RMEF's Elk Camp, Hunter Christmas Begin: First Peek at 2015 Hunting Industry

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's 30th annual convention and expo kicked off December 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The inaugural Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela's was the show opener. RMEF took the opportunity to hold their annual show well before most other major industry events, and it paid off - space sold out, and a waiting list has been started for the 2015 show.

With $38.3 billion in annual retail sales, the U.S. hunting industry is keeping an eye on Las Vegas this weekend where the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 30th annual convention and expo offers the first economic indicator for 2015.

The event kicked off Dec. 4 with the inaugural Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela’s, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and RMEF’s newly repositioned “Elk Camp” convention at The Mirage.

Rarely, if ever, has the hunting industry seen a major consumer show and conservation fundraiser well before New Years – and more than six weeks ahead of SHOT Show. But RMEF seized an opportunity to move its annual bash up from the traditional February-March time frame to new December dates concurrent with one of the biggest yearly hoedowns in Vegas, the National Finals Rodeo.

A long-revered part of the rodeo experience is the free Cowboy Christmas Gift Show and Cowboy FanFest Show in the north halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. A record 196,000 people attended in 2013. This year, for the first time, during the first four days of the rodeo, attendees can stroll into the adjoining central halls and (also for no admission charge) see the Hunter Christmas Exposition. Even if only a fraction of attendees choose to do so, RMEF could see a big jump in attendance figures.

Exhibit space is sold out, mostly to firearm companies, hunting gear and apparel makers, and outfitters, and a waiting list is already building for next year.

“This event will, I believe, emerge as an economic indicator from several standpoints,” said Steve Decker, vice president of marketing for RMEF. “Obviously, it’s the first show in a coming lineup of hunting shows nationwide, so what we do here this weekend will help set the tone for the remainder of the show season. I’ve heard from several exhibitors who are planning to introduce new calibers and products at this show, so that’s exciting. But this also is the only hunting show held during the Christmas buying season, which is an opportunity for exhibitors to move any leftover inventories before yearend.”

Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela's

“By Sunday, our industry should have a good feel for how well new products might move in 2015, and for the continuing popularity of last year’s models,” he added.

As for Elk Camp and RMEF’s fundraising auctions, early indications also are positive. Registrations and room blocks are sold out. Decker says prospective bidders are buzzing about several items to be sold, including a log cabin, New Holland tractor, hunting adventures, fishing and backcountry trips, art, a Bad Boy Buggy and a guitar signed by The Eagles.

Sales will support RMEF conservation projects, which to date have conserved more than 6.5 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage.

RMEF membership in 2014 set a new record at more than 200,000.

The World Elk Calling Championships, autograph sessions with rodeo, country music and hunting celebrities, seminars, top entertainment and other attractions will round out RMEF’s big weekend in Las Vegas.