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
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
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
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
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.
Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
Long range targets at the Cody Shooting Complex.
Trap range at the Cody Shooting Complex.
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