2006 SHOT Show Product Review — Part Two

Many vendors at the SHOT Show seem bent on a philosophy of building a “better mouse trap.”   Call it marketing…call it entrepreneurship…call it whatever you want.   If you’re not one of the big players at the SHOT, such as a Remington, a Leupold, or a Mossy Oak…you have to fight for attention and ultimately acceptance of your hunting products by the buying public.   Indeed, many of the products shown to the dealers by the “little guys” will never survive beyond a few years of sales…and that’s okay.   Over the years there have been many products in the outdoor world that have come and gone without much fanfare…and that is to be expected in a highly competitive sales world.

In this blog feature it is important for you to understand that I am not necessarily endorsing the few products I’ve selected.   Instead, I’ve randomly picked them out as representative of what is new and soon to be available for the sportsman during 2006.   Time will tell if the products ever become a sales success or exactly what fate will eventually come their way.

Lodge Cookware

Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that mentioning cast iron cookware is not exactly a new product to most sportsmen.   In fact, it may be one of the older products that could even be featured at such a new product show.   Still, this cooking utensil deserves another look by sportsmen for some of the enduring qualities that HAVE definitely stood the test of time.   Quite honestly, if you’re a sportsman and cooking with anything other than cast iron in camp there’s a certain sacrilegiousness attributed to that act.

Fortunately, Lodge Manufacturing has taken some of the tedious care aspects of cooking with cast out of the equation.   About two years ago Lodge came out with their new factory seasoned cookware that means each pot or skillet is ready to use immediately when you bring it home from the store.   No more hassles with seasoning the raw cast cookware to get the perfect finish before use…it’s already been done at the factory.   That doesn’t mean the cookware owner can be careless…you still need to understand how to properly clean cast after each use…but with the pre-seasoned cookware this once initial chore of new cast ownership has been eliminated.   Give this line of outdoor cooking products another look if you haven’t done so for a few years.

Trail StarzTrailstar

Remember back a few years ago when marking the trail to your deer stand meant using plastic flagging tape?   Who could miss the brightly colored, plastic ribbon-like material that alerted everyone to your stand placement.   Then about 20 years ago some ingenious entrepreneurs came out with the little reflective thumbtacks and bread (twist) ties and suddenly the woodland trail was still marked for those early morning treks…but a flashlight was now needed to decipher the true path in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours.

But us sportsmen now live in a high-tech world where it simply is not in vogue to use ribbon or reflective material anymore to mark a trail.   If you still do, shame, shame for being so old-fashioned!!!   Nope, today’s deer hunter needs the woods to be as high-tech as most other aspects of his life.   Introducing the L.E.D. trail marker that can be used in a number of different ways.   Leave them strategically placed as you leave the woods in the previous evening to find the same location the next morning.   Or use them as an aid in recovering downed game after sun-down.   The bottom line is these are little marker lights that shine bright and will serve as a beacon to get you back to where you want to be.   Downside…well, they take three little button cell batteries and only last about 60 hours.   That’s not bad…but check out your replacement battery costs before investing too heavily in this little device.

Cough Mufflers

Yea, you’ve probably heard about this product before.   I remember something similar to it out on the market about five years or so ago.   Still, you have to hand it to anyone who thinks they can sell a product to reduce or minimize the negative effects of a common body function.   I suppose if you are prone to coughing a lot while in the deer stand…then this isn’t such a bad idea.   But c’mon…there’s got to be a limit to what a hunter will drag out in the woods with them…and I think bringing a muffler to suppress a cough might just have surpassed that limit.   Still, you be the judge.

Come to think of it, the sample of the last cough muffler I had (from a different company) I gave to a friend with some special instructions.   Seems to me I told him that he needed it not to suppress his coughing…but to “stick it” in some other orifice to see if it might perform double duty. 

Little Sure Shot Gun Rest

Here’s an ingenious little product that is probably not completely original, either…but one can quickly see the practical nature of making your own gun rest out of materials found in the field.   Just find a suitable stick and you’re in business…you have a sturdy gun rest that will enable you to make a better shot when the moment of truth finally arrives.   I can envision this product being useful for anything from shooting prairie dogs to elk.   Best of all, the device is compact and light-weight enough to reasonably pack into the field on most hunting trips.

HuntinhoistHuntin Hoist

Last but not least is another product this is not exactly original…but nevertheless is a good idea not only for safety’s sake but also for convenience for the stand hunter.   It’s a little device that attaches to your deer stand and allows you to transport all your gear from the ground into your stand once you are safely positioned and ready to accept it.   Think of it somewhat like one of those retractable dog leashes you can purchase at the pet supply store.   Come to think of it…at about half the price…maybe the dog leash would be a suitable alternative to this little device…albeit not with all the same bells and whistles.

Oh, there were lots more products that probably deserve my mention from this year’s 28th annual get-together at the SHOT Show…but I hope this gives you some of the flavor of what walking the show was like.   Most of the booths were filled with high hopes and optimism that this was the year their products were going to become big market sellers.   And who knows…as things turn out some of them might just be right in that thinking.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Reflections On The 2006 SHOT Show

For those who are not familiar with the annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show it is the premier event for the hunting and shooting industry showcasing the entire universe of products soon to be available to the shooting sportsman.   It’s the main show each year where your local sporting goods dealer attends to find all the latest, greatest new gear that will be on the shelves later in the summer for next falls’ hunting season use.

SHOT06_1Since 1989 I have been fortunate to attend this industry-only event missing just two years when the location was simply not practical to attend.   It’s a fun show and offers lots of insight into the future world of hunting, but after walking nearly 13 miles of isles looking at hunting gear of every conceivable type…it sort of makes you wonder.   Is it possible that hunting has become too product oriented?   Is it possible that as we enter the 21st Century we rely more on hunting equipment for our success rather than pure predatory skills contained within the hunter?   I mean, let’s face it…when our fathers and grandfathers walked into the woods without their Mossy Oak or Realtree camo clothing lined with Gore-Tex…they were at a big disadvantage, right?

Maybe I’m getting a little too cynical in my old age…but it seems the older I get the more wary I become about the products that are supposed to make my hunt more comfortable, more successful…and even more safe.   The fact is, I find many of the products being offered up at the SHOT in recent years to be nothing more than gadgets most hunters could easily live without.   In fact, I do believe that some hunters look forward more to playing with their new hunting toys during an upcoming hunt than experiencing the joys of the hunt itself.   Believe me…this is true!!

The most recent SHOT Show held in Las Vegas offered few product surprises for me.   As with most attendees, I entered with a plan.   First stop would be the NEW PRODUCTS area where a sampling of the hunting wares from many of the vendors was nicely laid out for inspection.   In fact, during recent years this area has gotten so high-tech that show attendees are now given little OCR hand-held scanners which can be used to go around and look at the products.   See something you like…hold the scanner down and zap the bar code.   Move on to the next product…do the same.   At the end when you’ve inspected the entire offering of new products…a show attendee only has to turn in the scanner and a computer will down-load and printout a nice report detailing the specific product description and exactly how to find the booth number where this intriguing product can later be found (and ordered).


I always find the new product area interesting because it seems to showcase the cream of the crop.   I suspect, although this has never been confirmed, that a vendor must pay a fee to have their product featured in this area.   Why else would the nearly 1,800 exhibitors not place more products in this area?   Moreover, I also wonder what constitutes a “new product.”   I’ve seen one little LED light showcased now for the third consecutive year and I am perplexed to discover what feature is different about the light as compared to the previous year.

You see, the SHOT Show is all about marketing and the industry’s attempt to get you…the hunter…to purchase the product that keeps them in business.   If the local sporting goods dealer sees a product that they think will move off the shelf quickly…then its a sure bet and easy sale at the show.   Other products that might need some demonstration to market their utility value, could be a harder sell.   In many ways the SHOT Show is a forum for marketers with ideas to showcase their invention or new patented device.   Some might eventually stand the test of time…most others, I fear, will see limited hunter interest and will fade away from the market only to be replaced by some other aspiring new product in the years to come.

This year I walked the show knowing that with as many vendors as there was I could only spend on average 72 seconds of my time at any given booth or I would not see the entire show.   That’s right…so if I wandered into the Leupold booth, for instance, and spent 10 minutes looking over their new products…this was cutting into my time I could afford to spend at another booth.   As with any show this size…time management is the key to making the 4–day event pay off.

SHOT06_4As I walked the isles occasionally some vendors would read my name tag and engage me in conversation…but most simply sat on their hands waiting for me to first show some interest in their product before calling them into sales action.   As a career marketing professional, this lack of engagement with the potential customer never ceases to amaze me.   It’s almost as if the vendor thinks their product is so good and essential…that they are doing you a favor to spend their time talking about it.   I wonder how many hunting products simply die a slow death because they are in the hands of people who know little about how to effectively sell…this after the vendors have likely spent a minimum of $10,000 just to bring the product to the market at the show.

Granted, when you have a show booth and are competing against 1,800+ other exhibitors for attention it is no easy task.   The savvy marketers employ contests, provide giveaways, live product demonstrations, pretty girls who seem anxious to talk to the guys…or some other eye-grabbing tactic.

Each year I travel to the show with my good friend, Jeff, and most of the time we split up and attack the SHOT in our own way.   At the end of each day we compare notes as to what we saw…and it amazes me just how much we both miss even after walking by the same booths.   Did you see the new muzzleloading rifle scope that Nikon has?   Nope, but did you see the new 16–mile 2–way sportsman’s radio by Midland?   And so it goes.   So much to see…and so very little time to explore it all.SHOT06_3

The SHOT Show is truly a unique experience that I wish every sportsman could experience once in their lifetime.   The first time I see a new attendee walk into the convention hall and see the massive size…it just about makes your eyes bug out.   Imagine 15 football fields laid side by side…and that is roughly the amount of area that is taken up by hunting product displays.

Indeed, as far as I can tell the hunting industry as a whole appears to be quite healthy.   Our economy is slowly on the upswing, and that means that more hunters will likely have disposable income to spend on new gadgets and hunting equipment.   There’s no doubt about it…the SHOT Show is the hunter’s paradise and that is one of the big attractions for me year after year.

During the days to come I will highlight a few of the products I found at the recent show that appeared to me to have some unique value or special interest.   Keep in mind, however, that a product that captured my attention might not hold the same interest for another sportsman…but I guess that’s why there were 1,800+ booths all vying for our attention to display their wares.   Some products will make it…others won’t.   I’m going to showcase a few that seem reasonable to me that they might be included in your shopping list for next fall. 

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.