The traveling road show continued this past week for me as I found myself once again attending the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT Show) gathering in Las Vegas. For over a decade, I have attended the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries. It is the world's premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, law enforcement, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics and related products and services. The SHOT Show attracts buyers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

The reason for the gathering is simple — to learn about what’s new in the industry and to preview this year’s crop of outdoor products. For most of the 1,600 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees, the SHOT Show is essentially a buyer’s show for those who stock shelves with outdoor-related products. For me and the 2,491 working outdoor media members, it’s simply the start of our year of gaining publicity for our passion — the outdoor industry and its products.

For the working media members, the heart of the show is the press room. The press room is a dedicated area upstairs of the show floor where media members can plug in and, essentially, write. It reminds me of a scene from an old movie depicting a newsroom at a newspaper back in the day with writers banging on typewriters hurriedly, trying to get their stories in before the deadline so that the words can be read over coffee the next morning.

In the press room, the deadlines are real for traditional print writers as well as electronic media members, whose news travels lightning-fast across the blogs and forums of the World Wide Web shortly after the story is broken. It doesn’t take long in the press room to determine the “buzz” of which manufacturers hit the ball out of the park and which ones struck out.

Questions such as, “Seen anything neat?” or “Tell me the coolest thing you have seen so far,” are circulated around by writers determined not to miss a thing and as a way to shortcut through the sprawling 630,000-square foot venue filled with guns to grills and everything remotely outdoor-related in between.  The show is simply too overwhelming and there is too much to see in the four days allotted for the event.

To attract the attention of the media, manufacturers use all sorts of methods, from traditional press conferences to invitations to attend events to showcase their products. You can’t be everywhere at once, so once again savvy writers gain the scoop by listening to others for what’s hot and what’s not to determine the “must-see” list of products to cover.

All in all, I enjoy the annual gathering and I truly look forward to talking to my friends in the industry. Some of them I only see once a year at the show, so it is always good to catch up and see how life as an outdoor writer has been treating them. Pictures of children and trophy animals are passed around and every once in a while, someone will grin and say, “It’s a heck of a way to make a living: hunting and fishing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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