On the way up to DC I spotted a huge Gander Mountain store on the left side of the road somewhere near Richmond, Virginia. We made a mental note to stop on the way back down just to see what is was like. I?ve always heard of Gander Mountain and have seen the magazines, but have never seen an actual ?brick and mortar? store like this. It seemed relatively new.
The store is huge and sits right off of interstate 85. There?s no way to miss it if you?re ever up that way. We did learn some valuable information about Gander Mountain though. Garth asked the guy why there were no Gander Mountains in South Carolina and he told us that the organization is having trouble setting up stores in South Carolina and Georgia due to some tax issues. He didn?t elaborate on the matter, but we told him that we?d love to have them anywhere around the state if possible. According to the greeter, the closest store to South Carolina, well at least Pageland, is located in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The store was really nice, clean, and big. For the most part it was really similar to a BassPro, but they did have some different name brands and different gear around. They also had a lot of flat screens around the store which I thought was neat.
As we were walking and videoing around the store the clerks and workers were looking at us kind of oddly?imagine that! As we got near one specific section we met Jamal Stanton who is a worker in the store and also a member of several pro-staffs. Jamal said he?s a big turkey and deer hunter and since he was standing beside a Thermacell display, he gave us a Thermacell testimony. See Jamal?s endorsement below.
We continued around the store and just looked at the displays and products. It was a really neat store. I did take the opportunity to buy a diaphragm call so I could practice in the car on the way back down the road which made Garth very happy! And if you listen to the sounds I making, then you can see why I need practice!
Garth did attempt to insert some comedic value in the video tour of Gander Mountain so be ready for it in the below video. Also, sorry to spin the camera so fast on the one shot. I got dizzy watching it myself. Another area for me to tighten up in! I'll get better.
So I don?t know if you?ll ever be around Richmond, Virginia or Fayetteville, North Carolina, but if you are, it?s worth your time to give Gander Mountain a stop!
With anything that you put a lot of time into, I think it?s important to stop every now and then and look at the big picture to see where we?re going and where we?ve been. So at the 1 year mark, I think it?s a good time to look at the progression of the site.
I?d like to say thanks to the site visitors, registered members, the WeHuntSC.com team, and our sponsors. We couldn?t do it without all these groups coming together. It?s neat to meet hunters across the state and beyond and to discuss hunting via the blog, message board, pic/video pags, etc. I?m glad that we are able to host an environment that facilitates sharing of information for hunters in South Carolina. We also enjoy delivering the prizes to the competition winners. It?s neat to see the winners get their prizes, especially the kids. The kids really eat it up and make a lot of the work worthwhile.
When we first started the site, I really wasn?t sure what to expect and didn?t know how it would go over with everyone. Since then there has been a lot of enthusiasm, excitement, and synergy around the site. I?m glad everyone was upbeat about it or I probably wouldn?t have continued to make edits and update the site. Throughout the year, I?ve learned a lot about this platform (the web application that our site runs on) simply from running this site. So, just as I enjoy seeing what?s going on around the state, I also enjoy figuring more out about web design and learning the ins and outs of the framework. I?ve got some more functionality that I?m trying to dream up and add to the site, but there just aren?t enough hours in the day for me to get it all done, but hopefully I will be able to make it happen at some point in the future. So it?s a constant learning process for me?and I enjoy the challenge.
As far as the site goes, in less than a year we?ve noticed considerable growth in interest from sponsors. Hunters are a tough group to reach and I think this is why sponsors are open to working with us in hopes of reaching you all! So the more you come, the better the sponsors will be, and the more prizes you?ll be able to win! We?re starting to look at some duck hunting competitions and will be adding some new bloggers soon. Hopefully we?ll continue to reach out to hunters from all ends of the hunting spectrum and be able to host more competitions. All we need is a couple sponsors and we?ll put a competition together. So if you?re reading this and want some exposure for any kind of product or service you have, just let us know. From the standpoint of metrics, we?ve been gradually rising in hits. Over the course of a year (Sept 9, 09 ? Sep 9, 10) we?ve observed the following data:
I anticipate that the hits will go up some here as deer hunting season approaches especially with the competition prizes being very nice this year! The images below demonstrate the hits from SC, NC, & the US. We only lack 2 more states before we have had a visit from every state.
So thanks again to everyone who has been part of the site whether you?re on the WeHuntSC.com team or are a registered member of the site, or simply someone who comes and reads, but never comments. We?re going to keep pushing and try to find ways to make the site better in 2010 ? 2011. (Send us your suggestions if you have any and I?ll get with my web buddies and see if we can code something up)
And don?t forget? if you?re entering a competition READ THE RULES and PUT THE DATE IN THE PICTURE!
Have you ever heard about Carolina Adventure World? If you haven?t, then you?re missing out?especially if you?re into ATV?s, dirt bikes, or any type of off-roading. I had previously heard of how awesome Carolina Adventure World was from some of my friends, but had never actually been to the facility. I was finally able to check it out and the place truly is awesome! After visiting the site, I now understand why my friends raved so much about it.
Carolina Adventure World is located in Winnsboro, SC so no matter where you may be in the state, it?s not a bad drive. I headed down from Rock Hill and it was a really easy drive straight down 77. It only took me about 45 minutes to get there. You take one turn off the exit and 2 miles later the next turn is into the huge gates out in front of the park. When I saw the front gate, I could easily tell that the park was a nice size operation. You know how an entrance kind of signals the scale of the development that you?re entering...it was the same way with this facility. The entrance had a big gate and 2 huge signs that can easily be seen from the road. If you?re on the right road, you don?t have to worry about missing the place because there?s no way you could ride by it with the entrance.
As we descended down the hill Jim took me to the storage and maintenance buildings where we picked up our ride for the day. While we were back there I saw a huge building where they keep a lot of their rental ATV?s, dirt bikes, helmets, shin guards, boots, and other gear. In case you?re interested, Carolina Adventure World rents Yamaha Rhino Side by Sides, Yamaha Grizzly ATVs and Honda Dirt Bikes. The building where they store their rides was a nice and clean facility.
Just next door the guys were working on a 4-wheeler that had something wrong with it. Jim mentioned to me that Carolina Adventure World offers assistance with repairs to any visitors that happen to have a problem with their ATV while they?re at the park and that CAW can also stow ATV?s should visitors desire to leave them there for a while. So, if you?d like, you can store your machines at CAW between visits and they can have it cleaned, gassed, and ready to ride and waiting on you! CAW has staff on hand that can also provide any repairs or service needed before you return to the park.
After talking with the guys at the shop for a minute we got our ride for the day, a really neat vehicle called a ?Razor?. We then headed back to the main entrance and to the Welcome Center. We stopped at the Welcome Center to check it out and it is first class. It was very clean and had anything you could possibly want if you were looking to ride, eat, or even shop for clothes! The Welcome Center serves multiple purposes to Carolina Adventure World visitors. The Welcome Center is where you get started at the park. You purchase your passes there, find information about the trails, buy anything from food, to coke, to wenches, goggles, vinyl stickers, t-shirts, to hats, and on and on. They also have large bathrooms in the back and a big kitchen. The Welcome Center has an open-aired wraparound porch feel too it where rocking chairs and ATV?s that can be rented are located.
Beside the Welcome Center is a shower room where you can go and get washed up after riding if you?d like. We weren?t riding too fast or for too long and I still got pretty muddy and was tempted to go in there, but didn?t! The wash room is definitely a good resource to have on location, but its primary use is for visitors who come to stay the whole weekend. Carolina Adventure World is RV & Camper friendly and encourages families and/or groups to come up and stay for multiple days. The park is structured so that RV?s and Campers both can have access and they provide electricity, water, and an on-site dumping station for those wishing to come and call the park home for a few days. I was pretty impressed with that. And if you don?t own an RV?Carolina Adventure World has RV Campers for rent that sleep up to eight people. If you?re interested in that, be sure to call early to make reservations as they book the RV?s early for weekends.
Across from the Welcome center is a huge parking lot where visitors park and unload their ATV?s and dirt-bikes. If you?re like me and are not good at driving a trailer you don?t have to worry because the parking lot is plenty big enough and makes it?s easy to make wide turns. The Welcome Center is also just up the hill from the main mud bog.
The mud bog is just past the Welcome Center to the left and appears to be the location of where a lot of fun takes place. Though, Jim mentioned to me that most ATVs that get in the mud bog are equipped with snorkels and gear ready to be submerged beneath the water. The mud bog has a small section of bleachers beside it and is oval-shaped with an island of land in the middle of it. The island has some lights on it so I assume you can ride through the mud at night there as well. Beside that mud bog is another mud bog on a lower level that is similar except it doesn?t have an island of land in the middle. The first mud bog leads to the next mud bog in a stair-step-like manner with regards to the lay of the land. Beside the mud bogs is the much needed wash-off area. It?s kind of like a car-wash, but for ATV?s. The area has pressurized water hoses that can give you the necessary PSI to get the mud off.
After passing all this we continued down to the dirt-drag-strip which was really neat as well. The strip is fit with the digital clock that shows accurate times and the starting line had starter lights too. We pulled right up to the track and gave it a whirl. Jim noted that the track was a little muddy due to all the recent rain, but that normally it?s pretty solid and you can get a better grip which gives more speed and better times. It?s very similar to a regular drag-strip, but is just on dirt and is smaller and shorter. I believe Jim said the track is around 300 feet long.
A mother and daughter riding through the park
After we checked that out we went riding a little further around the facility and started riding on the trails. Not too long after we were down a trail some huge bull dozers, backhoes and large machinery came into vision. Jim informed me that Carolina Adventure World crushes rock on site to help with the maintenance of the trails. They pack the rock on the trails where erosion occurs and sometimes use it to elevate trails when necessary. I was impressed with the level of commitment to the on-going maintenance of the facility.
Along the way of the miles and miles of trails we crossed a nice wooden bridge that ran over Big Wateree Creek which is like a small river. We also saw many mud holes that were primed and ready to be ridden through, and we scaled a lot of steep hills and slopes. You may think that SC is all flat, but I?m here to tell you that this place has some major hills and rugged terrain. You can literally find any kind of riding trail that you can imagine there. We rode all the way to the back and ended up at a really swampy looking pond. It was nice looking and when we rode up to it about 7 wood ducks flew off. I imagine that the duck hunters would love to have been in this swampy area.
After riding on a few of the trails and service roads some more, we headed back up to the front of the facility. By this time I had a good bit of mud on me and had taken 151 pictures and 52 videos and both cameras had mud on them as well. I was worried if the footage would make it out alive, but everything came out just fine.
Other bits of information that may be interesting to you is that Carolina Adventure World holds several competitions and events throughout the year. From mud bogging competitions, to events for hunters, and even organizational retreats and dinners, CAW is in the mix in a lot of ways.
Jim noted that Carolina Adventure World holds several Championship Mud Bog Races throughout the year. See www.ChampionshipMudRacing.com for more info on that. Along with hosting the championship races CAW has held the Brian Fisher Weekend Event several times, has rides where they?re open until midnight, bon fires, and even a poker run.
I would definitely recommend this place to anyone interested in 4-wheelers, ATV?s, dirt bikes, mud bogging, or off-roading. The scale of the operation is huge, there are tons of trails (2,500 acres to be exact), safety measures have been taken, they have on-site repairs and rentals, and everything you need is at the Welcome Center. If you?re into the outdoors and off-roading, then you won?t regret giving Carolina Adventure World a chance. While we were there we saw people from multiple states and some were there with their families enjoying the park. If you do go out and see the facility and ride, let me know what you think about it. I?m not aware of anything else like it in the area. Much like True Timber Camo, this place is a hidden gem right here in our own back yard.
Below is a video I made of the day at Carolina Adventure World
For more information you can stay tuned to CarolinaAdventureWorld.com for details of upcoming events. Should you want to be ?in the loop? all the time, CAW also sends out an E-Newsletter with details of upcoming events that you can register to receive. Still planned for the rest of this year is a Big Labor Day Weekend Ride, another Poker Run, the famous Red Neck Nationals and the year?s final Championship Mud Racings Event to determine the CMR?s End of Year $18,000 payouts! I didn?t know you could make that much money slinging mud! Maybe that can be my second career :)
About 3 years ago I heard about and eventually went and met Chris Melvin of Pin Oak Taxidermy. Pin Oak Taxidermy is located in the Great Falls, SC area and is not too far off I-77. I first met Chris when I was seeking out the person behind the “Camo Skulls” that you may have previously seen here and here. Chris does a really good job with the camo skulls and his taxidermy skills extend beyond the camo skulls.
When I originally visited Chris he was doing Taxidermy part time and his business has been growing such that he’s gone full time and now taxidermy is his livelihood. Chris has turned his hobby and passion into his daily work due to the success of his business. One thing that was unique that I vividly remember from my first visit to Chris’ was that he had a small buck that someone brought to him that they had picked up on the side of the road. Chris took the deer in and has been raising him and studying the buck as he grows to help him with his art and taxidermy. This time when I went back to visit the little button buck has turned into a very nice buck! Chris had increased the size of his pen and also has a few does there to keep “Moonshine” company. At this visit Moonshine was in full rut and was very active moving around. It was really neat to be that close to a very large buck. Chris noted that if anyone wants to come by and check out the buck to feel free to stop by.
Chris showed me some of the latest mounts he’s done and the line of work he’s got awaiting him. I interviewed Chris and we talked about his process and various other items. I’ll let the below video finish out the story.
Thanks again to Chris Melvin for having me stop by and giving me an update on his business and services. Pin Oak Taxidermy has also been a supportive sponsor of the competitions that we host here on WeHuntSC and we are greatly appreciative of Chris’ support. So if you want to go and pet a huge buck, get a camo skull or any other mount, and/or also pick up some new WeHuntSC.com stickers, check out Chris Melvin at Pin Oak Taxidermy.
I create sub-folders and number every blog entry that I write just to help keep things organized. With all the video, images, and text if you don?t keep it organized things can get hard to find. It just appeared to me that I had written 99 blog entries thus far. I periodically give site growth/metric updates and so figured I might as well give a site update since the 100th blog entry is here.
In football we always said "The big eye in the sky don't lie" which, while grammatically incorrect, still carried valuable meaning. This saying meant that we knew someone was filming practice or the game and that eventually we would all be sitting down with the coach and would watch the film to see what really happened on various plays. In the web world, the "Big eye in the sky" is the analytics program that runs in your site's background tracking your site's metrics. The "Big eye in the sky" always told the truth about your performance on the field and so do the metrics denote the true success of your site.
With that said, I feel we?ve made considerable progress with the growth of the site. As deer season is approaching, the numbers are already starting to climb. As many of you know, we started this site last September just for fun and have essentially done minimal marketing. It?s mostly been word of mouth, some bumper stickers, and a couple of T-Shirts. Considering the low-budget marketing, I think the growth of the site is pretty impressive?at least from a web developer?s standpoint. To have over 100,000 page views within just less than a year is a good sign and is definitely more than I initially anticipated.
So here?s the metric breakdown and some other info?
Metrics and Info (from Sept ?09 ? Aug ?10)
At the time of this 100th blog entry we are one month short of being up one full year and have had:
I mentioned the numbers have started to climb as we approach deer season?here?s an image extracted from the metrics demonstrating what I mean.
The Top 10 cities in SC that visited the site were as follows:
* I will also add that for about a month the link to our site went semi-viral in Finland due to this blog entry. So everyone from Chesterfield downward was outdone by the Finns! Hyvva Suomi!
Searching for WeHuntSC.com via Keywords
The YouTube Channel
In sum, I?ve written 100 blogs (with this entry being the 100th) and I hope you have enjoyed at least some of them. It?s neat that we cross the 100,000 page views at a time close to the 100th blog, though I don?t think they are exactly related to each other. We?ve come a long way since last September, but we?ve still got plenty of ground to cover. Though, keeping it in perspective? it?s all in fun! I?m interested to see what happens on the site this upcoming deer season with the images, competitions, videos, and ?yes? with the analytics!
If you read these blogs then you know that we frequently monitor the site traffic to see what is going on with the metrics and to monitor our growth. We try to give periodic reports of site metrics to let readers and site visitors see who else is checking things out in South Carolina.
Turkey season did show growth in hits and we?re happy about that. From April 1 ? April 30th, in South Carolina, we had 987 visits from 60 different cities. The image below will give you a feel for the spread of hits that we received from South Carolinians.
See the detailed South Carolina report here.
On a national level we received 1,480 visits via 33 states, which is pretty good for just one month. It seems that others around the country are interested in what?s going on with the hunters of South Carolina!
The image below will give you a feel for the spread of hits we received from the national audience.
See the detailed national report here.
I also looked at the metrics from when we started back last September until now and we?ve had 10,395 visits and 77,568 page views with users spending an average of 6:53 seconds on the site. I?d say that?s a pretty good start for not even being up a year yet. So thanks to everyone who visits the site and contributes videos, photos, forum posts, blog responses, competition submissions, etc. The more traffic we receive, the better the competition prizes will be in the future.
And we keep pushing.
After I graduated college I went and played football in Finland. Yes, they do have football in Finland and yes it was very cold. To read more about my time in Finland simply go to www.ClintPatterson.net and hover of the Finland link and you can find all the info there. Anyway, I stay in touch with a lot of the Finnish guys from the team and we talk about the glory days and all that, but every now and then one of them will travel over to visit. Well Kim Gronlund traveled over to visit several of his friends in different states and he stopped in SC for a weekend to visit me.