The Grand Slam Club/Ovis MIssion and History

The Grand Slam Club
Founded by Bob Housholder, 1956

Grand Slam Club/Ovis is a 501(C)(3) organization of hunter/conservationists dedicated to improving and perpetuating wild sheep and goat populations worldwide, as well as North American big game.
In March 2001, the Grand Slam Club and Ovis, Inc. merged into one organization and are now known as Grand Slam Club/Ovis. This organization is classified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization.


The purposes and objectives of Grand Slam Club/Ovis are to:


Our History


Grand Slam Club founder Bob Housholder

Many people in the hunting world have heard of the Grand Slam® and possibly the Grand Slam Club™. The fact is that in March 2001 the Grand Slam Club officially became known as Grand Slam Club/Ovis™. We will get to the name change a little later, but first we will look at the history of the original Grand Slam Club.

There have been many misconceptions over the years concerning the Grand Slam Club. Most knowledgeable hunters would readily define the Grand Slam as being one each of the four different North American wild sheep, which of course are the Dall, Stone, bighorn, and desert bighorn. However, this would not be technically correct. One should also realize that all four sheep have to have been taken fair chase by an individual hunter and documented with Grand Slam Club/Ovis. A popular misconception has been to believe that those who have taken all four sheep automatically become members of some informal, almost mythical, fraternity, but such is not the case and never has been.

1956: BOB HOUSHOLDER AND THE GRAND SLAM CLUB


Outdoor Writer Jack O'Connor

In April 1948, TRUE magazine published an article by Grancel Fitz, titled "Grand Slam in Rams." No other known individual picked up on its significance until 1955.  Bob Housholder of Phoenix, Arizona, was the man who founded the Grand Slam Club. In 1955, he was guiding a sheep hunter, Bernard Briggs, and realized that the desert ram taken on that hunt would have completed a Grand Slam according to the Fitz article. Housholder became curious as to exactly how many hunters had accomplished this feat.

Being an outdoor writer himself, Housholder contacted several of his outdoor writer friends, and put out the word that he was looking for people who had taken the four rams as described by Fitz.  Before long, he had a list of 20 names. One of those writer friends, the late Jack O'Connor, was registered as Member #1 because he was the first to document his four sheep with the Grand Slam Club.

The Club was officially founded in February 1956, and was considered by many to be "the most prestigious big game hunting club in the country." The Grand Slam Club was also the forerunner of all the other sheep hunting organizations. A not-so-well-known fact is that the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), was originally the Midwest Chapter of the Grand Slam Club. Eventually the chapter changed its name and incorporated as the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS). Of course, FNAWS became the Wild Sheep Foundation with its name change in 2008.

1990: THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

 GSCO Executive Director Dennis Campbell  (seen here in 1982) took over the Grand Slam Club in early 1990.


In July 1992, the GSC publication was officIally
renamed GRAND SLAM.


GRAND SLAM. was published in color for the
first time in January 1994.

On September 16, 1989, Grand Slam Club founder Bob Housholder suffered a serious stroke. His condition would not permit him to carry on his work with the organization. In February 1990, 34 years to the month since its inception, the Club was turned over to Dennis Campbell, who was an outdoor writer/photographer, but more importantly a sheep hunter and conservationist.

The Grand Slam Club, under the direction of Campbell, was incorporated as a tax-exempt conservation organization, and in 1991 the U.S.Internal Revenue Service assigned it 501(c)(3) status. One of the main purposes and objectives of the Club is to be the only established documentation and records-keeping organization for legally taken Grand Slams of North American wild mountain sheep. The Club has fulfilled this purpose since way back in 1956, when Housholder began to gather those original 20 names. The Club, as of 2018, has documented more than 2,000 legally taken Grand Slams.

The Grand Slam Club got its first official publication when Bob Housholder produced what he termed a "bulletin" in July 1967. This one page quickly grew into a multi-page affair. Sheep hunters around the world hungrily devoured every word this interesting hunter/writer had to say about their beloved wild sheep. Of course, hearing about other sheep hunters and their exploits was a big part of the "Bulletin." Housholder's last "Bulletin" (#74) went out in July 1989, shortly before his stroke.

 Then, in March 1990, Grand Slam Club members received Bulletin #75, written by the new executive director, Dennis Campbell. Campbell stuck with the old format of straight typewritten text on legal-size sheets of paper for only three issues. For the first time ever, in Bulletin #78, Grand Slam Club members saw photographs and professionally typeset text. With issue #85, published in July 1992, the publication finally got an actual name: GRAND SLAM. Then, in January 1994, the publication progressed to color covers and photographs. The unique style that Housholder began, using an editorial format rather than individual articles, has been retained throughout all the changes that have taken place over the years.

Bob Housholder was still alive when photos were first seen in GRAND SLAM. Right there on the cover, as the very first photo ever, was Housholder himself. Even though Bob was not able to communicate well because of the stroke, his brother Bill reported that Bob was most pleased with the photos and the fact that the Club was continuing. Bob Housholder died in December 1993.

1997: INTERNATIONAL ADVENTURES


The first issue (Volume 1, Number 1) of OVIS
was published in the summer of 1997.

Now to explain why the organization Housholder founded is now known as Grand Slam Club/Ovis, or GSCO … Ovis canadensis canadensis (Rocky Mountain bighorn), Ovis canadensis nelsoni (desert bighorn), Ovis dalli stonei (Stone sheep), Ovis dalli dalli (Dall sheep) ... yes, these sheep comprise those necessary to qualify for the Grand Slam of North American Wild Sheep®. Well, what about Ovis ammon ammon (Altay argali), which is the largest wild sheep in the world, or Ovis ammon polii (Marco Polo), which probably is the most nostalgic and arguably the most beautiful world sheep?

Wild sheep are found worldwide, at least in the northern hemisphere. In 1996, executive director Dennis Campbell realized that the wild sheep of North America had been given a tremendous amount of attention by the many outdoor magazines published on the North American continent. However, the other wild sheep of the world had not been nearly so popularized by North America’s publications. Occasionally SCI’s SAFARI magazine would have an article about an argali or a urial, but for the most part, talk of the other wild sheep of the world received a minimum of attention. To Campbell and other world wild sheep hunters, this phenomenon was regrettable.
Therefore, Campbell conceived the idea of producing a publication similar to GRAND SLAM, but devoted to the other wild sheep of the world. Campbell felt that the publication just had to be called OVIS, because of the scientific name for all the wild sheep of the world, including those necessary for the Grand Slam. It took a lot of work and preparation to get this idea off the ground, but finally in the summer of 1997 the first issue of OVIS was published.

OVIS was so well received by the international sheep hunting community that an exciting thing happened before the second issue appeared. Many notes, letters and phone calls came in with accolades and requests for Campbell to expand on his idea. The Grand Slam Club had been so successful that Campbell realized this model should be duplicated (just as the magazine model had been used), so when the second issue of OVIS hit the mail in January 1998, a new organization had been born: Ovis, Inc.

 Ovis, Inc. was formed with Campbell as president of the corporation. He continued as executive director of the Grand Slam Club, but ran Ovis, Inc. concurrently (as he was not being paid anything as executive director of the Grand Slam Club anyway). OVIS the publication and Ovis, Inc. the organization grew by leaps and bounds. By late 2000, it became apparent to Campbell, the Grand Slam Club board of directors, and most of the membership that the two organizations should merge. In March 2001, the Grand Slam Club board voted unanimously for such a merger, and the organization became known as Grand Slam Club/Ovis, or GSCO.

2001: NOW IT'S GRAND SLAM CLUB / OVIS


International sheep hunter Dennis Campbell conceived the idea for the OVIS publication, which led to the formation of the organization Ovis, Inc

With the two organizations merged, and the membership rolls combined, changes took place with the two publications. Up to that point, OVIS had been published twice yearly and GRAND SLAM was published quarterly. Beginning in Spring 2001, both publications became quarterly and were issued together, bound within two different covers. GRAND SLAM and OVIS retained their identities as two separate publications.
In addition to documenting North American Grand Slams, GSCO continued the practice begun by Ovis, Inc. to recognize people who had accomplished the Ovis World Slam®. The Ovis World Slam requires the documentation of 12 different species/subspecies of the world’s wild mountain sheep.

At the same time as the merger of GSC and Ovis, Inc. to become GSCO, Campbell already had planned the addition of a Capra World Slam®.  He had realized for some time that most sheep hunters also hunted wild mountain goat species, most of which have the scientific name of Capra. It seemed only natural that a Capra World Slam should follow the same general guidelines as the Ovis World Slam. The Capra World Slam then was instituted when one registered 12 different species/subspecies of the world's wild goats. Up until that time, the Capra goats were not necessarily as important to mountain hunters. Many times they were only taken as additional trophies while on a sheep hunt. The Capra World Slam gave these great mountain animals the respect they had always deserved.

Many hunters do not stop after achieving the 12 sheep or goats required to document an Ovis World Slam or Capra World Slam. For those, GSCO has the additional designation of the Ovis World Slam Super 20, Super 30 and Super 40, requiring the documentation, of course, of 20, 30 or 40 species/subspecies of sheep. As for the Capra World Slam, there is also a Super 20, Super 30, and Super 40 for the registration of 20, 30 and 40 species/subspecies of Capra goats.

In 2005, an additional recognition was introduced by GSCO. It seemed only natural to do so for those who had completed a Grand Slam, an Ovis World Slam and a Capra World Slam. This combination of all three Slams is known, appropriately, as the Triple Slam™.

2004: A NEW DIRECTION FOR GSCO


The GSCO Office entrance after the 2007 expansion.

At the early 2004 GSCO board of directors meeting, a pivotal decision was made that was to have far-reaching effects. GSCO had only two people in its office, running all the business activities. Those were, of course, executive director Dennis Campbell, and Tim Hollis, who had been along since the changing of the guard in 1990. Tim Hollis was an employee, but Dennis Campbell was totally volunteer and received no compensation.

 Frankly, Campbell and Hollis were extremely overworked, as the organization had grown astronomically from a membership of around 400 to nearly 2000 by that point. Campbell realized that to continue under this load, there had to be more employees, but there were no financial means of supporting an expansion. Therefore, he presented two options to the board and was open to additional ways to remedy the dilemma in which GSCO had found itself.

 One of the two options was to go back to a simpler organization. This meant producing a far less extensive publication and having little to no involvement with conventions such as FNAWS or SCI. These had been the two major conventions where GSCO was attempting to grow its membership.

 The other option was to go into a growth and expansion mode. Campbell, along with some other volunteers, had done extensive research into the cost and involvement of beginning a GSCO convention. It was presented to have a modest convention in the East, and let that convention be the predominant fundraising vehicle for expansion of GSCO. This was no different than all chapters of both FNAWS and SCI; in fact, the Eastern and Minnesota/Wisconsin Chapters of FNAWS had expanded to conventions of their own earlier.

 The board looked at the situation and voted unanimously for GSCO to begin its own convention. Campbell had tendered his resignation as a board member of FNAWS, realizing that if the GSCO board made such a decision to have its own convention, there would be a conflict of interest … and if the board voted to get smaller, Campbell realized he could not continue on the FNAWS board, as it was taking precious time away from his other business responsibilities not related to GSCO. (Remember, he was not getting paid by GSCO.) You can see that resignation letter here.

 

2005: GSCO GOES INTO THE CONVENTION BUSINESS


The first ever GSCO convention
was held in 2005.


The 2017 convention crowd gives a well deserved
standing ovation during the wounded
veterans hunt program.

With the vote of the board in early 2004, Campbell, Hollis and two new employees, along with some very dedicated volunteers, went to work preparing for the first GSCO convention to be held in early 2005. The venue chosen was a beautiful facility, the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi.

 To say that the first GSCO convention was successful is really an understatement. Truthfully, it was wildly successful, which is extremely uncommon for international conventions. Every square inch of convention space was filled to the limit with exhibitors, and the banquets were packed. The auctions raised well over $500,000 to not only help GSCO stabilize financially but to make it possible to expand conservation efforts.

 It had already been decided that the GSCO convention would stay at the Beau Rivage for at least two years. Mother Nature decided to change those plans in a rather dramatic way. Hurricane Katrina all but obliterated the Gulf Coast, including the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, in late August 2005, and suddenly GSCO had to go on an emergency shopping trip to find a location for the convention that was to take place six months later.

 The search committee was very fortunate in simply moving further up the Mississippi River to Tunica, which was a relatively unknown location but had experienced extreme growth as a gambling town. GSCO signed a two-year contract with the Grand Hotel and Casino in Tunica. The facilities were not nearly as lavish as the Beau Rivage, but were sufficient and obviously GSCO had very few choices at the time.

 The 2006 and 2007 conventions in little Tunica, Mississippi, were also amazingly successful. GSCO experienced huge growth in all aspects of a hunting convention. It became apparent that if GSCO wanted to continue to grow, it had to “go west.”

 GSCO signed a contract with the Riviera in Las Vegas for 2008 and had a fantastic convention there … the largest and most successful to date. The next two years were spent at Bally’s, also in Las Vegas. The 2011 convention at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas was very successful as far as monies raised, but that hotel was far too expensive and had so many hidden costs that it created a big dilemma for GSCO.

 GSCO was very fortunate then to sign a contract for a much more convention-friendly city, Reno, Nevada, for 2012 through 2015. These years were great, as the Grand Sierra facility there was absolutely perfect for a convention the size GSCO had chosen to hold. The staff at the Grand Sierra and its facilities were as good as one could ever hope to have. Also in 2015, GSCO renamed what had formerly been its “Hunter and Outfitter Convention” to the more comprehensive “Slam Quest Convention.” (More about the Slam Quest name later.)

 However, the Grand Sierra went through several management changes during GSCO’s years there. By 2015, it became apparent that they could not continue with the Grand Sierra and the other venues in Reno were not conducive to a GSCO-sized convention.

 GSCO was very hesitant to move back to Las Vegas because of being burned in 2011 by the Paris facility. But with a lot of negotiations, the leadership was able to secure an amazing contract back at the Riviera again for 2016. This facility was old but had been remodeled, and was a perfect size. The leadership and staff were stable and easy to work with. GSCO signed a multi-year contract with them.

 However, before that 2016 convention could take place, GSCO found itself in almost the same circumstance as back in 2005, when the hurricane hit the Beau Rivage. The Riviera was purchased by the city of Las Vegas and closed later that year. This turned out to be extremely fortuitous for GSCO.

 The Westgate Hotel, just down the street from the Riviera, decided to honor the contracts of its now-closed rival. In fact, much of the Riviera management simply transferred to the Westgate. GSCO was able to not only get the same financial contract with the Westgate, but improved upon it. The Westgate is an upscale Las Vegas facility and much better than the Riviera in every way. It was “the place” for a GSCO convention, which has been held there each year since 2016. In fact, GSCO has signed with the Westgate through 2020. Maybe a hurricane will not hit Las Vegas and change those plans!

2005: THE DARK AGES BEGIN



It would be nice to ignore difficult parts of the GSCO history, but sadly, not all has been sunny and bright. The unanimous vote by the GSCO board in 2004 to begin a new direction was not welcomed by all. In the beginning, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) did not react too negatively. The fact that GSCO had been involved with its convention for several years did create something of a void, but since GSCO was having a convention in the East, there was no direct competition for exhibitors or attendees.

 Since GSCO had an appeal to not only North American sheep hunters, but international hunters and outfitters as well, this became a contentious matter. There was an old organization known as the International Sheep Hunters Association (ISHA), which had become defunct a few years before. FNAWS resurrected that group’s name to compete with GSCO as an international organization.

 This move by FNAWS might not have been a problem, but they began to overtly use GSCO’s trademarks in its business practices. GSCO’s attorneys sent cease and desist letters, but for all practical purposes they were ignored. By 2006, this trademark and copyright infringement had become so serious that GSCO sent a letter of intent to bring a lawsuit if it did not stop. That too was ignored, and in late 2006 GSCO did, in fact, file a suit.

 There were multiplied thousands of documents prepared and used for the lawsuit by both sides. Multiple attempts were made to resolve the suit, but seemingly personalities and emotions were running high and no resolutions were ever accepted – including mediation by disinterested parties.

 The lawsuit went to trial in January 2008. GSCO won every charge it had made against FNAWS and ISHA, as well as FNAWS and ISHA losing every charge they had made against GSCO. A 100% verdict in the favor of GSCO was reached on January 31, 2008. That jury verdict can be seen here.

 The judge in the case issued a final judgment and permanent injunction against FNAWS and ISHA on February 15, 2008. That document can be seen here.

 By a strange turn of events that had nothing to do with the lawsuit, but a conflict between the Alabama lawyers on the FNAWS/ISHA side, the original judge in the case recused herself and a new judge took over. FNAWS/ISHA decided to appeal the findings, and it was not until October 2010 that GSCO and FNAWS/ISHA reached a final settlement. A joint press release went out in early November, signed by both Dennis Campbell and FNAWS (which had changed its name during the interim to Wild Sheep Foundation, or WSF) president and CEO Gray Thornton, informing each membership that a settlement had been reached. You can see that press release here.

 On November 9, 2010, GSCO executive director Dennis Campbell sent a letter to all GSCO members. In that letter, he went into much more detail about the settlement. That letter can be seen here.

 It should be stated that the final judgment and permanent injunction in the case, and the settlement provisions, remain in place to date and permanently. With that, we end this chapter of GSCO’s “dark ages” between 2004 and 2010.

 

2009: A NEW SLAM, AND IT’S SUPER


The Super Slam milestone was recognized for the
first time at the 2011 GSCO convention.

GSCO executive director Dennis Campbell devised a grouping of animals and also a new Slam for North American big game in the early 2000s. He actually presented that proposal and idea to a group of trusted advisors, who said they did not believe it was the time for GSCO to launch a new Slam. Campbell listened.

 Between that time and 2009, it became more and more clear that this new Slam should be initiated. With the apparent knowledge that the lawsuit would be over soon, GSCO decided to publish for the first time a new magazine known as Super Slam. Following that magazine in late 2009, GSCO trademarked two new Slams, known as the “Super Slam of North American Big Game” and “Super Ten of North American Big Game.”  A couple of years later, GSCO trademarked “Super 25 of North American Big Game.”

 The Super Slam is reached when an individual has taken the 29 traditionally recognized big game animals of North America. The Super Ten is when a person has taken one each from the 10 different groupings of animals developed by Campbell in the early 2000s. The Super 25 that followed was when a person had, in fact, taken one from each of the 10 groupings and an additional 15 trophies from the list. This program has become one of the best moves GSCO has ever made. It has brought on many new members who do not necessarily consider themselves just mountain hunters.

 

2013: THE QUEST FOR THE PINNACLE


The first Slam Quest™ cover appeared on the
summer 2013 issue.

 By 2013, GSCO was publishing eight different magazines each year. There were four issues each of Grand Slam and Ovis (which were bound together) and two issues of Super Slam. Each one of these represented a quest for a Slam, with those being, of course, the Grand Slam; the Ovis and Capra World Slams; and the Super Slam, Super Ten, and Super 25. Keeping up with the publication schedule, and all of the hunt reports that were pouring into the GSCO office, was becoming an impossible task – especially when so many members were submitting hunt reports and photos for multiple Slams at the same time. The best solution anyone could think of was to combine the three publications into a single magazine that would be published four times each year. But, what to call it?

 In the summer of 2013, the very first issue of Slam Quest was published. There were a few people who were upset that reports on all the different Slams had been combined into a single publication; however, the overwhelming positive response to Slam Quest let GSCO know that a winner had been born. It was shortly thereafter, as mentioned earlier, that the annual convention became known as the GSCO Slam Quest Convention.

 A new Slam, or milestone, was introduced in 2017. This, once again, was a normal course of events, just like the Triple Slam of three different milestones. With the introduction of the Super Slam, it became apparent soon afterward that some sort of “Quadruple Slam” should be implemented. This simmered for almost eight years, until the new Slam Quest Pinnacle™ was announced in the Summer 2017 issue of Slam Quest. This move was certainly embraced as a very possible culmination and fulfillment of what Slam Quest really meant as far as GSCO was concerned.

 In keeping with the introduction of the Slam Quest Pinnacle, another subtle change took place in the Slam Quest magazine. Up until Summer 2017, the main cover was Slam Quest. There was a fold-out, and the second cover was Grand Slam. The third cover was Ovis, and the fourth was Super Slam, maintaining the tradition from when they were all separate publications. Beginning in Summer 2017, a fifth cover known as Capra was included (even though there had never been a separate Capra publication before). This at last provided cover recognition for all of GSCO’s Slams.

The OVIS and the Pantheon


The master Pantheon­™ trophy features nameplates for every recipient.  It is on permanent display in
the GSCO office.

 Elsewhere on this web site, you can view those who have been awarded the OVIS®. This recognition began in 2002 to recognize the top living international mountain hunter. There is no doubt that this is the most prestigious mountain hunting award in the world.

 In 2013, GSCO introduced another prestigious award, the Pantheon™. This award covers all continents, as to qualify, a recipient has to have documented a Slam Quest Pinnacle, the Ovis and Capra Super 30, and SCI’s World Conservation & Hunting Award. All of these have to be fully documented, not just claimed. Therefore, the Pantheon uses this phrase: “The most prestigious, quantifiable big game hunting award in the world.” Special attention should be paid to the word “quantifiable,” because the Pantheon takes away emotions and politics. A person has to hunt the world extensively and prove that they have done so. As of the 2018 GSCO convention, only 16 people have been inducted into the Pantheon. A list of those can be found here.

THE NEXT CHAPTER

 GSCO has had a rich history. You will know that if you have read this far. There is always a new chapter to be written with any organization. Only time will tell what that new chapter will be. Considering that GSCO has a very firm foundation from which to work, we are sure that chapter will be bright!