News, notes from DSC Convention

DALLAS — Opening day of the 2010 Dallas Safari Club (DSC) convention saw a distinct contrast between the massive cold front blowing through North Texas and the warm welcomes extended to members, exhibitors and attendees.

And though the weather outside was truly frightful (many school districts in the Dallas area cancelled school on Thursday due to poor driving conditions), old friendships were renewed, stories were swapped and photos were shown of the most memorable and exotic hunts taken in 2009.

The first day of the DSC's 2010 convention also marked the beginning of a new era for the organization as it has reached an agreement to hold the event at the Dallas Convention Center through 2015. The show will remain the nation's first major sporting expo each year.

"I'm pleased with the first-day traffic, especially considering the expo hall is so much larger than ever before," DSC Executive Director Ben Carter said. "We have more exhibitors and more early visitors than ever before with plenty of room to grow in our new home here at the Dallas Convention Center. We're excited to be here."

Notable figures roaming the aisles on opening day included famed pilot and American aviation hero, Chuck Yeager; actor and shooting sports enthusiast, Gerald McRaney and a host of the hunting industry's who's who.

Dangerous-game hunt costs to rise?

Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) and hoof-and-mouth disease among free-ranging Cape buffalo in countries like Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique (sadly, the same countries known for their trophy potential) are causing concern among some professional hunters.

Within these areas Cape buffalo are still suffering from tuberculosis contracted from watering holes shared with domestic cattle, a situation first documented by officials in the 1960s and again in the 1980s. Though bovine tuberculosis has reportedly since been eradicated in domestic cattle, the effects are still being seen within free-roaming Cape buffalo populations.

Cape buffalo are especially at risk for contracting bovine diseases because, unlike most wild animals, they have very low white blood cell counts and subsequently weaker immune systems.

In addition to tuberculosis, Cape buffalo are also prone to other diseases common among domestic cattle, like hoof-and-mouth disease, meaning that as carriers, cape buffalo moving out of Kruger National Park onto nearby unfenced ranches are routinely put down to stop the spread of the diseases back to domestic cattle. These highly contagious diseases can be especially fatal during dry seasons and drought.

"Right now there's no shortage of Cape buffalo due to disease or anything else," said Dennis Kamstra, director of marketing for McDonald Pro Hunting International, based out of South Africa. "We're routinely seeing herds of 300-plus animals and finding old bulls that have been kicked out of herds that eventually die of old age. My main concern is the quota limits on lions and the way the costs of those hunts have continued to skyrocket. Those hunts used to go for $5,500 when I began 22 years ago. Now they go for 10 times as much."

So far, no absolute solution has been found to stave off this threat as the high populations of these free-ranging herds roam expansive land areas, making attempts to contain the disease difficult — if not impossible — though efforts persist, including a study being done by Kimberly Kanapeckas funded by the Dallas Safari Club.

If Cape buffalo populations dip in the future — something Kamstra says is far from a reality at present — it could cause a majority of Africa's Cape buffalo hunting to be concentrated within the fenced game ranches of South Africa, resulting in higher prices. As well, limited prey animals could ultimately cause lion quotas to be cut back even further putting the dream of hunting Africa's big cat out of reach for most.

"As long as the hunting industry continues to make money, landowners will continue to value the animals and will not switch their lands over to farming, getting rid of the game animals," Kamstra said. "Game farms are the backbone of species survival in all of the continent."

The new, cool and exotic

What's New: Lone Star Outdoors, a six-year-old outdoor-specific publication that covers the entire hunting- and fishing-crazed state of Texas, has compiled five years worth of its most popular feature, Game Warden Blotter, in its book "Poachers, Crooks and Other Turkeys."

The book documents the most memorable of the brazen, bumbling exploits of poachers and other game violators — stories where the truth is frequently stranger than fiction. Of interest not only to Texans but also to outdoor enthusiasts everywhere who loathe game violators, this 272-page compilation is prime fodder for readers looking for a good chuckle.

"Poachers, Crooks and Other Turkeys" is available in paperback from directly from Lone Star Outdoor News for $14.95 plus shipping and handling by calling (214) 361-2276 via e-mail to MHughs@LoneStarOutdoorNews.com.

What's Cool: In 2003, scientists at Texas A&M University achieved what is widely regarded as the first-ever successful cloning of whitetail deer.

The resulting fawn, named "Dewey," became one of the most sought-after genetic sources for deer farmers looking to grow monster whitetails.

Since then, Dewey has since gone to the Great Food Plot in the Sky and this week his shoulder-mounted remains adorn the booth of Texas Trophy Ranch, one of the 1,100 exhibitors at this week's 2010 Dallas Safari Club Convention.

What's Exotic: What weighs 26 pounds, makes a lot of noise and costs a lot of money?

No, it's not your three-year-old nephew, it's much older than him.

In the Lewis Drake and Associates booth, Dallas Safari Club convention attendees can see a truly remarkable firearm ... and buy it if they like.

Made by M.K. Owens, this double-barrel 4 Bore rifle (a designation that is derived out of an old English practice of bore measurements in gunmaking, meaning if four perfectly round, equally weighted balls would be fashioned out of one pound of lead, all balls would have a 4 bore diameter) features intricate scrolling on the receiver and a beautiful wood stock and forend.

Affectionately known as "Mastodon," this rifle shoots shells with four-inch cases and weighs in at a whopping 26 pounds — definitely one of the reasons safari veterans use gun bearers.

Good luck finding ammunition for this one, but this gun — the ultimate conversation piece among a convention center full of conversation pieces — can be yours for $95,000.