Wyoming Outdoor Product Days


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

September 2nd, 2008




Back several months ago, I was invited by the Wyoming Business Council to attend a gathering of about six writers in Cody, Wyoming to have a look at some outdoor products that are manufactured in that state. My immediate response was “I’m in!” The event took place last week (August 25 through 28, 2008), and I am back home in Tennessee reflecting upon the wonderful time that I had visiting Wyoming.

Wyoming is one of my all-time favorite states, and I try to get out there at least once per year on a motorcycle trip. Some might find it geographically odd, but each year on my way to Sturgis, South Dakota, I end up going through Wyoming to get there. The lady inside my Garmin GPS would not be pleased, as she gets pretty aggravated when I do not take the shortest route. Riding out from Tennessee, Wyoming is a bit out of the way, but it is always worth the trip. Wyoming has some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth, along with some of the ugliest. I used to think that the area between Thermopolis and Worland had to be what Hell looked like. At least the water bubbling out of the ground smelled like it was flowing straight from the pits of Hell. However, as I have spent more and more time in the region, I have come to appreciate that scenery as well, with its intriguing rock formations and mineral deposits. Devoid of lush green vegetation, one can see for many miles on a clear day, which is the only kind of day that they have out there. There is a multitude of shades and colors to the rocks, and you can stand on a mountain and see eons of history in the layers of rock. Riding farther up into the mountains, Wyoming has magnificent peaks and valleys, along with high mountain lakes and streams running the purest water on Earth. Up where the aspens grow, even in August, it is cool and breezy, and I have run through snow and sleet during mid-summer up in the higher elevations. It is a place with a feeling of relaxing solitude, and I could spend my life there gladly, enjoying the scenery, and living off the vast game and fish available in that part of Wyoming. For even more geological diversity, there is no place on Earth like Yellowstone. Everybody has seen pictures of Old Faithful, but that one geological wonder is only one of thousands in the park. The Grand Tetons and the Wind River region are also fascinating, and from there East towards Cody, Powell, and over the mountains towards Montana is filled with beautiful places to see. Anyway, whenever I get a chance to visit Wyoming, I take it.

The Wyoming Business Council event took place in and around Cody, and on the first evening of our arrival, we were treated to a guided tour of the Firearms Museum section of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The museum is filled with just about every type of firearm in American history, many of them one-of-a-kind pieces, and many others dripping with history of the Old West. Yes, Buffalo Bill Cody was a real man, and his life is indeed more interesting than the legend. He was responsible for much of the development of that area, and there still stands his Irma Hotel downtown, where one can down a really fine breakfast any day of the week, and sleep in a room once occupied by the famous and infamous alike. Aside from the many fine products that we were shown, which we will get to in a bit, we were treated to much entertainment and fed some fantastic grub every night, hosted by the Park County Travel Council, headed up by Claudia Wade, who was extremely hospitable and pleasant, making us each feel very welcome. Cody is somewhat of a tourist town, but it doesn’t have that "fleece-the-tourist" feel to it. Many places out west like Santa Fe , Taos, and a couple of other places have been ruined by the tourist traps that are there to simply and efficiently separate a tourist from his money, but Cody is the real deal, teeming with history and beautiful scenery, and I never get tired of that place. If I had to live in a town, Cody would be my choice.

The first full day in Cody was spent at the Cody Shooting Complex, with an introduction to a few Wyoming products first thing in the morning, and then out to the shooting range for some hands-on testing of the products. Readers of Gunblast.com are already familiar with the handguns of Freedom Arms, and Bob Baker was there with a good selection of his fine revolvers, along with his new single-shot pistol, which was reviewed here a couple of months ago. I shot the Freedom Arms guns a bit, but was more interested in watching some of the other writers who had not previously fired a Freedom Arms handgun, to get their reaction to the expertly crafted guns. Some of these writers were primarily fishing writers, but they each took a liking to the Freedom Arms guns, as did some of the staff of the Wyoming Business Council. The Council exists to promote Wyoming as an ideal place to do business, and the state is very business-friendly with low taxes and a positive outlook towards firearms and other outdoor type businesses.

Another business that was of great interest to me was Z-Hat Custom of Casper, Wyoming. I had heard and read of Fred Zeglin’s company and his custom Hawk cartridges, which are some of the best and most practical wildcat cartridges ever designed. Fred is currently working on a book that deals with P.O. Ackley and his very efficient “Improved” line of wildcat cartridges. Fred is using methods and equipment that were not available to Mr. Ackley, and watching him carry out a couple of experiments showing the relative lack of bolt thrust with the .30-30 Ackley Improved cartridge, I believe that his book will be a very good text on the subject of Mr. Ackley and his cartridges. Fred Zeglin also runs 4-D Reamer Rentals, which stocks over 600 chamber reamers for rent to gunsmiths across the country, along with other gunsmith tools and gauges.

Also present and showing off his talent was Jim Blair of Jim Blair Engraving, located in Glenrock, Wyoming. I am not an engraving expert, but I know good work when I see it, and Mr. Blair exhibited some superb samples of the engraver’s art, from light-coverage elegant scroll work to full-coverage high relief engraving with raised gold inlay. Excellent craftsmanship, and good pricing. I will list his contact info at the end of this piece, if you would like to get a quote on some custom work.

Carlos Gonzales of Lander, Wyoming showed us his Grouse Wing Camo line of clothing that uses high resolution pictures of grouse feathers printed upon fabric, resulting in a very unique and effective camouflage pattern. Nothing is better than what nature provides as camouflage to these birds, and transferring that pattern to fabric is a great idea. Look for a more in-depth review of the Grouse Wing Camo on Gunblast.com soon.

Best of the West displayed their long range Gunwerks rifles and Huskemaw scopes, and the combination proved very easy to use with great effect on long-range steel life-size animal target out to 750 yards. Even a couple of the novice shooters had no trouble connecting using the excellent ballistic compensating reticle and turrets of the Huskemaw scope, and hopefully, I will be doing an in-depth review of one of those soon. The reticle is clean and very easy to use on either short or long range targets, and is not confusing at all like some of the reticles on the market today, which can be like trying to shoot while looking through a screen door.

Royal Stukey was letting us use one of his excellent shooting benches while at the range. Even with a strong Wyoming wind blowing, his shooting bench was very stable. It is hard to tell the difference between a cheap bench and one of Royal’s benches just by looking at pictures in a catalog, but these benches are nothing like the cheap imported stuff that you might see advertised elsewhere. Royal uses a unique method to attach the legs to assure a solid connection, and it proved itself at the range. These Stukeys Sturdy Shooting Benches sell for just under 600 bucks, shipped to anywhere in the contiguous forty-eight states by FedEx, and are worth every penny. Unless you have a stable platform, you cannot realize the most accuracy from your rifle or handloads, and the bench is also portable enough for setting up as a varmint shooting bench. This thing is made from heavy plywood and pipe, not thin wall tubing. It weighs 65 pounds, and is built to last, and built in Wyoming.

Another dandy little product displayed was the Ultimate Bore Protection from Bighorn Products of Buffalo, Wyoming. This is a simple little device, best described as a miniature balloon that rolls over the muzzle of a firearm to protect the muzzle from filling with mud, snow, or ice while hunting. The difference between this and similar products is that the Ultimate Bore Protector is about six times thicker than competitive products, and also comes with round and square-section O-rings to further help to lock the device on the muzzle. At the shooting range, we were allowed to shoot through the muzzle protector to prove that no change in point of impact or accuracy is caused by shooting through the muzzle protector. It works and works well. This simple little device can save a hunt, and also prevent damage to a rifle barrel and to the hunter himself. Good idea.

Wyoming Armory had on display some of their custom work. They specialize in firearm restoration and stock work, doing their own metal and wood work, and their own color case-hardening. Their work is magnificent, and is truly a fine example of the gun maker’s art.

Also present was a young lady representing the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association. If you are interested in hunting Wyoming, the association can hook you up with information to hundreds of guides in any area of the state. They make sure that you get a certified and professional guide, and give you many choices to consider before making your decision.

About three o’clock, we all headed over to the shotgun range for some trap shooting, which was a new adventure for me. I rarely shoot a shotgun, except for turkey hunting and testing shotguns for Gunblast, and have never done any trap shooting all, but it was a great deal of fun, and Tom Lacock of the Wyoming Business Council succeeded in beating the field of ten shooters by hitting about 23 out of 25 clay birds. I did not do as well.

After feasting on a large bison ribeye steak for supper, I headed off to bed at the Comfort Inn, while some of the others writers went to the rodeo or took in a show downtown.

The next day was another new experience for me: fly-fishing for trout in the Clarks Fork River. I had never before handled a fly rod. Around here, we mostly use spinning and bait casting reels, and I have been looking forward to the fly fishing for a long time. Before heading for the river, we were fed a huge breakfast at the Irma Hotel and given a product presentation by Cliff Outdoors and DC Rodbuilding of Casper and Cody, respectfully. Matt Cassel of Cliff Outdoors showed to us some high-quality fly boxes and other products. At first glance, they were mostly just plastic boxes made to hold fly-fishing stuff, but upon closer examination, it was apparent that these were nothing like the stuff that you might find on a Wal Mart shelf. Every detail of these products revealed that they were built by fishermen, for fishermen. Very good, high-quality stuff. I could probably better appreciate the Cliff Outdoor products if I were a fly fisherman, but even as a greenhorn, it was readily apparent that Matt makes good stuff, built to last, and built in Wyoming.

Dave Crowther of DC Rodbuilding showed to us his custom built fly rods. Most of what he said went right over my head, as if I was listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher on the old Peanuts cartoon, but it sure sounded like he knew his stuff. I did learn that fly-fishermen do not mind at all spending several hundred dollars on a fly rod, and apparently, the rod makes a great deal of difference.

After the product demonstration, we headed over to Tim Wade’s North Fork Anglers shop. Tim sells everything needed for fly fishing the waters in and around Wyoming, and also runs a guide service out of that shop, which is located in the heart of downtown Cody. He also sells high quality rods, flies, waders, boots, and other fishing gear online. My guide, teacher, and mentor for the day was Jack Coons. He did a wonderful job of teaching me to correctly work a fly rod, and I had a great time standing out in the rushing river and casting a little brown fly. I managed to fall over and get Baptized twice, but with the waders snug around my waist, not much water got in. The first time that I fell in, I got to laughing so hard that I couldn’t get up, but jack pulled me out before I laid there and drowned. I did manage to catch a couple of Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, and had a terrific time doing so. I know that they were Yellowstone Cutthroat because Jack told me that they were. The first thing they told us that morning was to “listen to your guide”, which I did. Without Jack’s help, I would have likely tangled myself and drowned in the Clarks Fork river, but he taught me how to work a fly rod well, and I think that fly-fishing might become a habit. I plan to buy a rod and try my luck on the small mouth bass that hole up in the creeks around here sometimes, and to hopefully get back to Cody soon for some more trout fishing in the Clarks Fork and Shoshone rivers.

The trip to Cody was a wonderful experience, trying new products and adventures not tried on previous trips through Wyoming. I had once before fished in Wyoming, near Ten Sleep, catching a couple of Rainbow Trout on a lightweight spinning rig, but you can bet that I will return to Wyoming, and will have a fly rig attached somewhere to the Harley.

For more information on Wyoming and the products and services offered in that great state, go to these websites:

Wyoming Business Council: www.wyomingbusiness.org.

Park County Travel Council: www.pctc.org.

4-D Reamer Rentals/ Z-Hat Custom www.4-dproducts.com.

Cliff Outdoors: www.cliffoutdoors.com.

Freedom Arms: www.freedomarms.com.

Jim Blair Engraving: www.thegunsmith.com.

DC Rodbuilding: www.dcrodbuilding.com.

Ultimate Bore Protection: www.ultimateboreprotection.com.

Grouse Wing Camo: www.grousewingcamo.com.

Best of the West: www.thebestofthewest.net.

Stukeys Sturdy Shooting Benches: www.shootingbenches.com.

North Fork Anglers: www.northforkanglers.com.

Contact the Wyoming Armory at: 307-527-4570.

Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association: www.wyoga.org.

Jeff Quinn



Buffalo Bill Historical Center.



Long range targets at the Cody Shooting Complex.



Trap range at the Cody Shooting Complex.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Jeff enjoys a new experience: fly-fishing for trout in the Clarks Fork River.



Author flew into Wyoming on a glorified crop-duster.



Jim Blair Engraving.



Wyoming Armory.



Ultimate Bore Protection.



Freedom Arms.



Freedom Arms' Bob Baker.



Annie Wood of the Wyoming Business Council shooting the Freedom Arms single-shot pistol.



Tom Lacock of the Wyoming Business Council shooting Gunwerks rifle with Huskemaw scope.



Z-Hat's new .19 Hawk cartridge.



Fred Zeglin of Z-Hat pressure-testing the .30-30 Ackley Improved cartridge.



Royal Stukey shooting from his shooting bench.



Huskemaw scope.



Jack Coons instructs Jeff on the art of fly-fishing.