Guns, Game, Pear Slap and Quail Balls at EPIC Fair, October 19
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What if you gave a party and nobody came? That is about what happened at the first EPIC Outdoor Game Fair that was held by the Safari Club and Quail Unlimited at the Foxhall Resort near Douglasville south of Atlanta on Sept. 23-25. This was an attempt to do an Americanized version of a European Game Fair to showcase the diversity of outdoor experiences. There were separate sections dedicated to horses, dogs, fitness, water sports, hunting, fishing, entertainment, archery, ATV use, and the resort was large enough to enable these activities to take place without conflicting with each other.
The organization and execution of the event went well. Foul weather prevented an appearance by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a high school classmate, but outside of that all of the planned events took place, even though there might have been only a handful of people attending them. Being an unabashed Gun Nut, I enjoyed the vendors with their $5,000,000 worth of fine guns from all over the world. I cannot afford these things, but I do enjoy looking at and handling shotguns that may cost $100,000 and more.
I first interviewed Margaret Hice who, with her late husband Bob, ran the Tree Lounge tree stand company for more than 30 years. These stands were among the first safe and workable climbing stands and the husband and wife team made a success out of making them. Among their activities was producing a series of videos that progressed into movies like “The Red Neck Hunting Club” and “Hunting Moonshine Island” that became classics of outdoor advertising. Unfortunately, they sold the company, the new owners got stuck with boatloads of products that they could not unload following 9/11 and the pair got their company back with a load of debts piled onto it. They tried to revive Tree Lounge as a Georgia company, but Bob died after a long illness and Margaret suspended operations in the Spring of 2011. Margaret was Tree Lounge’s COO for those last years of operations, and is now the Secretary of the Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International. Still as active as ever, she attended the event in that capacity, and we enjoyed talking over old times and past adventures.
A new friend was made in the person of Jack Jansma who imports fine Spanish double guns and also arranges for driven bird shooting and wingshooting in Hungary, elswhere in Europe and in Argentina through his business, Wingshooting Adventures . We had a great conversation about the best characteristics of double guns, how barrel length and weight are important and also about the 24-gauge, which is a gauge that is almost unheard of in the U.S. You can see Jack’s guns and find about his wingshooting opportunities at www.wingshootingadv.com or by telephone at (616) 837-9000.
Keeping with the gun theme, I followed up with a conversation with Bill Hadfield of Robin Hollow Outfitters who deals exclusively in fine shotguns, many of which costs $50,000 or more each. Among the questions asked, and answered, was “How can these guns be worth so much?” “Who buys them?” and “Are these guns ever shot?” The answers are that these guns may take more than two years to complete. They are works of art done by the finest craftsmen in the world. Those who purchase them do so for investments against inflation and some actually take them out and use them, although many are seldom, or never, fired.
This is the reason, Hadfield said, that sometimes these very high-grade guns might be made in the 1880s, but are, even now, in new condition. Such guns are obviously not for me or for most hunters. I have no interest in owning something that I can’t take into the field or duck blind for fear of getting a spot of rust on it. If I own it, I’m going to shoot it. Nonetheless, such things are beautiful to look at, if not to use.
Robin Hollow Outfitters is located in Mapleville, Rhode Island, on a shooting and hunting preserve. For information go to www.robinhollow.com or call them at (401) 568-0331. On their website they have photos and prices of the guns that they currently have in stock. If you wish to contact them by E-mail their address is RHOAddieville@aol.com.
Old, but good guns, have the habit of resurfacing from time to time. This is the case of John Rigby and Company’s guns which were made in Dublin starting in the 1700s, continued through the cartridge-gun era and then the company was sold to American owners. During this company’s long history they made a variety of guns including a turn-of-the-century bolt-action big-game rifle that was much-loved by British hunters and used throughout the Empire. The most famous propriety caliber was the .416 Rigby, which is still being made and used in other maker’s guns for game like Cape Buffalo.
A decade, or so, ago the company was moved to California and has now been re-sold. The current owner, John Reed, plans to reintroduce the big game rifle in its original contours, make it in London and offer it in the .416 and .275 Rigby calibers starting in 2012. Pricing and availability are to be announced at SCI events and at the Shot Show in January, 2012. To see the new gun go to www.johnrigbyandco.com. You can contact John directly at (214) 880-9993 to get on his mailing list and inquire about distribution opportunities.
John did have one interesting gun at his exhibit. This was an original Rigby blunderbuss dating from the late 1700s which may have participated in the failed Irish rebellion of 1796-99. This was inspired by the success of the American Revolution, and the rebels also solicited the aid of the French in their efforts to throw off British rule. General Lord Cornwallis commanded the British forces. The rebels were ill armed and largely untrained, but many used blunderbusses against the British regulars and Irish loyalist. This time period represented the most common use of the blunderbuss as a military and civilian arm. Period paintings often show one or more rebels armed with a blunderbuss.
Although it did not make it on the radio show, I also talked to Stephen Mackrill who is a South African knife maker who commonly exhibits at the annual Blade Show in Atlanta. Among his products are cutlery sets handled with ivory and horn as well as hunting knives. Among his unique offerings is the ability to make knives using the teeth and horns from a person’s African trophies which provides an interesting product while saving the increasingly expensive export fees for African game animals. Regardless of what you shoot, it seems that every time you turn around you have a charge of $500 for dipping or something else. This is something to do with an animal that you took, but do not wish to mount.
Not to neglect the fine arts, I also interviewed one of Georgia’s best wildlife artist, David Lanier of Albany, Georgia. Lanier specialized in ultra-realistic paintings of dogs, hunting scenes and landscapes. This is, and always has been, one way that you and future generations can enjoy something of a hunt that you experienced. He operates a gallery at 2010 Weymouth Drive in Albany and may be contacted by telephone at (229) 435-8027. He also has a website at www.dlanier.com which shows a selection of his paintings.
Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, who promotes hunting experiences at lodges and outfitters in the rich agricultural area of the Black Belt of Central Alabama, attracted attention by feeding passers-by with their Quail Salad aka “Quail Balls.” This is a product made of boiled picked quail meat that is mixed with pamento cheese, dipped in flour, deep-fried and served with a mix of cut salad vegetables. These made for a tasty appetizer with a somewhat lighter impact than the usual smothered quail and grits.
I tried one of my own products, Pear Slap, out on Lance Ferguson of B.B.G. (King Frosch) Wines who offers a variety of German wines that may now be mailed to your home, due to a recent change in regulations. Previously, wines could not be mailed which reacted adversely with wine producers nationwide whose production was not large enough to attract national distributors. Ferguson and Klaus Bellinghausen thought that my homemade wine was quite good with interesting flavors with an alcohol content that likely was in the 12% range, about double that of conventional wines.
This they described as a dry wine with fruity taste, a hint of butter, tannin overtones and only a ghost of a pear taste in the finish. This is in sharp contrast with the typical sweet to very sweet wines made from pears and other fruits. I also tried this out with the Quail Balls mentioned above and both I and the Alabama Black Belt delegation agreed that it went well with quail and similar foods. It also acts as a mouth
freshener and pallet cleanser.
I had fun at the Fair with fox hounds, a retriever dog jumping contest, archery and shotgun shooting as well as interchanging with the exhibitors. I made no attempt to get around to everything, but a regular run of transportation vehicles enabled visitors to get from place to place. This was an interesting event and worth attending with something for everyone in the family. Georgia’s depressed economy obviously impacted attendance as did the somewhat out-of-the-way location, mandated steel shot at the shooting events, its taking place during archery deer season and the generally poor reputation that Safari Club International has of being an elitist group with little in common with the average hunter.