On the morning of February 2, my wife Jan and I flew to Las Vegas in order to attend the 40th annual Safari Club International convention. Recognized as the largest rendezvous for hunters, hundreds of professional outfitters from Australia to the Antarctic gravitated to Sin City in order to present hunting opportunities unique to their parts of the world to the thousands of ardent hunters in attendance.
We spent our first evening surfing the Strip, enjoying the various sites and diversity of people who visit this surreal place. While walking around, I couldn’t help but notice the pastel, gray-colored mountains to the west—the mountains I hope to one day complete my grand slam for sheep as a healthy population of desert sheep inhabits these mountain ranges. I have 13 preference points that will or should augment my chance of drawing one of those coveted permits in the near future.
The following morning we were anticipating the 9 a.m. opening on the upper level of two floors containing around a thousand artfully decorated hunting and fishing booths manned by experts eagerly anticipating visits by both old and potentially new clients.
Our first stop was at the Bubye Valley Conservancy booth where we visited with our good friend Brent Hein. We hunted with Brent on the Matetsi Unit One outside of Victoria Falls back in 2005, and just last year we spent 15 days on the Bubye where Brent and I teamed up on a huge leopard and outstanding Cape buffalo, while Jan, daughter Nan, and her husband Paul successfully collected a variety of plains game.
Our safari was so successful, and more importantly memorable, we rebooked for a second trip to the Bubye in May, 2012, when I will again pursue Cape buffalo and the beautiful yet rare nyala.
Following an enjoyable reunion, we initiated our search for unique hunting opportunities that would generate even more outdoor memories in our future.
As we negotiated our way through the numbered aisles, it was hard not to pause periodically to admire the amazing talent of today’s taxidermists ostentatiously displayed by the various life-like mounts from white wolves to the iconic African lion. The opportunity to view the amazing variety of mounts was worth the price of admission.
As we walked by a booth named Caza Hispanica, I couldn’t help but stop to admire the unique, life-size mounts of the Beceite and Gredos ibex they had on display. I have had a great desire to hunt ibex for several years now, but for some reason or other I have never hooked up with an outfitter or a place to pursue these majestic mountain ungulates. Fortunately, a knowledgeable young, English-speaking lady accompanied Vicente, the representative of Caza Hispanica, and before I knew it, we booked a hunt out of Madrid during March, 2013 for the largest Spanish ibex, the Beceite, and its cousin, the Gredos.
Visiting with the folks from Spain was enjoyable, and booking a hunt with them was even more exciting, as I had had no intention of hunting in Spain. I didn’t even know of this hunting operation, which simply came together by chance, making it even more unique.
With six trips to Africa over the last nine years, we have acquired a number of good friends, thus another highlight to attending the convention is to catch up with old acquaintances which we did throughout our two-day stay.
Although we caught up with most of the folks on our short list to visit, we bumped into some others who were extremely pleasant surprises. Top of that list was the Honorable Jack Fields, an extremely close friend of mine as he was booking another elephant safari in Zimbabwe.
Overwhelmed by the fact that we would be pursuing ibex in Spain, we spent the last day simply cruising the booths, visually salivating over the beautiful mounts when I spotted a petite booth containing mounts of two species I have had the greatest appreciation for—Muntjac and Chinese water deer. The most unique aspect of these two members of the deer family is that they both have canines, sometimes called tusks, absent in the deer world. Intrigued, I visited with Kevin Downer, owner of Sporting Consultants, for close to an hour before once again we booked another hunt, thus time outside of London for these archaic holdouts, another adventure that may not have developed if it were not for the great hunters’ rendezvous that is the annual Safari Club convention.