Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 2016 SDADA Column

Virtually every dealer, manager or salesperson I know has been put in the position of having to
explain to a customer that one vehicle, with the same MSRP as the identical vehicle sitting next to it, costs $4,000-5,000 more than the other one. Or they have sold vehicles at a significant loss at the beginning of the month in an effort to hit an objective that will allow them to perhaps(!) break even on vehicles they sell at the end of the month.

Manufacturers do not understand the disruption, confusion and malaise they cause with such ridiculous incentive(?) programs. They do permanent damage to their brand, customer-dealer relations and dealer-manufacturer relations.

The NADA Board of Directors had an extended discussion about this topic at our most recent meeting. The frustration, anger and distrust came quickly to the surface as we talked. There was a wide variety of ideas to deal with it but there was not any consensus. Of course, our anti-trust attorney kept the discussion on track and us out of trouble!

The topic is on the agenda for the next board meeting but I'm not confident that NADA is in a great position to really do anything significant (other than have the discussion with the manufacturers) about this issue.

Like most states, South Dakota has a law on the books that specifically deals with this topic (my emphasis added):

32-6B-57.   Sale by franchisor to franchisee at lower price than that charged to other franchisee prohibited--Exceptions--Violation as misdemeanor--Damages. It shall be unlawful for a franchisor to offer to sell or to sell any new vehicle to any franchisee at a lower actual price therefore than the actual price charged to any other franchisee for the same model vehicle similarly equipped or to utilize any device including, but not limited to, sales promotion plans or programs which result in such lesser actual price; provided, however, the provisions of this section shall not apply to sales to a franchisee for resale to any unit of government, federal, state, or local. Provided, further, the provisions of this section shall not apply to sales to a franchisee of any vehicle ultimately sold, donated, or used by said franchisee in a driver's education program. Provided, further, that the provisions of this section shall not apply so long as the franchisor offers to sell or sells new vehicles to all franchisees at the same price. Each and every person who violates this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and each and every person violating this section shall be liable thereby for all damages caused by such violation.

What has been done in enforcement of this law? Why do we have a law if we don't enforce it? Who's job is it to enforce this law?

These are all questions that have been discussed at many SDADA board meetings. Usually the discussion has been tempered by concern about retribution by the manufacturer in some other area - warranty, advertising, incentives, etc. This is of particular concern to those dealers who are closer to the borders of our state and would be disaffected if dealers in other states would gain a competitive advantage.

What if a block of states would decide to enforce their laws? Could we affect change with manufacturers working together?

I don't know the answer to these questions but I do know that this issue is not going away any time soon. We will have to address it or deal with it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

South Dakota Speed Goats

After several years of threatening an antelope hunt, and a couple years of applying for tags, Alex and I finally got tags for a 2016 South Dakota antelope hunt. We had applied for Butte County tags because the number of tags was great and we could stay in our cabin.

Butte County borders Wyoming on the west and sits just north of the Black Hills. The Belle Fourche River winds through the middle of the county. There is some irrigated hay and corn along the river but it is almost completely pasture land when you get away from the river. Cattle (mostly black angus) outnumber humans 5 to 1 in Butte County (50,000 to 10,000).

Since neither of us had ever hunted antelope before, the research began shortly after notification that we had gotten tags. Butte County had two antelope units and I found that there was plenty of public land and walk in access for us to hunt in the unit for which we had tags.

We couldn't hunt the opening weekend because I planned to attend the 2016 Ryder Cup in the Twin Cities. So we made plans for the second weekend of the season. We drove out to the hills on Thursday evening after work and got in late Thursday night.

On Friday morning, we took off early for southern Butte County. We were a 45-minute drive from our destination. Armed with GPS and Google maps on the iPad, we were set. Our entire weekend hunt would be in the shadow of Bear Butte.

Bear Butte could be seen throughout our hunt.
We found some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land that looked good to us and parked the truck. We loaded up our gear and walked about 2 1/2 miles and sat on hills looking out over the flat area adjacent to the Belle Fourche river. We would sit for a half an hour and then move on to another hill.We saw nothing. So about 10 AM we headed back to the truck to find a new area to hunt.

As we arrived at the truck, I noticed a group of goats that were laying on the side of the hill about 225-250 yards from us. They have not seen us because the truck shielded us from them.

We could see one nice buck in a group of 17 antelope. We decided to go back across and below the road and make our way closer to them. Our approach would be hidden by the road.

We got our first taste of how good the antelope's vision is when they saw us before we got up to the road. Despite a few waves of the white handkerchief and blast on the antelope call, which did pique their interest, we were not able to keep the buck around long enough to get a decent shot.

We loaded up the truck and set off in the same direction that the goats had gone. Over the next two hours, we saw somewhere between 150 and 200 pronghorns. We couldn't shoot at any of them as they were on the run, a long way out or on private land. But it was a thrill to see so many.

While we were driving, a group came running toward us and eventually crossed the road just in front of us. It was amazing to watch. They are so fast and agile. I was struck by how they could plant and change directions or accelerate so swiftly. When you see them running up close, you can see the raw power in their back legs.

We found some pronghorns on a piece of walk in land. They were a long way out but we had been riding for awhile and both of us were ready for a walk. Alex brought his gun and I brought our decoy and binoculars. I held the life sized decoy in front of us and Alex walked behind me as we walked straight toward the antelope. We got to within 250 yards when they saw us. No hanky waving or antelope calling was going to keep these goats from fleeing and we watched as they ran over the next mound some 500 yards away.

After a trip into Newell for some snacks, we decided to take a tour of northern and eastern Butte County. The tour actually took us into Meade County for a short while. Just after we came back into Butte County, we saw a nice pronghorn by himself in a walk-in area. He was a good 200 yards from us and by the time Alex got out of the truck, loaded his gun and shot, he was 250 yards out.

Alex's first shot was just high. The confused goat ran in a circle and gave Alex a second chance but, by then, he was flustered and missed again. He had rushed his first shot and was pissed at himself for missing. We watched as the buck streaked off to catch the herd running off into the distance.

That gave us something to talk about for the next hour. What should we have done differently? Where did he come from? Why didn't we see him sooner?

Things slowed down toward mid-afternoon. We spent the last couple hours of the day sitting over a water hole with the decoy to no avail. We made our way back to the cabin about sunset.

We recalled the day's adventures over steaks and Manhattans. Though we didn't bag a goat, we felt like we had a much better plan for Saturday morning. We had seen the habitat, felt like we knew where the antelope were and understood the importance of using the topography.

Antelope tend to stay out in the open where they can use their best defense, their eyes, to help them detect oncoming danger. They can run up to 70 mph so it doesn't take them long to "get outta Dodge" once they see something they don't like. We now knew that we had to use the land in our favor. Washouts, small mounds and low areas were our best bet when trying to get close.

We thought we would see more hunters on Saturday. We did not recall seeing any hunters on Friday. With that in mind, we decided to go as far away from the towns as we could first thing in the morning. That took us to southeast Butte County.

Our wakeup call came a little later on Saturday than Friday. Our deer hunting experience caused us to get going at "o'dark thirty" on Friday and a little Google research told us that we could sleep another hour without threat to the success of our hunt.

About 9:30 Saturday morning, on a one square mile of BLM land, we drove up on a pair of pronghorns about 400 yards out. Using the topography in our favor, we continued up the road another 100 yards to where the view of the goats was obstructed by a mound. If we can't see them, they can't see us!

Our plan was to walk, creep and crawl to the top of the mound for a shot. We took minimal gear - gun, binoculars and a trigger stick and started our sneak.

The plan worked to perfection until the pronghorns saw us as we were setting up for a shot. I pulled out a white bandanna and flashed it. The buck zeroed in on that and he started walking straight toward us. That was a problem because Alex was now ready to shoot but did not want to shoot into his chest. We also saw that there was a third set of eyes spying us too as there was a second doe.

As he continued to slowly walk toward us, he finally turned toward the other two, to his right, our left. Alex was ready for him and as soon as the goat stopped, Alex let him have it. Immediately we could hear the slug make impact and he tipped over. Alex bagged a pronghorn!

After walking the 170 yards to the dead goat and examining his 11" antlers, we were all hive fives and smiles as we walked (Alex floated) back to the truck to get our gear to field dress him. Minutes later we were working away with our Wyoming knife and Gerber blade.

We were struck by the sweet, musky scent and the reddish hair. He was very fat around the middle and built very different than a deer. Our goal was to get the hide off the meat so it could start to cool as fast as possible. It was a perfectly cool morning (mid-forties) for that.

Soon we were back on the hunt for my critter. After driving some familiar roads and seeing a buck that was alone and way too far away, I suggested that we walk a half mile to a hill that would give us a great view of an area where we had seen several groups on Friday. It was BLM land.

We split up and took different sides of the hill. I saw a single antelope about 800 yards away and a small group about the same distance in a different direction.

I got a text from Alex that he was on the other side and saw a group about 400 yards from him.  We had been amazed at how difficult it was to judge distances in the wide open range with nothing out there for perspective. I was curious to see just how far that "400 yards" really was.

I walked over to his position and sat with him. After a few attempts with the rangefinder, I turned to the GPS to determine they were about 700 yards away. But they were our best bet for the moment so we decided to watch them for awhile. They were bedded down soaking up the sun.

Eventually, our patience was rewarded. They got up and started feeding toward us slowly - very slowly! Then they fed back away from us for awhile. We determined that there was a buck in the group of four so we would watch a bit longer.

Soon the buck stared walking closer and to our right. Even though they were still 500 yards out, we needed a plan. I decided to go back behind the hill where we were sitting and head to our right and take a position in hopes he would continue on his current path.

When I did that, they saw me and they kept their attention focused on Alex as they continued on the same path. I moved about 225-250 yards further to our right and took a position on the side of a small mound where they could not see me. I started ranging different objects so I'd have some idea how close they were.

The buck came into sight followed by the three does. They had quit quartering toward me and were now just walking from left to right. I had left the trigger stick by Alex so I set up with my rifle on my knee and waited.

The buck stopped and I decided that there would not be a better opportunity. I pulled the trigger and I thought I heard the bullet hit him but he was unaffected. I had seen dirt fly behind him - maybe I was high? He turned back to the direction from which he'd come and ran about 25-30 yards while I chambered another shell. I prepared for another shot.

I got another opportunity when he stopped and it was the same thing - I shot, thought I heard the bullet hit, saw dirt fly and thought I'd missed again.

He took off running now at top speed - for about 50 yards. Then he stopped and his butt spun around and he fell to the earth - dead. I pumped my first then grabbed the binoculars to take a look. Could my eyes be deceiving me? He was well over 375 yards from me now - a pile of antelope.

I grabbed my expended brass and got up to walk over to the dead antelope. As I came off the hill and onto the flat, I looked back to where I thought Alex was sitting. He was standing and raised both hands over his head acknowledging the kill.

We met at the goat and recounted each other's versions of what happened. Then we each grabbed one of the 9" horns and started walking to the south. The road was about 400 yards away. We stopped to take a couple of breaks along the way.

Once there, I retrieved the truck and our gear and we dressed the antelope. Then we loaded it all back into the truck and set off for the cabin.

Judy was at the cabin when we arrived. After unloading and organizing our gear, we had a nice dinner and watched some playoff baseball and college football. Alex and I had done our share of walking the past two days and I was exhausted. I fell asleep in the chair and awoke only to go to bed.

Sunday morning, I began the process of butchering the two antelope. I had brought everything needed including my vacuum sealer. I was prepared because Judy and I were flying out of Rapid City for a meeting later that afternoon. I had a limited window of time in which to get these antelope into freezer form.

Ready for the deep freeze!
Three hours later, about 90 pounds of pronghorn meat was vacuum sealed and ready for Alex to drop off in our deep freeze on his way back to Sioux Falls. Later, some of it would be rendered into burger, summer sausage and meat sticks. Some was chunked for chislic and chili. The tenderloins and back straps were preserved intact.

Our first antelope was successful, not because we bagged two goats and had a freezer full of antelope meat. That was bonus. It was successful because we got some father/son time doing something we enjoy in a beautiful part of our state. Our trophy was the experience! I'm already looking forward to the 2017 hunt!