SHOT Show Blast From the Past — Leupold & Stevens

It’s always rewarding to meet people who are genuinely proud of the work they do and the products they make. The people at Leupold & Stevens really shine with pride for the quality of their American-made products. Their work offers a clear view of the adventure found in the world’s untamed places, and their products deliver dependability for shooters of every stripe, from hunters and competitors to soldiers and police officers. The Leupold team’s pride is borne out in their presence at SHOT Show, where discussions and demonstrations highlight a familiarity that comes only from close association with a craftsmanship they’re pleased to claim. Michael Wunnicke has a long history with Leupold and has been the team’s Director of Marketing for eight years. The SHOT Show, he says, is an event that never disappoints.

Kevin Tate: What comes to mind when you think of the first SHOT Show you attended?

Michael Wunnicke: Before you attend your first SHOT Show, you hear a lot about it, so, by the time you arrive, you have a high level of anticipation. Then you roll into the convention center area and it’s like a giant toy store. There’s so much you want to do and see, so much that you can’t really imagine it until you go. My first SHOT Show was a really a giant “Wow,” and every one I’ve attended since has been the same way. There’s never enough time to check out everything you’d like to see and do all of your own business as well.

Leupold Rifle Scopes
The company’s market-leading rifle scopes demonstrate exceptional quality at an affordable price.

KT: What product would you say Leupold most effectively launched at SHOT? Which one set the show abuzz the best?

MW: It’s tough to narrow it down to just one. We’ve had so many new products launch recently, my first thoughts always go to those, but our thermal trackers have created a lot of interest. We’ve had a lot of people call and ask when they could check them out, people from a wide variety of interests and professions. Thermal imaging has always been an area of interest for a lot of people and to finally be able to offer something that’s affordable has really been rewarding. The design of our tracker is all about game recovery. If you’ve not seen one yet, it is a handheld device that’s held off-eye. So much thermal technology is held on-eye, and that greatly limits your field of view. For game recovery, they work phenomenally. It’s used like a flashlight but, instead of shining light, it uses thermal heat detection. Hunters have had wonderful results, more quickly recovering animals that are down in the night. It picks up the heat signature so well. We’ve also had numerous stories from law enforcement and firefighters, whether they were locating a missing child or finding hot spots in their terrain. The stories that come from outside the hunting and shooting uses are just unending. We’ve heard from electricians using them to track wiring through walls. We’ve heard from landowners using them as security tools on their property to check out what’s happening without giving away their position. We couldn’t have had that kind of reach without SHOT Show.

Leupold Tracker
Leupold’s thermal tracker has been a hit with hunters and emergency personnel alike. Whether trailing up a deer in the dark or finding a child lost in the woods, its applications have broad possibilities.

KT: What’s your favorite personal memory of the SHOT Show?

MW: It’s hard to beat the first time you roll into a SHOT Show, because there’s so much to see. That initial impression that there is so much there is part of why you look forward to going every year. One outstanding memory for me, though, comes from 2008, when the SHOT Show and the Super Bowl coincided, and every monitor and every projector in every booth was playing the game. The Super Bowl is so much of an event, a lot of us had wondered what not getting to watch it would be like, since it was going to happen in the middle of the SHOT Show week and during show hours, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. We quickly realized a lot of people were showing it, and it turned into a fun thing where everyone had the ability to watch it, so the show became a tailgate party of sorts and folks gathered and did their business for the day watching football. It was a unique and fun experience that was different and familiar at the same time

KT: Are there any mistakes you’ve made at the SHOT Show that might serve as cautionary tales for others?

MW: Because there are so many customers and trade people there, you’ll find a lot of relationships where friends don’t see each other any other time during the year. It’s really easy heading into the show to book time with everybody you’d want to, but you’ll quickly realize you’ve booked yourself into back-to-back-to-back meetings and have left yourself no time to walk the show and also left yourself that much more exhausted. I quickly learned to leave some space on my calendar for the week to walk the show and talk to people. Booking meetings the other way, you’ll find you’ve booked so much you haven’t had time to leave the booth before the show is over.

Leupold Mike Wunnicke
Mike Wunnicke has been with Leupold for many years, and his experiences at the SHOT Show continue to excite and entertain him.

KT: What should new SHOT Show attendees do to make the most of the week’s opportunities?

MW: Because it is the trade show, especially nowadays with huge growth in social and digital media, there are literally hundreds more bloggers and vloggers and digital trade media walking the show. You end up having quite a bit more requests for interviews and product intros from people working in this media who can and do post daily and hourly on their sites. Because that’s increased so much in the past few years, we always run into situations where we don’t have enough personnel and space in the booths to address it all. You can’t funnel all those requests through one person anymore — there’s not enough time to handle them all. You’ll need to have some back-up people lined up to do some of those. All those media professionals are valuable, and you don’t want to turn anyone away. We’ve made a point to have additional dedicated space and personnel on standby to maximize all those requests and get as much exposure as we possibly can out of them.

About the Author
Kevin Tate is Vice President of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point, Mississippi. As a lifelong outdoorsman and certified country boy, he finds himself continually in awe to be part of the SHOT Show and of the industry that drives so many dreams. He and his wife, Amy, live in Tupelo with their daughter, Avery, 15, and a son, Walker, 12.

JAN 21–24, 2020 LAS VEGAS