I won’t be attending the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas this week. This is probably a good thing. Writers are expected to meet with industry PR people and sit through presentations about the breakthrough new technologies that will enhance the Outdoor Recreating Experience in ways heretofore unimaginable. If you can’t manage to look interested during this—and I can’t—I’m at least expected to keep a straight face. I can’t do this either. I play Sudoku on my phone and then accept the load of catalogs being pressed upon me. I thank whoever hands them over and dump them as soon as I’m out of sight. Then I forget what I’ve just seen and heard.
My oppositional behavior stems from certain beliefs that are not in sync with the modern product cycle, which requires an improved version of everything be issued every 12 months. I believe, for example, that the mitten has pretty much been perfected. That the world has enough AR-style rifles with purple-zebra-striped paint jobs. That I really don’t need a combination inflatable outhouse–dutch oven that also comes with a flashlight for the times when you confuse the two in the dark.
The people I talk to the most at SHOT are security guards at the enormous Venetian Resort and Sands Expo Center. They’re the ones who can direct you to the exits in halls that cover many acres. They’re the ones who, when I can’t locate my hotel room after 10 hours roaming the funhouse, tell me I’m in the wrong tower of the Venetian and how—by taking three escalators and two more elevators—I can get to the right one. (I always ink my room number on my arm because I can’t remember it otherwise.) They’re usually also the only people kind enough to tell me that my fly is open.
I do miss seeing old friends who attend. David E. Petzal and I circle each other in mock combat, growling and trading the traditional insults. I salute Slaton White, now editor of SHOT Business and SHOT Daily, who is too busy to do more than shake hands. Slaton was the first guy to give me a chance at writing for Field & Stream. I see my old comrade-in-arms, T. Edward Nickens. We usually arrange to meet for a beer after hours and talk about how print and print journalists are going the way of the dodo bird and woolly mammoth. We vow to get together sometime during the next year to go hunting or fishing, which never seems to happen.
And then, as I find and approach a security guard, I roll up my sleeve to check my room number.
Photo of the Venetian by Jim G