Monday, February 16, 2015

NWTF Show 2015

Ever since I learned last spring that the NWTF show was held in Nashville, I had made plans to go this year.  Additionally, I wanted to make it a three generation trip by taking my dad and my 6-yr old son.  So, as the time drew near the anticipation began to build, but surprisingly the most excited was probably my son.  We arrived in Nashville on Thursday afternoon and got checked into the timeshare and the convention.  Unfortunately the exhibit hall had not yet opened, so all we could do was look at the taxidermy competition entries on display.  Since this was my first time at the convention I didn't really know what to expect regarding the crowd and how busy it would be. The wife and I have been to Opryland hotel numerous times before, and because of this I know that while the restaurant choices are plentiful the prices are pretty excessive.  So, we opted to head down the street to a steakhouse (at my son's choice) and found ourselves in a waiting area surrounded by hunters.  Once we were seated I scanned the dining room and found that everybody in the room was either wearing camo or clothing with a hunting manufacturer logo on it.  I do admit that was pretty neat to be in an environment where everybody around you shared a similar passion and were not ashamed to show it.

The next morning we decided to head on over to the hotel about 30 minutes before the exhibit hall opened and grab some breakfast.  Once again thanks to a previous trip there, I knew of a little out of the way pastry shop in the hotel where we grabbed a tasty and fast breakfast.

After breakfast we slowly made our way into the exhibit hall, and the first thing we saw was all the tables featuring the custom made turkey call competition.  I didn't expect to see that, and the craftsmanship in some of these is outstanding.
One of the decorative call entries

Dad carefully studying them
I would estimate that we spent probably the first hour looking at these entries, and had no idea how much more there was in store for us.  The exhibit hall was filled with the constant sound of yelps, cuts, gobbles, etc. that set the mood for the area.  Booths were lined one after the other with small mom-n-pop call manufacturers, accessory suppliers, food condiment producers, and exotic species guide services.  Then we began to transition from the small startup company booths to the major players in the industry such as Flextone, Primos, Zink Calls, HS Strut, etc.  What I found surprising was that many of the small companies that manufactured custom calls were not charging much more than many of the major manufacturers.  Another surprise was how many suppliers were selling their products, and many of them were selling them at a pretty good reduction off of MSRP.
Trey checking out the Avian-X decoys
One thing my son had been excited about during the week leading up to the trip was meeting Jana Waller from Skull Bound TV.  Before Knology dropped the Sportsman Channel, this was probably his favorite outdoor show.  While wandering around the Avian-X booth he saw her walk by, and we were off to track her down.  When he caught up with her she was so extremely friendly and took time talking to him and even asked for a photo.
Trey and Jana Waller of Skull Bound TV
After meeting Jana we continued to walk around and came across a really interesting booth that featured barnwood mounting plaques for deer and turkey.  The company was called Custom Barnwood Plaques.  They are a small company located in TN and I highly recommend looking at their products if you are looking for an interesting way to display that turkey fan or skull mount.  They also make some very interesting furniture pieces, and their prices are incredibly reasonable.  I especially like their three skull euro mount plaque, very unique and attractive.
One of their triple fan and multi-beard plaques
We poked around for a few more hours checking out some of the guide services and admiring the taxidermy on display. 

By about 2:30 Trey starting getting tired, so we decided to call it a day and go back to the room to get ready for an early dinner treat.  On the way out, he posed for a photo by some interesting mounts featuring eastern and oscellated turkey displays.

I had planned a little dinner treat for my dad and Trey.  For years my dad and I would drive out to Dickson, TN every weekend during gun season and hunt from Friday through Sunday.  We did this basically every weekend during gun season between my ages of 10 and 17.  It was a great time, and it has been 17 years since I last took a trip out there.  Every trip we would stop to eat at this little catfish joint appropriately named Twin Lakes Catfish Kitchen for all you can eat spicy catfish, coleslaw, white beans, hush puppies, and fries.  So, we made the one hour drive from the Opryland Hotel to the restaurant and enjoyed one of the tastiest catfish comfort food meals I have had in a long time.  It was just like I remembered, and I will not wait another 17 years before I return.

After than large meal we went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.  The next morning we weren't in a hurry so we took our time loading the car before heading back to Opryland.  That was a mistake, because the crowd between Friday and Saturday had probably tripled.  It was difficult to walk amongst the mass of people, and on future trips I plan to just make a whole day of it on Friday and avoid Saturday.  That being said, there were still deals to be had as some suppliers had marked down their prices from what they were on Friday.  We spent most of the morning on Saturday at the Flextone/Tenzing/Plano booth where I picked up a few items at a discount and walked around the small custom call booths where many of the people took time trying to show Trey how to use various friction calls.
Trey picked out his Christmas present for 2015
Shortly afterward Trey asked to go see Jana Waller again, for the third time now.  Amazingly she called him by name as soon as she saw him and gave him another big hug.  I am very appreciative of the fact that while she signed numerous autographs those two days she remembered his name and took time to talk with him multiple times.

She is a class act, as was Steve Tittsworth from Greenback Tactical Hunters. Ironically I met Steve a week prior to the convention when I purchased a hunting jacket from him on Facebook.  When I walked up to the Orca booth to say hi Jana was standing beside him and she immediately intercepted me and proceeded to introduce Steve to Trey and I.  Steve and I let her in on the fact the we had previously met, and I got a little chuckle out of it.  Another TV personality I had some interaction with and I found very interesting was Eddie Salter (The Turkey Man on Sportsman Channel). 

This was a great convention and we are already making plans for a return trip next year.  Now that we know how things work, I will be more prepared.  I will definitely bring a backpack (something I didn't do until Saturday this year) and spend all day Friday 9AM to 7PM at the exhibit hall and avoid Saturday's crowds.  I also think Amy would enjoy attending as there were lots of arts and craft type exhibits, not to mention the detailed craftsmanship involved in making the calls.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out some additional booths that I thought featured some of the most innovative products at this years show:
  • Fanatic Outdoors - Hammock Seat is very innovative
  • Tenzing Packs - Packs that are innovative both from functionality and materials
  • Orion Coolers - Based in Sparta, TN and I think offer a better feature set than Yeti or Orca.  If you are looking for a high end cooler give these guys a look, I think you will be pleased.
  • Avian-X - These guys aren't new comers to the turkey hunting game, but their decoys set the standard for lifelike and portable decoys.
  • Dad's Custom Calls - It was hard to pick one manufacturer, but I think I liked these guys the best.  They are a small business and they have some interesting products including the tiny peg & slate call. 
Trey checking out a DSD jake decoy while I eyeballed the new Sitka gear hanging above it


Bill Trussell said...

Looks like a good time for everyone. Glad your son got to make the trip, getting the young interested in hunting and fishing this day and age is a must. Too many kids now days are on the computer, or television, playing games indoors. Thanks for sharing

Travis said...

Thanks Bill. It was a lot of fun, and will absolutely be going back. I absolutely limit my son's computer and game time, and thankfully he enjoys doing outdoor activities like hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing.

Drew LooknFishy said...

Well done! Kids enjoying anything related to the outdoors makes the world a better place. My oldest isn't interested in fishing (yet) but I can't keep a nature book out of her hand!! Always amazes me the facts she can blurt out about things we see mosquitoes.

19" Clinch River Brown