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"If I won the lottery ... "

1/7/2010

DALLAS — How many times have you wiped the drool off a new car or lusted after an exotic vacation knowing all too well that the prices associated with each were way beyond your means?

"If I won the lottery," you probably said to yourself — or others — meaning that you'd for sure be the rightful owner of said luxury the moment that your ship (read: winning Powerball numbers) come in.

Few places can boast as many utterances of "If I won the lottery" than the 2010 Dallas Safari Club (DSC) convention, which kicked off the first of its four-day run at the Dallas Convention Center.

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With an expo hall filled to the brim with the best of the best in terms of big-game hunts, firearms, jewelry and accoutrements common to the most discerning — and well-heeled — outdoors enthusiast, the convention is a virtual Candy Land for those with dreams of stalking the contentious cape buffalo through the long grass or marching up mountains for a Marco Polo sheep.

While Texas has no shortage of deep-pocketed men and women who love to travel the world in search of record-book game and taking those animals with the finest custom sporting arms, many of us will never know such days. But it doesn't cost a thing to dream; and besides, who knows what might happen if you keep plopping down a dollar a week at the Quik-E-Mart for a shot at unconscionable wealth?

So instead of bemoaning a sluggish economy, worrying about mortgage payments and the kids' college funds, let's play "What If."

What if you won the lottery? How would you really spend the money? And if you as serious about jumping head long into the realm of serious big-game hunting as you say, how far would that money go?

Here are some of the best — and most high-end — luxuries that the 2010 DSC convention has on showcase this week. What would you like to buy first?

First stop: Firearm

No safari hunter worth his or her salt would dream of taking to the Dark Continent without the finest custom safari rifle.

Holland & Holland, a legendary name in safari-grade rifles and shotguns, has been the firearm of choice for discriminating hunters since 1835. While a new, custom-fitted double gun can run up to $250,000 (depending on the design and features), one of the company's "seasoned" rifles would be a great place to start.

Chambered in .375 H&H Magnum, ideal for big cats and medium-sized dangerous game, this Royal double gun has a hand-cut 24-inch barrel; immaculate, hand-cut deluxe Turkish walnut stock and foreend, as well as fixed and flip-up moon protector sights.

The traditional Royal scrollwork tops off the gun, produced in 1961, which takes approximately three years to produce. The London-based company averages only about 70 guns a year (both shotguns, double gun and bolt-action rifles).

But don't confuse this ultimate blend of form and function as a mere museum piece: H&H Operations Manager David Cruz says that more than 90 percent of the company's guns actually wind up in the field.

"It's like buying a Rolls Royce: you don't buy that kind of car just to park it. You could drive any car but you want to drive the car," Cruz said. "It's the same with a Holland & Holland: you can shoot any gun, but when you have one of ours, it's because you want to shoot thegun."

Price Tag:
$105,000

African Safari
You've got your dream-come-true safari rifle. It's time to take a hunt. If when in Rome, do as the Romans do, then at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, you'd better book a safari — and make it a big one.

Fifty days in Botswana should be enough to stock your trophy room for the time being. In that amount of time Rann Safaris (rannsafaris.com) can take you on a 14-day elephant hunt, 14-day leopard hunt, and 10-day hunts for cape buffalo as well as plains game (these hunts are usually sold separately, but if you've got lottery money then surely they could find a way for you to do them back-to-back). You could add a lion to your list, too, but you'd better save something for the return trip.

Price Tag: $151,593 plus licenses, additional trophy fees, dipping and packing of trophies, gratuities, air charter, firearms licenses, ammunition, round-trip airfare and taxidermy

Speaking of taxidermy ...
Remember all the animals you took on your 50-day safari? Here's what it's going to cost to have mounts done by master taxidermists at Taxidermy Africa (taxidermyafrica.com):

Elephant — Priced determined by size and mount

Cape Buffalo — $1,353 (shoulder mount)

Leopard — $3,250 (full-size mount)

Duiker — $580 (full-size mount)

Eland — $1,276 (shoulder mount)

Gemsbok — $858 (shoulder mount)

Impala — $583 (shoulder mount)

Hartebeest — $788 (shoulder mount)

Kudu — $980 (shoulder mount)

Ostrich — $3,960 (full-size mount)

Springbok — $483 (shoulder mount)

Steinbok — $504 (shoulder mount)

Warthog — $2,310 (full-size mount)

Wildebeest — $895 (shoulder mount)

Zebra — $350 (rug)

Total price: $18,170, plus elephant mount and shipping

Western big game
There are a few more trophies you'll need in your trophy room to round out your collection, lest you look one-dimensional in your hunting pursuits.

Colby Gines' Wilderness Adventures (cgwildernessadventures.com) has a late-season elk hunt in Wyoming's coveted Unit 121 for big bull elk. Though it can be hard to draw a tag in this area, hunters that do will be spotting and stalking bachelor groups of monster bulls. In 2009, Gines' clients went 4-for-4 on this hunt on some very nice bulls.

Price Tag: $4,500 (hunt) plus $1,123 (license) equals $5,623, not counting transportation to and from Wyoming, gratuities, taxidermy.

Buck fever
Don't forget to shoot the whitetail of your dreams before you dump all of your money in the stock market or give it all away to relatives.

Right now, Kansas is producing some of the best opportunities for hunters to hang some serious bucks on their walls. Rim Rock Ranch (huntrimrockranch.com) has five-day, free-range whitetail hunts during rifle season (though your new .375 H&H Magnum might be too much gun for a whitetail).

Their clients have taken some monster bucks in past years and there's no indication that this trend is slowing down.

Price Tag: $5,000 (hunt) plus $400 (license) equals $5,400, not including transportation to and from Kansas, gratuities, taxidermy.

Home, sweet home
Either you retired upon winning the lottery or were summarily dismissed for missing so many days in Africa, Wyoming and Kansas. But once you saw the whitetails in Kansas, you decided to call the Sunflower State your new home. You'll need a place to enjoy your rocking chair as well as place to hang all of your mounts.

Brown Realty Company (brownrealtyco.com) has a hidden gem of a property in Kansas near the town of Coldwater. It's 480 acres that they call a "mini Serengeti" full of big whitetails, plenty of upland birds to chase, great grass and CRP payments (like you need the money. The biggest surprise is the cost: $795 per acre.

Price Tag: $381,600

Dignified decor

Perhaps the most interesting artwork found at the DSC convention might just also be the most expensive, but you'll never have to worry about seeing it someone else's house.

Lewis Drake and Associates has an original work by German artist Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert called "Der Menschenfresser" ("The Man Eater"). The painting depicts a grizzly scene the artist witnessed in the early 1900s while in Africa.

A lion had was in the middle of eating a slain mail carrier when Kuhnert happened upon the scene. The scene made an impact on the painter, so much so that he put his memory on canvas. It's a big painting, so your living room in your new house needs some big walls (and appropriate lighting).

Price Tag: $475,000

Something shiny

If you think you're going to spend money all over the world and not bestow something on your sweetheart, you've got another think coming.

For the lady in your life, Lilly Porter (lillyporter.com) has custom-made jewelry, like the Signature Monogram Pendant (shown), which features 3.2 carats of diamonds in an artful depiction of your loved one's initials. The company has made them as big as 6 carats and can downsize to smaller models for the budget shopper.

"This was a piece I designed just for myself," said Lilly Porter owner Bess Viau. "I wore it to the carwash one night and a woman came up to me telling me how much she loved it. I gave her my number and she called me to get one. Turns out she was the editor of a fashion magazine and I thought 'hmmm, maybe I'm on to something.'"

And ladies, if you're the hunter in the family and want to splurge on your man after hitting it rich, Lilly Porter is introducing its newest line of men's belt buckles depicting a large cape buffalo to go along with its other men's items.

Price Tag: $25,000 (pendant)

Total Spent: $1,167,386 plus other costs as indicated.

But it's money spent on things you always said you'd have if you ever won the lottery!