May 19, 2022
By Jeff Waring
This past January, Bowhunter Magazine Editor Curt Wells, Sr. Digital Editor Drew Pellman, and I took a break from our busy week at SHOT Show to attend the blockbuster Safari Club International (SCI) 50th Anniversary Convention at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It was a welcomed getaway for our busy crew, and we were thrilled to immerse ourselves in the activity of an event that showcases hunting opportunities around the world. Obviously, the Bowhunter crew loves nothing more than to visit with fellow hunters, to talk about recent hunting experiences, and to set plans in motion for upcoming hunts.
And trust me when I say that SCI is where hunting dreams are made.
As we strolled the aisles full of an amazing variety of hunting gear, outfitters, and vendors catering to hunting and fishing adventure travel of all kinds, our hearts and minds raced.
It wasn’t long until I bumped into longtime Bowhunter Magazine friend and contributor Lew Webb, from Durango, Colorado, who also just happens to be an SCI vice president.
“Isn’t this great?” Lew exclaimed, followed by “Are you having fun?” Our grins told him all he needed to know. “This is how it should be,” he continued. “We need to all come together for Hunting. He still held me in a viselike grip as he turned to walk away and said, “Give me a call when you get home. We’ve got a lot going on and I’ve got some great things to tell you.”
It took awhile, but I recently caught up with Lew again — he’s one of the busiest retirees you’ll ever meet — and I learned that he has been tapped by SCI leadership to head up their Bowhunting Task Force — and in true SCI fashion, it sounds like things are getting done!
“I just got back from a site inspection in Nashville, where we’ll be meeting at the convention center, Feb. 22-25, 2023. This is super exciting for SCI, and for Hunting,” noted Lew. “Think about it — our conventions have been held in Nevada for 50 years, and now we’re moving east, into the heart of whitetail country!”
It’s hard to argue with Nashville, TN, as a convention destination, but it’s probably also true that more hunters will get on the road to drive here for a show than any other location. SCI works for hunters around the world, but a lot of what the organization does happens right here in the U.S., and especially in the Lower 48, and benefits all hunters, whether they prefer to spend time in a deer stand, turkey blind, duck slough, or in the high country after muleys or elk.
“But the average hunter has no idea what SCI does, or how we’re all benefitted by the organization’s hard work on behalf of hunters,” Lew confided. “We need to change all that,” he said. “And we need to connect with hunters right here in Middle America, which is why SCI has committed to the Nashville site for the next three years.”
Already anticipating a big convention crowd for next year, SCI leadership is busy securing huge blocks of hotel rooms near the convention center. “Look,” Lew explained, “we think this venue is going to knock it out of the park, not only appealing to our SCI family but also speaking to a lot of newcomers. Imagine spending the traditional Thursday Night of the Hunter celebration kicking up your heels at the Wildhorse Saloon instead of in the normal banquet setting!”
And as SCI looks to set its sights on hunters in whitetail deer country, the organization’s renewed focus on Bowhunting goes much deeper than method-of-take listings.
“My job is to elevate Bowhunting in SCI,” Lew told me. “I’m a passionate, mostly DIY bowhunter. Heck, I haven’t hunted big game with a rifle in 40 years, so building a bridge between SCI and the greater bowhunting community is vital for the Club, and for me.” Lew and the folks at SCI are taking a three-pronged approach to growing bowhunting participants in their ranks by: 1) Making SCI more visible and relatable to the incredibly diverse spectrum of bowhunters, particularly here in North America, 2) Better serving and recognizing the existing member bowhunters, and 3) Creating new, meaningful and lasting relationships with folks in the archery industry.
Starting very soon, readers will find regular bowhunting fare in both Safari magazine and the Safari Times newsletter, supported by a growing cadre of experienced bowhunters and talented content providers. Attendees at the immensely popular Mountain Archery Festivals will also see a consistent SCI presence, thanks to their growing partnership with SCI, culminating with a MAF designed 3D shoot on Friday morning of the Nashville convention, with entrants enjoying lunch and swag and gaining special weekend access to the show floor. And bowhunters who head to Nashville next February can expect to find an exhibition increasingly friendly to hunting archers, complete with archery industry vendors and a shooting range to put the latest bow gear to the test.
“This is important to me,” Lew said, “because I’ve got four daughters and three sons-in-law and a bunch of grand children who I want to enjoy the same hunting opportunities that I’ve enjoyed. But as we know, hunting in general is a shrinking pool. The good news is that bowhunters are a growing school of fish within that pool. The only way to make sure we’re able to promote and preserve hunting opportunities and access in the future is to grow that pool. And here at SCI, that’s what we’re trying to do, and we want bowhunters to know they belong.”
To learn more about Safari Club International’s continuing efforts on behalf of hunters and conservation, go to safariclub.org.