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Countdown to conference: Why making it to McAllen is worth it

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BY MARTY MALIN
I moved from the Texas hill country to South Texas 20 years ago because of a business opportunity. I must confess, the thought of trading bluebonnets in the spring for the desert and year-round prickly pear cactus was not that appealing at first. Then it rained. Overnight the desert bloomed and a whole new ecosystem appeared to explore. I never tire of that task.
Now that you’ve decided to attend this year’s conference, it’s time to start thinking about the adventures that await.
McAllen, Texas, and the entire Rio Grande Valley of Texas are rich with story ideas and photography opportunities. For those of who plan to take advantage of the pre- and post-conference trip opportunities, bring a backpack because you will not want to miss any action going back to camp for lunch.
Pre- and post-conference trips and opportunities continue to develop so make sure you visit https://owaa.org/2014conference/pre-post-conference-trips/ for the most up-to-date listings of what is offered.
Recently fellow member Susan Ebert informed me that Rios of Mercedes Boot Company has offered a tour of their boot factory in Mercedes, Texas, a 30 minute drive from the convention center. This company has been making handcrafted boots since 1853 and both the general manager, Michael Dvorak, and the owner, Pat Moody, are avid hunters.
I am still, as of the time this magazine goes to press, working on finding a ranch with feral hog hunting opportunities for those who expressed an interest — so stay tuned.
John Martin with Images for Conservation Fund offered three bird -watching and wildlife photography excursions. Martin will teach you about a private land owner who nets more than $66,000 a year from photographers who visit his 300-acre ranch.
State wildlife and agriculture agencies throughout the country are constantly looking for ways to get youngsters back to nature and if a private landowner or state park can generate revenue by building a few blinds that provide photography opportunities it’s a win-win-win situation. (And maybe a story idea)?
OWAA member Jim Foster recently returned to his old stomping grounds, the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Foster informs me that he secured the services of two more South Padre Island fishing guides and a couple of bed and breakfast stops for weary OWAA travelers. Again, be sure to check the conference website for more information https://owaa.org/2014conference/pre-post-conference-trips/.
I realize there are a few of you who are undecided about attending this year’s conference. I am guessing your decision has to do with finances. I know because I’ve been there. There was one conference when I cut expenses by staying at a campsite in a nearby state park. At the Niagara Falls conference I stayed at a trailer park. On two occasions I shared a room with another member. Back when gasoline was under two bucks a gallon I drove half way across the country to attend conferences. I remember in Spokane, Wash., when two members bunked out in the back of a pick-up camper in the host hotel parking lot.
It would be impossible for me to put a price on the things I have learned, the sights I have seen, and the people I have met and networked with as a result of conference attendance over the years. Who knows? This year I might meet the next up-and-coming Gene Hill, Grits Gresham, Homer Circle, Wally Tabor, Johnnie Morris or Fred Bear. The point I am trying to make is that what you gain by attending conferences will offer you rewards long after any financial liabilities are forgotten. The outdoor communication business is like any other business and you cannot be successful trying to sell from an empty wagon.
For all of you seasoned conference attendees, you know the drill. Find a green ribbon or two and make them feel at home.
See y’all in Texas. ♦
— A former OWAA board member and president and an award-winning television producer, writer and photographer, Marty Malin is local chair of the 2014 OWAA conference that will take place May 23-25 in McAllen, Texas. Contact him at mmalin@stx.rr.com or at 956-717-1377
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