This year marks a huge benchmark in science-based wildlife conservation. Through 45 years of continuous growth and efforts by Safari Club International and its members, SCI celebrated its anniversary at the Convention in Las Vegas, February 1-4, 2017. For over a week, as exhibitors moved in and hunters arrived from around the globe, there was a great gathering at SCI to show their support for conservation and to celebrate hunting, fishing, and shooting sports.
Many of the attendees came from North America but, all in all, there were SCI members from over 100 countries represented. By the close of the show on Saturday, there were over 20,000 in attendance. SCI thanked its long-time exhibitors with a special "Wall of Recognition", many of whom were noted as having been with SCI for more than 35 years.
Exhibiting were 1,100 companies in over 2,300 booths in more than 1 million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Educational seminars included talks by well-known celebrities Craig Boddington, Jim Shockey and Tom Miranda. Over $10 million in fund-raising auctions were held. Exciting A-list performances capped each dinner event and included a pinnacle performance by Hank Williams, Jr. who rocked the stage with his band and then sat down to poignantly play his guitar and sing to an inspired crowd at the Saturday night gala.
"This year's convention was an outstanding show of appreciation for our world's wildlife. The dedication of the sportsmen and women of SCI is a testament to keeping our wildlife numbers strong for the future", said SCI Convention Director, Libby Grimes. In addition, Steve Skold, SCI's Convention Chairman, said, "SCI advocates for all hunters and anglers. Our SCI members and industry partners were certainly heard at our convention when they said, we are not going anywhere, we are here to stay; our wildlife is here to stay and SCI is leading the fight to keep those goals intact."
"A big thank you goes out to all of the companies that exhibit at SCI and SCI's corporate sponsors, who are there helping to raise the funds needed to continue in our Mission and Advocacy for sportsmen," said SCI President Larry Higgins.
Highlighting the convention's strong fundraising program was a great trip from favorite Jim Shockey that sold for more than 400% over value and a Navajo Nations Special Conservation Mule Deer Tag that sold for more than 170% over value. In addition, SCI's Pathfinder Recognition along with a Cardrona Safaris hunt sold for more than 140% over value. SCI's Pathfinder Recognition program honors people who are faced with challenges in life that causes them to find new ways to live and to engage in outdoor activities. These people also give of their time to help their community and promote hunting for other disabled hunters. The SCI Sables, an education-based subdivision of SCI, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at their Annual Ladies Luncheon and through their Dream Package auction item sponsored by Sanctuary II, Sam Fejes and Rancho Hunting and Arrow Five Outfitters.
Also, on the line-up and well received was the third rifle in the World Heritage Rifle Series. It was hand-crafted by New England Custom Gun Service and was a NECGS Rifle built on a Johannsen Mauser action featuring a Lothar Walther barrel chambered in 9.3x62. This series of five custom rifles, set a record in 2016 with the sale of the .275 Rigby rifle, a tribute to Jim Corbett's legendary rifle, by John Rigby & Co. The sale brought a record-breaking $250,000, the highest selling bolt-action rifle in SCI's history. "The incredible generosity of members and that shown by these fine gun makers for this outstanding series shows that SCI is leading the way and is first for hunters," said SCI President-Elect Paul Babaz.
Top on the list in SCI's strategic plan is to bring like-minded organizations together and discuss ways to engage and work together. The convention marked the second meeting of the C2C, Crucial to Conservation, where over 35 affiliated and conservation-based organizations gathered to discuss upcoming partnerships. Throughout the meeting the message was clear, the future depends on all groups coming together in mission and vision.
Besides the array of outdoor trips, firearms and gear made by top industry manufacturers, Safari Club International's convention is known for world-renowned wildlife artists of all mediums. Exulted as "The Art of SCI", it is the 2017's second largest merchandizing source of fundraising for SCI at convention. Artists like John Banovich, Cynthie Fisher, Linda Besse, Laurel Barbieri, Craig Bone, Trevor Swanson, Kobus Moeller and fine art gallery Call of Africa's top artists are found here. Other artists on display were bronze artists Fred Boyer, Gary Cooley, Rick Taylor, and carvers and woodworkers like Julian & Sons. These artists are commissioned all over the world and yet, their work is most gracefully displayed in one place at one time upon the SCI show floor.
The convention serves as SCI's largest fundraiser and its largest membership drive grossing over $15 million and nearly 2,500 new memberships taken in during the event. These funds will directly support hunter advocacy and wildlife conservation. In addition, funds raised will support the protection of hunters' rights and ensure hunting access for future generations.
Safari Club International's 46th Ultimate Sportsmen's Market is moving locations in Las Vegas. The exhibit floor and daily events will be held January 31-February 3, 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the headquarters hotel along with the evening events will be at the MGM Grand Hotel.