Each year, when I attend the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show, I spend four full days cruising the six-plus miles of aisles looking at new products manufacturers will be offering.
From these hundreds of new “toys,” I choose what I consider to be the best of show, and then in a two-part series, introduce my choices to you. This year was very special for me and my friend Steve Zahurak of Schenectady, who accompanied me. Attendance at this show is always enjoyable, but this year, I had a personal “Best of Show” surprise to share.
It began with our attendance at the Wyoming Business Council media dinner after the show closed on the third day. We met, talked and listened to the presentations of those companies who produce and market various outdoor-related products, all of which are made in Wyoming. I actually met most of these people when I was one of six outdoors writers invited to Casper in the summer of 2008 for three days to meet and talk with these businesses and experience some very enjoyable fishing, sightseeing and eating outings. So it was good to see some acquaintances this year.
As we ate, each of the companies spoke about their products, and after their presentations, there was a drawing from a hat full of our business cards for some very nice prizes. Several people at my table won, but they saved the best for last — a Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt for two. Everyone was quiet as Annie Wood, marketing and attraction program manager reached in and pulled the card. When I heard “Edward Noonan,” I couldn’t get up to the podium fast enough. What a surprise!
When I returned to my table, I immediately called home and told my wife what I had won. I also asked her if she wanted to join me on the hunt, but she declined. When I hung up I turned to Steve and said, “You’re in. We’re going back to Wyoming.” Steve and I had hunted antelope and mule deer in Wyoming on two other occasions.
Before leaving that evening, Steve and I sat down with Al Langston, information/media specialist for Wyoming Game & Fish Department Services, who explained the hunting detail to us. The area we would be hunting was No. 25 in Ormsby, not far from where we would be staying in Casper. Al also told us that this was an excellent antelope area and should offer us some very good hunting, and that our guide, Kelly Glause of Cole Creek Outfitters, was among the best in Wyoming.
Prior to talking to Kelly, I spoke with several people at the Wyoming Business Council dinner and they all agreed with Al — we would definitely see antelope. Kelly is located in Evansville, Wyo., and is a game manager for a farm with 80,000 acres available for hunting. Now that should be enough room for Steve and me. Cole Creek Outfitters offers rifle and archery hunts for pronghorn antelopes, mule deer and elk. Kelly also agreed to help me get a Wyoming Merriam turkey to complete my seventh National Wild Turkey Federation Grand Slam, but the antelopes will be first.
I also got a lot of information about the hunt and the guides from an article written by Georgette Wood, who won the hunt last year. She wrote a very informative article of her and husband Rick’s hunt with Cole Creek Outfitters in the Women’s Outdoor News. After reading it, both Steve and I were eager to hunt.
In preparation for the hunt and as a way of saying “thank you” to those members of the Wyoming Business Council who made this trip possible, I decided to use as many Wyoming-made products as I could on this hunt. There were three, Grouse Wing Camo, Lucid optics and Twisted Barrel, all related to hunting.
GROUSE WING CAMO
I first met Carlos Gonzales, founder/owner of Grouse Wing, in 2006 at the SHOT Show and have been wearing his camo pattern ever since. His story on how he came upon this pattern is simple and interesting.
He was actually grouse hunting with his dad and looking for a grouse they had shot. It took them awhile, and when Carlos found it, he didn’t immediately retrieve it. He called his dad over and told him the general direction to look, and it took a little time for his dad to see it. The incident led to the development of this outstanding camo pattern. If they can hide that well, so can a hunter, and Grouse Wing Camo was born.
The company now offers a full line of camouflage clothing, including hats, face covers, jackets (regular and hooded), shirts and pants (www.grousewingcamo.com).
The day after winning the antelope hunt, I decided to spend the morning cruising the gun manufacturers and see what was new and to get their recommendations on an antelope gun. Those who know me also know I will use any excuse to buy a new gun. It didn’t take long, perhaps an hour. I found what I liked at the Century Arms booth when Dina Sanders handed me their new M70 standard bolt-action rifle in a .270 caliber with the proven Mauser action, which turned out to be my Best of Show in the bolt rifle category.
If you remember, the famous outdoors writer Jack O’Connor wrote that this was his favorite all-around cartridge, and he proved it by shooting everything from Javelina to Alaskan moose with the .270. The day I got this gun, I went right to the range with a box of Federal Premium 130-grain Trophy Bonded-Tip ammo and was very pleased with the results. Bench-resting the gun, using a friend’s Caldwell Lead Sled DFT, I shot a half-inch, three-shot group at 100 yards. It was definitely what I wanted to reach out and touch that antelope (www.centuryarms.com).
To my new hunting rifle, I’ve added a few accessories: a new bipod, scope and even a new “look.” On my previous two Wyoming antelope hunts, I remember having to crawl the last 100 or more yards on my stomach and then take the shot from a prone position. And this time, that shot will be a lot easier and more accurate with the Caldwell XLA pivot bipod attached to my front sling swivel. It takes just seconds to snap the legs into a shooting position, and they will provide a rock-solid rest (www.battenfeldtechnologies.com).
The optics were an easy choice. At the Wyoming dinner, I also met Jason Wilson of Lucid optics and knew immediately that his 6-24x50 Advantage Rifle Scope was what I wanted to use. This black matte scope has a 30mm tube, parallax adjustment and the company’s L5 reticle with all ballistic distant calculator dots (BDC) that, when calibrated, will make that shot out to hundreds of yards be right on target. This is definitely a confidence-builder when shooting at long-distance game or targets (www.mylucidgear.com).
The last change to my rifle was a first for me. When I heard riflesmith Marty Kolbet’s presentation on his company, Twisted Barrel, at the dinner, I thought about what he could do to rifles. I thought about it for several months and finally sent it out to him earlier this month and let him “trick out” my .270. Looking at his work on the website (twistedbarrel.com) I was very impressed with the craftsmanship and cannot wait to see the gun, remount the scope and bipod, and head to the range.
I spoke with Marty last Saturday and he said he would return it this week. He fluted the barrel, which in addition to reducing the weight aids in cooling it, and that adds to more consistent shooting/accuracy. He also installed a tactical bolt knob and skeletonized the bolt handle.
Something else I’ve added for not only my Wyoming trip, but also some of my other hunts and fishing trips is the Flex Cam. This will allow me to attach my Contour video camera to my rifle/shotgun/bow or even a branch. It’s small and lightweight (less than seven ounces) and has an adaptor that will hold my cell phone. I’ve always wanted to video some of my hunts and hope to add them to my blog.
When we return, I’ll provide all the details of what I believe will be a very successful Wyoming pronghorn antelope and turkey hunt. Thank you, Wyoming Business Council, for this opportunity.