Awkward Moments from the SHOT Show

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

What would a good work environment be without a few awkward moments? I couldn't tell you, thank God, because awkward moments have managed to find me everywhere I've ever worked. Gainful employment would be boring without them.

The SHOT Show is a ripe atmosphere for these moments. For one week of the new year, 65,000 like-minded individuals of the shooting and hunting industry converge in Las Vegas for one of the city's largest trade shows. From this crowd, you'll never hear things like, "That Michael Moore guy really gets it."

But you will hear a lot of funny stuff. That's because at its core, this business is comprised of friends, and when you have a gathering of friends of this scale, you're bound to have a little fun. Here's my list from last week.

I Owe Bill Jordan $2.

I was headed to my room to process photos and write up captions for Realtree.com’s daily show coverage one afternoon, and on my way out, I decided to step into the small break room in the Realtree booth for a bottle of water. Seated directly in my way of the mini-fridge was Brad Schorr, a Realtree VP, and Bill Jordan himself. I’d obviously interrupted a conversation. I had two choices.

“I’ll come back later, guys.”

...or...

“You’re in my way of the mini-fridge.”

I was thirsty.

As I squeezed between them to grab my bottle of water, Bill looked at me and said, “That’ll be two dollars.”

I did not have $2 with me, and Bill didn’t seem keen on accepting an IOU.

So I threw my weight around a bit. “I have some pull on Realtree.com,” I said. “What if I can mention your name in a blog?”

He nodded his head in agreement, and so here we are. Just to be safe, I’m mailing him a check for $2, too.      

Ryan Kirby Demeaning my Best Art Work.

Ryan Kirby is a living reminder that I should’ve spent less time fist-fighting in sixth-grade art class and more time paying attention. He’s the guy who was commissioned for Outdoor Life magazine’s first cover painting in more than 20 years. He handles the bulk of the art work for Winchester Ammunition packaging. And when we’re lucky enough to get him, he puts together some pretty amazing illustrations for Realtree.com (like this one).

What I like best about Kirby, though, is that he’s pure North Carolina redneck, and not the least bit above public ridicule of his peers. One night, we were sipping beers with a couple editors from Field and Stream, and the topic of assignment illustrations soon arose.

The way that typically works is the editor puts together a rough hand-drawing of what’s needed—a diagram of a goose hunting decoy spread, for example—and then sends that rough drawing on to the illustrator to work it into a finished product.

“Brantley’s ‘scrap art’ is consistently the worst in the business,” Kirby explained. “He can’t even draw a stick figure. Last one he sent to me, there was this guy hanging out the window of the truck with something on his face. I thought it was a growth of some sort, like a tumor, and I was wondering what that had to do with goose hunting. Turns out, that was just Brantley’s version of a smiley face.”

See the finished product of that conversation right here. Kirby's picture doesn't look much better than mine.

Benedict Hansen.

I’d always thought Hansen and I have each other’s backs. We are the deer bloggers, after all. But on the last night of the SHOT Show, I realized the man has no loyalty. Stephanie had arranged for some fancy sushi dinner across town, despite there being a perfectly good Johnny Rocket’s hamburger stand right there in the hotel food court.

We met downstairs to catch a cab, and as the details of the dinner party began to unfold, we realized that every female in the hunting industry was also attending this dinner. Like a big Mary Kay event, in camo. An exchange of ammunition, in Tupperware. Tony and I were the only men invited, and we were expected to sit in the corner and behave, like scolded children.

And so he bailed without flinching, citing work to do and an early flight to catch. I immediately had my suspicions, but he didn’t linger long enough for questioning. I followed the dinner party almost to the cab line, and was saved at the last minute by Michael Turbyfill. “Brantley,” he said, “the men are eating steaks at the Lavo. You and Hansen get out while you can.”

I texted Hansen, assuming he was in his room. He replied with a photo of a Johnny Rockets cheeseburger.

Tink Nathan Steals the Show.

I owe a lot to the man, Tink Nathan. I’ve killed a trailer-load of whitetails with the help of his special No. 69 Texas potion, but more than that, I used it to woo my wife on our first date, way back in high school. Tink is a colorful man, having run for Texas office on a “Pro Road-Kill” platform. He got rich by selling deer pee. He’s also, apparently, a ninja.

I was supposed to meet with Kendall Jones and her agent in the Realtree booth one afternoon of the show, shortly following lunch. Meetings can be slow to unfold at SHOT, especially when you’re meeting with someone as famous as Kendall Jones.

But she and her friend, Taylor Altom, showed up right on time. We stood making small talk for a moment before the meeting, and I turned to look for Hansen, who was to be attending the meeting as well. I saw a blur in my periphery—western attire. A black Stetson. Some red, white and blue. Kendall and Taylor were gone.

I stepped around the corner of the Realtree booth, and sure enough, there was Tink Nathan, smiling for the camera and flanked by Kendall on one side and Taylor on the other.

At SHOT, time is precious. Meetings are stacked, and interruptions are often troublesome.

But I’ll wait for Tink any time.