Since early last century, the Northwest Sportshow has been a springtime meeting place for people of common interests. So it will be again Wednesday, when the Northwest Sportshow (northwestsportshow.com) opens its five-day run at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Exhibited will be the latest in outdoor gear, from state-of-the-art depth finders to the shiniest boats, the most seductive fishing lures and the fanciest RVs. Additionally, -outfitters, resort owners and other show exhibitors from as far away as Alaska will descend on the Twin Cities to renew old friendships, while beckoning new adventure seekers. Brief profiles of three outfitters who will appear at the Northwest Sportshow follow: one from Montana, another from Ely in northern Minnesota, another from Manitoba. Separated by vast distances, common interests bind them.
Trapper Peak Outfitters
Some people make a living looking to the future. Laramy Miller makes his believing in the past.
Miller, 31, stars in the Outdoor Channel’s original series “Sasquatch Mountain Man,’’ in which he travels the Rocky Mountain West hunting as mountain men did long ago: with a handmade bow and traditional .54 caliber Hawken rifle.
With Native American ancestors, Miller was born and raised in Colorado. From the time he was a kid he learned the “old’’ ways of hunting, survival and wandering in the mountains — skills taught to him by two uncles, Dirk and Colt Ross, who themselves were hunting outfitters and mountain men.
“I’ve been in the outfitting business since I was a kid,’’ Miller said.
The Ross brothers’ dream of owning a broadcast production company and distributing hunting videos nationwide was cut short when the two were killed in a plane crash.
Laramy Miller now lives out his uncles’ dreams — and his own.
In addition to filming 13 episodes annually of “Sasquatch Mountain Man’’ (now in its fourth season), Miller and his wife, Donna, operate Trapper Peak Outfitters and Guest Lodge (www.trapperpeakoutfitters.com) in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.
Catering to both big-game hunters and fly fishermen, as well as vacationers interested in day and multiday horseback trips into the mountains, the Millers have carved out the life Laramy dreamed about long ago.
“My fantasy as a kid was all about living in the mountains and knowing how to survive,’’ he said. “The mountain man tradition of making my own longbows, building my own muzzleloaders and making my own clothing is one I still value today.’’
A full partner in the outfitting business, Donna, a New York native, oversees Trapper Peak’s website development and marketing.
Look for Laramy Miller and the Trapper Peak Outfitters booth at the Northwest Sportshow.
Canoe Country Outfitters
Bob Olson Jr. and his brother, Mark, have worked at the Ely, Minn., canoe outfitter they now own dating back more than four decades.
Their business, Canoe Country Outfitters (www.canoecountryoutfitters.com), has been a fixture on Ely’s main drag since 1946, when its founder, Bill Rom, returned from World War II.
In 1950, Canoe Country Outfitters made its debut at the Northwest Sportshow, and hasn’t missed an appearance since.
“I believe we’ve got the record for the longest continuous showing of any exhibitor,’’ Olson said.
Like other outfitters hoping to find new clients later this week at the Convention Center, Olson will pass a lot of time in his booth describing the benefits of adventure vacations — in his case, paddling trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and adjoining Quetico Provincial Park.
Americans’ vacation interests and timetables have changed over the years, Olson said.
“People aren’t getting out into nature as much,’’ he said. “Consequently, some are hesitant about taking a canoe trip.
“The things that most things people encounter day-to-day are man-made. But the wilderness isn’t like that. It isn’t man-made. It’s God-made, and it helps people to get into it and let their heads clear.’’
Canoe Country Outfitters regularly caters to experienced canoeists, some of whom rent equipment, while others seek travel permits or advice.
Many other customers are novices and need complete outfitting, including canoes, paddles, food and packs. Prices for such comprehensive services range from $70 to $95 per day, making paddling adventures relatively inexpensive vacations.
“Some people call us and ask if they can take three-day canoe trips, because nowadays people don’t take the long vacations they once did,’’ Olson said. “But to me, a canoe trip that short gives you only enough time to begin to unwind.
“You don’t get the full benefits of the wilderness in such a short time. If possible, people should take canoe trips of at least five or six days.’’
Need more convincing? See Olson and Canoe Country Outfitters at the show.
Grass River Lodge
Ike Enns — Canadian fishing lodge operator extraordinaire — enjoys seniority status at the Northwest Sportshow.
Now 70 years old, Enns has been exhibiting at the show since 1971.
“I learned the outfitting business while working for a well-known Canadian resort owner, Barney Lamb,’’ Enns said. “While I did, I was involved in an airplane accident and was laid up for a couple of years.
“After that, in 1983, I bought a lodge on Reed Lake [Manitoba] and renamed it Grass River Lodge,’’ Enns said. “My wife and I still have the lodge. Lake trout, northern pike, walleyes. We’ve got great fishing for all three.’’
Reed Lake is 14 miles long and 10 miles wide.
“It has more than 500 islands and great underwater structure,’’ Enns said. “That’s why it’s such a great fishing lake.’’
Enns lives with his wife, Liz, in Tulsa, Okla., in the winter. Together, they love everything about summer life in the Canadian bush.
Especially flying floatplanes.
“I’m a pilot, Liz is a pilot, my sun Curt is a pilot and his wife, Juanita, is also a pilot,’’ he said.
In addition to Grass River Lodge, located about 380 air miles northwest of Winnipeg, the Enns family also owns 24 outpost camps, as well as Tukto Lodge in the Northwest Territories and Kississing Lake Lodge in Manitoba.
They also own and operate the largest fly-out business in Winnipeg and do most of the flying for other northern Manitoba fishing camps.
“I like to fish, I always have, but I don’t get as many chances now because the tourism business isn’t just about fishing, it’s about service,’’ Enns said. “Many of our customers are from Minnesota, but we have clients come from all over the world, and the last thing you want to do when they come as far as they do to see us is disappoint them.’’
Success in the Canadian fishing-lodge business, Enns said, is “one-third great facilities, one-third great fishing and one-third great service.’’
“That’s what we stress in our business, and what we will stress at our booths at the Northwest Sportshow,’’ Enns said.