Walking the aisles at the Safari Club International Hunter’s Convention on Saturday, I came across one of the best tag lines I have seen for a company specializing in services for the outdoor adventurer.
Beneath the company’s name it read, “specializing in wet, cold and miserable.”
Though the purpose of this phrase was to draw one’s attention to a company that helps sportsmen arrange hunts in Alaska, it probably could apply to just about anywhere. Whether one hunts, fishes or takes horse packing trips into the wilderness, conditions in the outdoors are rarely what the average person considers pleasant.
Even so, the convention was packed with people walking the showroom floor in search of the right opportunity to enjoy being wet, cold and miserable. Vying for our attention were outfitters representing countries from around the world. And although the countries of Africa were probably the most numerous, outfitters from Asia, Canada, Europe, Mexico and multiple U.S. states also were scattered throughout the show.
Some outfitters had openings remaining for upcoming 2018 hunting or fishing seasons, but many were already booking for 2019 and beyond.
As I wandered, I couldn’t help but wonder what it might be like to sit around a crackling campfire in a Russian brown bear camp, experience the beauty of a Mongolian sunrise, hear a lion’s roar in the jungle, or watch the tops of moose antlers swaying through a patch of alders. Then I compared the price tags for those experiences with my bank balance and realized I may be wondering for a while.
Day auction deals
During my visit to the 2017 edition of this convention, someone told me the best deals on hunting or fishing trips could be found during the “day auctions,” a sharp contrast with the fundraising auctions that generally take place in the evening hours during events such as this.
Upon seeing the “Day Auction” sign, I decided to take a closer look.
The number of empty seats was a surprise, especially with the emcee already introducing the auctioneer. Then just as I was settling into a chair, my friend, Daniel Brisendine, invited me to join him at a table closer to the front. As we sat down, Daniel leaned over and said, “This is the place to buy a hunt. You can get a good hunt for much less than you will pay on the show floor.”
“Sounds like familiar advice,” I thought.
First up was a 7-day Russian brown bear hunt for a single hunter, though additional hunters and non-hunters were welcome. They just increase the cost. With an estimated value of $10,000, the one-on-one guided adventure includes cabin or tent accommodations, meals, the trophy fee and field preparation of the downed animal. Getting to and from Moscow is up to you.
The auctioneer went to work with the fast-talking pitch typical of that profession, and soon found the right tempo for encouraging bids. After several minutes of working the crowd, the auctioneer closed the bidding with the exclamation, “Sold, for $3,000!”
A good deal to be sure, and not the only one. During the next hour, I watched as hunt after hunt sold for much less than the donor’s valuation. Those deals included a $19,000 hunt for sable and roan in South Africa that sold for $9,000 and a five-day hunt for New Zealand Rusa deer that went for $3,500. The estimated value was $20,600.
Of course, there were some hunts that demanded a lot of attention and drew bids a little closer to the donor’s estimated value. One was a 10-day British Columbia moose hunt that went for $11,000. Another was a 10-day hunt for Cape Buffalo in Mozambique. It sold for $13,000 and did so in quick order. The bidding went fast enough that one didn’t dare scratch his ear for fear of accidentally getting in on the bidding.
If you have the chance to attend the SCI convention in the future, don’t overlook the Day Auction. Perhaps you might pick up the wet, cold and miserable outdoor adventure of a lifetime at a price you can afford.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org