Forty years ago, Safari Club International’s first annual hunter’s convention seemed more like a gathering between 20 hunting enthusiasts in someone’s garage. At the next convention in February 2012, SCI Chief Communications Officer (and former President) Dr. Larry Rudolph expects 15,000 to 20,000 attendees; a record high number.
“Over this forty year period we’ve grown from a very tiny, little – we’ll just call it friends getting together for the weekend – to what is now literally the most celebrated hunting show on earth,” said Dr. Rudolph.
There will be about 2,500 booths present from exhibitors like Realtree, Cabela’s, Yamaha, Remington, Winchester and just a plethora of top gun, clothing and accessories manufacturers at the convention in Arizona, February 1st to 4th, 2012.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre will be the keynote speaker, focusing his discussion on the protection of hunter’s rights and the importance of introducing youth to hunting. Musicians Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, Brit Beat and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons will also be there.
I was intrigued to hear that SCI is expecting record attendance at the 2012 event when hunter research points to a declining hunter population. Dr. Rudolph thinks the decline is mostly due to the bad economy. “Hunting is not a cheap sport. But, SCI members are a demographic of hunters from all over the world who are passionate about SCI’s mission to conserve wildlife worldwide and protect hunter’s right.”
Part of the money raised at the hunter’s convention goes toward worldwide wildlife conservation. “They want to come there – support hunter advocacy, protect our hunting rights. And they know that hunters are protectors of our true wildlife treasures,” Dr. Rudolph said. “They know conservation begins with hunters. So they not only are supporting it as a show, as a venue, but they have a passion for that mission. And I believe that’s why our numbers are growing.”
Last year, SCI efforts helped to take the gray wolf off of the list of endangered species. Now the wolf is able to be hunted with regulation and that is a big accomplishment to Dr. Rudolph.
This year, SCI will focus its efforts on raising the lion population in southeast and south Africa. Dr. Rudolph said lion population is declining where there is no legal hunting, because that means there are also no conservation actions in place. “Lions haven’t been hunted there since 1975. Now, instead of lions being conserved for the value of their species, they are being poisoned. If they kill a cow or goat in Kenya, the local people will take that animal and they put poison in the carcass…. and they’re decimating the animal population, particularly the lion.”
Dr. Rudolph said restricted lion hunting is a big issue for SCI because with restricted hunting, the lion population could be wiped out without conservation efforts in place.
Photo: Jonathan P