Though the 2008 National Outfitter’s Hunting and Fishing Show went off without a hitch, the show itself has seen bigger years.
Like any large-scale exposition, hundreds of exhibitors lined the aisles of Montreal’s Palais de Congres from February 12 to 15 but instead of the many product hawkers, dog breeders and taxidermists that crowded the trade show in 2007, this year’s show was more focussed on actual outfitting companies.
It was not to say that the outfitting companies were not seeing their fair share of business as according to some, the bookings were booming. But throughout the show there was talk about how the market was changing due to everything from a stronger Canadian dollar to international terrorism to environmentalism. As a result, the distinct sound of American accents did not echo through the outfitting show as it has in previous years. In recent years the Quebec outfitting market has shifted its focus from global to local and many exhibitors spoke of changing their marketing strategies to entice more Quebecers to their outdoor paradises.
Said Andrew Coon, the tourism coordinator for Mistissini Tourism, “You have to really find the right market. For example, Montreal is a good place. These days there are not a lot of Americans who come up fishing due to the Canadian dollar. In Mistissini the main industry is fishing and our biggest market is Quebec. For the past couple of years we have really tried to concentrate on the Quebec market as we are really trying to boost it.”
Eddy, from the Cree Outfitter and Tourism Association (COTA), concurred that despite the change in markets, “(business) has been very good for the last few years,” and that the show was the best way for the COTA to connect with new clients.
George Awashish of Awashish Outdoor Adventures had a big smile on his face as he greeted new and old clients from his kiosk at the exposition. “So far, so good! Montreal is the best for us in terms of business, marketing and sales,” Awashish exclaimed.
When asked what kept bringing him back to the Montreal show every year, he responded, “I would say the Montreal and Quebec City region is where I get most of my clients. I get probably 50% of them from this show.”
When asked if international tourism still dominated the North’s outfitting industry, Awashish responded, “It’s mainly Canadian now and it has been for the past three years. It is because of the weaker U.S. dollar and all of the other things that have been going on, like 9/11 and mad cow disease. Business has been stable but it hasn’t increased a lot. We are doing just enough to have a good time.”
For Awashish, the big attraction at his camp is fishing and the possibility of catching the famed Rupert River Brooke Trout. “It’s a big fish and tastes good. It’s one of the most popular sports-fishing fish. On the average they are about two to three pounds, but some go up as high as six.”
At the same time, with fishing being the focus of his business, one wonders if the current hydro project and its reputation was harming Awashish’s business. When asked about it, Awashish responded, “People ask questions about it, especially in Montreal. They think the Rupert River is gone for good and it’s easy when you don’t know much about the project. It has little impact on the business but Hydro-Quebec is working on it.”
Though there may have been far fewer product vendors at this year’s outfitting show, it was not to say that there were not still a handful hawking their wares to the hunting and fishing crowd, showing off the best in terrain vehicles, boats, knives and other outdoorsman accessories.
Martin Dutremble of Couteaux Personnalises Martin had a wide variety of handmade knives on display that could make any outdoorsman’s day. “We make hunting and fishing knives mainly, as well as kitchen knives. They are all custom-made and every knife that we make comes from these raw materials. We generally draw the blade with the customer (present) so it’s exactly how they want it,” said Dutremble as he presented a work in progress. Though his prices varied according to the customer’s needs, the half-made product he was presenting to the clients surrounding his display was going for approximately $100 when finished. For more information or to order go to: www.couteauxmartin.com
According to Doug over at the Londero Sports kiosk, the hot ticket item of the moment was a fishing reel. “The newest edition of the Mitchell series, basically it’s an eight bearing reel, it has anti-reverse and the price is ideal at $41.95. It is going to be one of the hottest sellers online. Londero Sports in St-Jean, we do online sales but not for fishing.”
Fortunately Mitchell has its own website that redirects interested customers to a local retailer. To find out more about Mitchell reels and related fishing products, go to: http://www.fishmitchell.com/
One of the most worthwhile reasons to visit a large-scale hunting and fishing show, other than looking for an outfitting camp, is to take advantage of the products that are not usually available through regular retailers such as hand-carved hunting calls.
Recall Designs had a spectacular kiosk packed with just about every variety of game call that one could ever use in this province.
All of the products were hand carved by Rheal Charlebois, a carpenter by profession and outdoor enthusiast who found a passion for carving fancy game calls after an accident. Charlebois had various different duck, goose, turkey, crow, deer and “predator” calls available at his booth and he eagerly demonstrated each of them. Fortunately for those unable to attend the exposition, all of Charlebois’ products are available on his website and for those interested, pricing starts at around $125. For more information or to order, go to: http://www.recalldesigns.com/
So, despite the fact that the variety of clients might be changing for the provincial outfitting industry, cash was rapidly changing hands at this year’s outfitting show. Hundreds if not thousands of enthusiasts dropped by to book their hunting and fishing adventures, check out the latest in hunting and fishing supplies, and drool over the boats, ATVs and other delights that would only thrill a true outdoorsman (or woman).