[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]he Western Hunting and Conservation Expo recently held their 9th annual convention in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake City, Utah. The show has grown rapidly and become a destination event for hunters, guides, firearms manufacturers, outfitters and outdoor enthusiasts. This year was the biggest yet.
I hit the show’s final day and it was packed. Normally shows slow down at the end, so it stands to reason that the preceding days were even busier.
The Expo had something for everyone, hunters and nonhunters alike. The main corridors and lobby areas of the Salt Palace Convention Center had wall to wall displays of trophy animals bagged from around the world, like red stag deer from New Zealand, bezoar ibex from Turkey and many more.
The biggest attraction was the hunting permit booth. Organizers were holding drawings for more than 200 hard-to-get permits for animals like buck deer, bull elk, pronghorn, bison, blackbear, bull moose, cougar, desert bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, goat and turkey. If the draw wasn’t for an animal tag, it was for a rare location where hunters don’t usually get to go. There were even draws for out-of-state hunters since Utah offers some of the most exciting hunts and guided tours in the US.
This expo had a very active auction, boasting a world record bid of $390,000 by Troy Lorenz of Canada to hunt the big mule deer that roam Antelope Island, located in the Great Salt Lake, a hunt that will take place this November. Other bids included a
bighorn sheep tag for $85,000, a moose permit that went for $90,000 and a statewide mule deer hunt in Arizona that went for $320,000. Most of the money goes towards conservation, and 90 percent of the money raised with the Antelope Island hunt goes into a conservation fund specifically for the island.
Friday night featured numerous speakers and entertainers from the firearms, hunting and outdoors industry highlighted by Kristy Lee Cook, country singer, TV show host and Browning personality.
In the event hall, I visited with MG Arms, innovators in the hunting and firearms industry, and perused their custom-made rifles. Each rifle is built to order and made to the customer’s desired caliber and color pattern. I found their designs to be very unique. The owner, Kerry O’Day, had a dangerous-game rifle on display that featured Turkish walnut, Belgian carvings and took more than 200 man hours to produce. The rifle was chambered in .470 Capstick and sold for a whopping $20,000.
I had an entertaining opportunity to meet Jerimy West of Wild West Guns. I asked him what his company did, and he said, “We make big guns that shoot big bullets that kill big animals.” After this response, I knew I was dealing with quite a character. He went on to show me one of their rifles called the Co-Pilot.
“We make big guns that shoot big bullets that kill big animals.”
The Co-Pilot is a lever-action, chambered in .457 Wild West Magnum. This cartridge, invented by Wild West Guns, is basically a .45-70 that has been “magnumized.” Having shot the .45-70 extensively, I asked him why he felt it needed magnum power. “Because we can, and besides, why not?” he said. I can’t argue with that. I also asked if he had considered making it in a handgun. The answer was a resounding “yes,” and it had already been done.
Not all exhibitors were gun makers or guide outfits.Gohunt.com is a relative newcomer to the hunting scene and offers a very unique product for Western hunters. They have a subscription-based website that provides information such as climate, terrain, location of airports, hotels, etc. But what is fantastic are the statistics it provides regarding what types of animals have been harvested and the areas where they were found. All the content is provided by hunters who have been to each specific area and the website shares these firsthand and up-to-date accounts. This intel is invaluable to a hunter.
The site also contains articles that are written by and for hunters offering advice and tips for specific hunts. Gohunt.com takes the guess work out of hunting when one is already spending thousands of dollars for the trip of a lifetime. A membership runs about $149 per year.
If you’ve never been to this show, plan on attending. The atmosphere is family friendly and Utah is a beautiful state, although I’m biased. I met people at the show as old as 100, and even made a new friend, future cowboy and outdoorsman, Kyle from northern Utah who is featured on the Gun Show calendar page of this issue. His family was kind enough to let me take his picture with one of the bison on display. The young man, maybe 6, was having the time of his life in his big cowboy hat, complete with feather, cool jeans and fancy, tan, square-toed cowboy boots.
Young and old, male and female – this show really is for everyone. Next year’s will be held Feb. 11-14, and promises to be bigger than ever. For more, see huntexpo.com. ASJ