I spent last week at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. The SHOT Show is an enormous business-to-business convention where – in my position at Pheasants Forever – we meet with sponsors, shop for gear to include in our own merchandising catalog, and pitch conservation stories to outdoors journalists from across the country.
This year at SHOT, my role crossed all of these organizational purposes as I searched for new products targeting the 2015 upland hunter. As a guy who lives to chase feathers behind my shorthairs, I can report the upland world is robust and growing. Following are some quick-twitch reflections on the SHOT Show week that was:
1.) The uplands are for over/unders. Every major shotgun manufacturer is launching a new over/under in 2015. From Benelli’s 828U to Weatherby’s Orion, the over/under market is robust.
2.) The rise of the 28 gauge. Turns out I’m not the only bird hunter aspiring to own a lightweight scattergun these days. With plenty of ballistics to support the 28’s pattern, most leading shotgun manufacturers are offering smaller gauges in their most popular lines.
3.) Shotguns for southpaws. If you’re a fan of quality Italian firearms and shoot left-handed, then the Beretta A400 Action is your dream semi-auto shotgun.
4.) Made for women. It’s a statistic most of us have heard for the last few years – women represent the fastest growing segment of new hunters. While ladies may be taking to the fields and forests in larger numbers, the gear has been mired in male-dominated design. With Caesar Guerini’s launch of the Syren shotguns and Prois’ evolving clothing line, companies are finally designing products specifically for the female hunter.
5.) The outdoor celebrity. When I attended my first SHOT Show in 2003, I was struck by the number of athletes, actors and musicians I encountered walking the floor. Celebrities like Bo Jackson, Wade Boggs, Tom Selleck and Chuck Norris were signing autographs in shotgun booths and hawking products on packaging. These days, the popularity of outdoor television has led to the creation of the “Outdoor Celebrity.”
Outdoors companies no longer need a pop culture icon to pitch their products; instead, they gravitate to the hunter with hunting credibility. Today, people like Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Michael Waddell, Benny Spies, and Eva Shockey are the faces pitching products to “Joe Hunter.”
Finish the sentence
The product I will have in the field next hunting season is: SportDOG Tek 2.0 e-collar
The shotgun I’m saving up for is: 28 gauge Browning Citori 725.
The most shotgun for the price is: Stevens 555 for under $700.
The most innovative product for the upland hunter is: Kevlar dog vest made by BS Planet.
The new piece of clothing I plan to wear next hunting season is: Filson Stryker Jacket with Pheasants Forever logo.
What I hoped to see, but didn’t was: Outside of e-collars, there wasn’t a lot of new gear for bird dogs.
Bob St. Pierre is Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of marketing. Follow him on Twitter @BobStPierre