Leaving Las Vegas

By Craig Boddington 


Our 50th Convention is now history. Las Vegas is in the rearview mirror, and SCI looks ahead to Nashville. 

I’ll be honest: Most of us were concerned about how our Convention would turn out, and many were unable to attend. If you were in the latter group, that’s understandable. The Dread Virus was certainly among us, touching some and randomly missing others. So, if you stayed home, you get a pass. This time only! But you missed a truly great and historic show.

It started with the giant baobab. Actually, it didn’t start there. For both attendees and exhibitors, registration was the smoothest, simplest and most efficient I can recall. But you couldn’t miss the huge baobab tree, towering over a roomy lounge area near the entrance. Then, we proceeded onward to amazing art, fantastic taxidermy, great guns, outdoor clothing and accessories, glittering jewelry, and all the other displays we expect to see at an SCI Convention and now have seen for 50 years! Oh, and not unimportant, guides, outfitters and agents from all over the world.

We have often said that our SCI Convention is the world’s greatest hunting marketplace, the best place to shop for your first, next or last bucket-list adventure. I’ve always accepted this as fact, but at this particular Convention, I was struck by just how true it is. Our Convention exhibitors include not only big names from the most popular areas but, uniquely, also smaller operations from little-known destinations and even brand-new opportunities.

In this time of COVID, it’s sad that the ranks of exhibitors were thinner than usual. This was not visually apparent to me as I walked the aisles. It was a big show, and if your feet didn’t hurt, you spent too much time under the baobab! Seriously, some of our outfitter friends were unable to attend, so there were regrettable losses. Travel was not yet practical from certain countries, and our visa process is especially onerous right now. Some folks I’ve looked forward to seeing simply couldn’t make it. Yet quite a few managed to arrive at the last minute! Still, our 50th was a great Convention, truly a gathering of the faithful.

One of the great joys at SCI is seeing old friends. Hunting buddies Craig Boddington, John Stucker and Dirk de Bod were glad to see each other in person.

This applies to our attendees as well. We set no records for attendance, and with the viral shadow, that was too much to hope for. But our Convention was well-attended. Wider aisles were rarely crowded but often full. And, with reductions to distracting daytime events, traffic on the show floor was constant and brisk. Auctions were amazing, and all the many exhibitors I talked to, reported a good show for their business. Many reported our 50th as their best Convention ever.

This is important, because our industry worldwide needed a shot in the arm, no pun intended. Effects of the pandemic varied widely depending on location. There is also a wide variety of business models and marketing plans place to place. However, it’s reality that anyone connected to the travel industry in any way was hurt badly. Most outfitters lost much (some, all) of their 2020 seasons, and many lost much (or all) of their 2021 seasons. Hey, I’m part of the industry, too. Little TV filming, no speaking engagements, no convention sales — you bet I was happy to see a great SCI Convention!

Maybe “happy” is the best word. Never, ever, have I seen a happier crowd, happy to be there, happy to be out in the world again, happy to see old friends and meet new ones! And eager. Eager to plan new adventures, order new equipment, bid on auctions, eager to leave the Dread Virus in the dust of history and get on with their lives.

Traffic at my booth was usually steady, sometimes frantic. Right now, I want to apologize to anyone who feels they didn’t get the full attention they deserve! I often find myself with folks coming from different directions and trying to carry on multiple conversations at the same time. I was never very good at that, certainly no better today! So, thanks for stopping by, and please accept my apology if you didn’t get a question properly answered. That’s what I’m there for.

This year, the seminars were purpose-fully fewer in number, but the ones I attended in drew excellent crowds. Our “Your First African Safari” panel was packed. That’s a Convention highlight for me. I’ve been part of that panel for 27 years. It’s wonderful to see so many folks actively shopping for their first, life-changing African hunt. As founder C.J. McElroy liked to say, “The only people I envy are those going on their first African safaris!” Bob Keagy who, like too many, was unable to attend because he was down with COVID. His panel proceeded ably without him but, Bob, great job! I thought I knew a bit about traveling with guns, but this is a fast-changing landscape, and I learned some important things. I hope this panel continues at future Conventions.

As always, our evening events were sellouts. Of course, they were, with speakers like Donald Trump Jr. and Tucker Carlson! Evening auctions were fantastic, yet another indicator of our avid, enthusiastic, and generous membership, looking forward to a new and great 2022 for our wildlife, our industry, our passion…and our way of life!

Craig Boddington visited with Carl van Zyl at his John X Safaris booth, and they put the final touches on an upcoming June safari.

And now, as we leave Las Vegas, it’s time to look forward to SCI’s next chapter, February 22-25 in Nashville, Tennessee. Between Reno and Las Vegas, I’ve attended more than 40 SCI Conventions in Nevada. There is always some trepidation in exploring new ground, but I’ve attended conventions in Music City. What a friendly, wonderful, exciting place to host a gathering. And, within easy travel distance of a huge percentage of our SCI membership. As equally important, it’s within easy reach of millions of American hunters who are potential SCI members. 

Gambling isn’t among my bad habits, so I don’t have huge regrets over leaving Las Vegas — I attend SCI Convention to attend SCI Convention.

Nashville is going to be great and very good for SCI. For certain sure, I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there as well!

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