The event kicked off Dec. 4 with the inaugural Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela’s, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and RMEF’s newly repositioned “Elk Camp” convention at The Mirage.
Rarely, if ever, has the hunting industry seen a major consumer show and conservation fundraiser well before New Years – and more than six weeks ahead of SHOT Show. But RMEF seized an opportunity to move its annual bash up from the traditional February-March time frame to new December dates concurrent with one of the biggest yearly hoedowns in Vegas, the National Finals Rodeo.
|Courtesy USA Today|
Exhibit space is sold out, mostly to firearm companies, hunting gear and apparel makers, and outfitters, and a waiting list is already building for next year.
“This event will, I believe, emerge as an economic indicator from several standpoints,” said Steve Decker, vice president of marketing for RMEF. “Obviously, it’s the first show in a coming lineup of hunting shows nationwide, so what we do here this weekend will help set the tone for the remainder of the show season. I’ve heard from several exhibitors who are planning to introduce new calibers and products at this show, so that’s exciting. But this also is the only hunting show held during the Christmas buying season, which is an opportunity for exhibitors to move any leftover inventories before yearend.”
“By Sunday, our industry should have a good feel for how well new products might move in 2015, and for the continuing popularity of last year’s models,” he added.
As for Elk Camp and RMEF’s fundraising auctions, early indications also are positive. Registrations and room blocks are sold out. Decker says prospective bidders are buzzing about several items to be sold, including a log cabin, New Holland tractor, hunting adventures, fishing and backcountry trips, art, a Bad Boy Buggy and a guitar signed by The Eagles.
Sales will support RMEF conservation projects, which to date have conserved more than 6.5 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage.
RMEF membership in 2014 set a new record at more than 200,000.
The World Elk Calling Championships, autograph sessions with rodeo, country music and hunting celebrities, seminars, top entertainment and other attractions will round out RMEF’s big weekend in Las Vegas.
“These new early dates for our event, and its conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo, make it impossible to forecast revenues over the next four days. That’s what happens when you do something totally original and different from everything else out there,” said Decker. “But if this show goes like we think it might, the hunting industry will have something new to look forward to each December going forward.”