool-looking. Featuring an array of colors and configurations, the attention to detail was obvious—sans a few glaring omissions.
I found not a single model on display that included a trigger. Not one. In fact, none of them had barrels. Or sights.
Perhaps this is a new trend that, as a guy who spends most of his time bowhunting, I’ve missed. Now, I do admit there is a certain air of challenge to hunting with a gun that lacks a trigger, a barrel or sights. But I’m thinking this might be one of those times where the crew was so excited to unveil their new product that they forgot to attach a few things…but I loved their enthusiasm and passion!
I have a feeling they’ll get the kinks ironed out eventually and we’ll hear plenty from this company in the future.
4) CANNON COOLERS
The cooler world has certainly turned into a crowded place. But there’s always room for improvement. And this looks to be exactly that.
When I first saw these, I actually thought I was looking at an aluminum arrow case. But when I popped the cap to take a look inside and a fresh Mountain Dew sprang up…well, it was clear this was a product meant for those who like beverages that come in aluminum cans and packs of six. I’m not certain but it might have been a concept born in Wisconsin.
The shape of the cooler is not only unique but functional. The marketing materials claim the cooler “stores neatly in your blind or treestand” and is for “storing your favorite beverages during your hunt.”
So, keep that in mind should you choose to purchase. This cooler, which sells for about $40, is meant for merely “storing” those beverages that come in cans during the hunt…
Now THIS is a smart product.
There are few things more enjoyable than a stand snack. In the past, I’ve toted all manner of candies and jerkies and once, during a dark time in my life following the final season of Breaking Bad, smuggled an entire cheesecake in my fanny pack. When the action slows, the time is passed with snacking.
Now the good folks at Mossy Oak Addiction have whipped up a batch of the best of both worlds: It’s a deer attractant that’s a pie. I’m not sure whose grandma actually bakes these treats but I’ve yet to taste a grandmother-baked pie that wasn’t edible if not tasty.
Now, to be fair, I’m not sure this item is being marketed as a snack food for humans. Deer? Oh, yes. But is it safe for human consumption? Well, that’s up the government. And I’ll just say this about that: The government still hasn’t realized the Roswell files. One must wonder why that is. Can I really trust them to tell me what pies are—or aren’t—fit for consumption?
I’ve used attractants and bait stations sporadically over the years. But, again, after a few minutes studying the product packaging and marketing materials I realized once again that I’d been doing it wrong. I simply wasn’t using these tactics to their full potential. I was relying upon common shelled corn or the occasional sack of real apples that cost a couple of bucks. I had fallen into the trap of habit.
Now, with Grandma’s Pie in my arsenal, my success seems all but assured. My only request: Add key lime to the lineup. I’m not sure if whitetails have acquired a taste for that zingy combination…but I have. And I’ve not seen a single mention of key lime in any of the Roswell report files I’ve found online.
One of the defining characteristics of the best hunters and anglers I know is their ability to adapt and change. They take what’s available and make it work.
As soon as I saw this bomb suit, one word came to mind: Brantley.
I should clarify here. Brantley is not just a word. It’s a name. The last name, in fact, of Will Brantley who is a long-time buddy who happens to serve as the Hunting Editor for Field and Stream.
Brantley is a lot of fun to be around despite his unusual pattern of speech. And sharing a hunting camp with him is…well, it’s an experience the likes of which is hard to truly define. The moment I saw this outfit, I knew I’d found a useful piece of gear for my next Brantley outing.
I’m sure these things aren’t cheap but the fact that it could serve multiple roles might soften the blow just a bit. Perhaps literally.
Let’s flash back a couple of years. Will and I were sharing a room during a Montana goose hunt. I’d known Brantley for several years at that point but was not yet aware of one personal detail: When he falls asleep, strange things happen.
We were doing what most guys do the night before a big hunt, talking strategy, trading insults and embellishing on our skills and experiences. We were deep into a debate over which Taco Bell Locos Taco was tastier: classic nacho cheese or cool ranch when I heard it.
“Go ahead, Mary.”
I looked over to see what exactly Will was talking about. He appeared to be asleep.
“What the heck are you talking about?”
Silence. It would seem Brantley had fallen asleep right in the middle of our conversation. I stood up and headed over to switch off the lights…
“Go ahead! Go ahead and shoot, Mary. Just go ahead and SHOOT!”
I froze in mid-stride, not quite sure where to turn. I had no idea who Mary was. I didn’t know why Will was asking her to shoot—or what the intended target was.
That’s when Will sat bolt upright, pounded his pillows in a quick but efficient 1-2 manner, rolled over and was still. He never moved the rest of the night. I know because I laid awake, waiting for him to summon Mary again to finish the unnamed task.
Had I owned one of these suits, I could have slept soundly knowing I was protected from Will and his invisible friends. With an added bonus, the suit’s containment mask would help seal out foreign odors. A very real benefit given that while Taco Bell is a tasty treat going in, it does have a way of creating less-pleasant odors a bit later.
I’ve been to plenty of SHOT shows over the years and I’m always amazed at the growth of the shooting and hunting industry and each year I leave the show wanting to up my gun game. When I saw the Can Can Hip Hugger, I saw a great opportunity to do exactly that.
I work from a home office much of the time thus have a limited, albeit comfortable, daily wardrobe. You can produce a ton of content wearing little more than boxers and a decent shirt. OL’s web team often uses video conferencing to collaborate and my computer’s camera is set in a manner that shows only my top half. Thus it’s not unusual to sit in on a meeting while wearing a sensible shirt and no pants. When I saw this garment, I knew I could maintain my standards of apparel and still squeeze in a few rounds of practice during lunch, all while keeping my handgun safe, secure, and at the ready.
But there was a problem. I wasn’t sure if the Hip Huggers were true to size. And I couldn’t locate any buttons or zippers anywhere. I knew it was a long shot but figured, what the heck. I sought out one of the reps at the booth and asked if they might have a fitting room where I could try on a pair.
She never actually answered, but I like to think I’m a pretty observant guy. The look she gave me wasn’t exactly, “I’m sorry, sir. But we don’t have a fitting room.” But it was pretty close.