Though this year's SHOT show -- February 12-15 in Las Vegas -- didn't have the same "edge" as last year (it took our reporter only 10 minutes in 2003 to locate a camouflage bikini and three fake deer -- two male and one female -- mounting each other) attendance still set an all-time record at 19,811 dealers, 993 media, 12,200 exhibitors all running around like deer in heat over 529,000 square feet of space.
As disappointed as we were at not finding the aforementioned display (although CamelBak folks tell us that it took them a year of sex therapy just to get over lasting images of the plastic menage a trois by their booth), we are happy to report it took us only two hours to locate a line of camouflage bikinis and thong underwear -- you know, for the discriminating hunter with fashion-sense.
And for those returning next year, you'll be happy to know that even though the plastic deer have been retired, they have been replaced by a life-size color banner hanging proudly above a booth with a photograph of a male deer mounting a female and the following tag: "The chase ends when the doe stands." Indeed it does and we're relieved to know that sex and hunting still find an uneasy partnership.
Dressed appropriately in black shoes, navy blue pants and a black turtleneck, our editor on the scene -- yeah, the one with an earring and long grey/blond hair -- also found humor in the fact that he was asked, not once, but twice in fact, what branch of the special forces he was in.
Ahh, SHOT show. Where else can one find a cookbook with two women on the front cover -- Martha Stewart look out -- and a title proclaiming, "Kill it and Grill It." It's sure to be a best seller.
But for all the quirkiness of the show, SHOT is a show the SNEWS® team will keep returning to each year simply because it is a market an increasing number of traditional outdoor companies are finding success in.
And while many hunters will still think nothing of dropping a grand or more on a firearm, yet skimp ridiculously on the purchase of other essentials such as optics, clothing and shelter, the trends indicate that the market is evolving and becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to technology.
Interest was high at Bushnell's booth with the company's 8x32 binocular featuring a 2.1 mega-pixel camera and a pop-up LCD screen -- see it and shoot it, digitally at least.
Lauren Zimmerman of Suunto told us that Suunto had a super show with phenomenal interest being shown in the company's altimeter watches line naturally, but also for the new X9, the GPS watch.
"It is a very different show than we are used to," said Zimmerman, "but it is a show we have to be at now because it is so busy and successful for us."
Mike Hosey of High Gear echoed Zimmerman's comments, and added, "You really do have to be on your toes here though, to determine who you are talking to, because while some badges say exhibitor, the person is also a distributor for lines, and they may own a few retail stores too. It is a strange dynamic, but the show is very successful for us regardless."
And while we reported that LEDs were a totally new concept to SHOT last year, they've taken over the show now. Lights were everywhere we looked, and outdoor companies such as Princeton Tec, Essential Gear, Innova and Gerber/CMG were clearly enjoying packed booths.
Even new exhibitor, Lowa Boots enjoyed respectable traffic and told us it was, overall, quite pleased with the attendance and interest shown it.
Of course, now that we've gotten you a tad excited about the show, we bring you this announcement -- unless you can clone yourself, forget about next year's SHOT Show. Why? Well 'cause the organizers have scheduled it for Jan. 28-31, right on top of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, pretty well eliminating any chance SHOT might have had of attracting curious outdoor industry retailers and companies. Even a few outdoor companies that attended this year told us off the record that next year, they will absolutely opt for Winter Market over SHOT, simply because it is a far more important show for a company that doesn't make the hunting market a priority.
And while we will send a reporter because the show is important enough to cover, we can assure you our "A" team of veteran journalists will all be at OR. Not even plastic deer or camo bikinis are enough of a draw to overcome the date conflict.