Weatherby Writer’s Conference at Kessler Canyon in Colorado


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

October 1st, 2011






Click pictures for a larger version.


Scenery at Kessler Canyon.



Homestead and Guest House.



A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend a writer’s conference to view and get some trigger time with a few of the new firearms being produced by Weatherby Firearms. Weatherby has been a top-tier rifle maker for several decades, and has more recently began marketing a line of very good, but very affordable, shotguns as well. I have had experience with Weatherby rifles and shotguns before, and had been looking anxiously forward to the opportunity to spend some time with these new introductions, and to spend some time with the good folks from Weatherby and Swanson-Russell, Weatherby’s PR firm. The event was to take place at Kessler Canyon in western Colorado.

Having never heard of Kessler Canyon prior to this event, I did not know what to expect. Knowing Weatherby, it was certainly going to be a nice place, but Kessler Canyon was like no place which I had ever stayed before. In fact, I had never even heard of such a place. Kessler Canyon started a few years ago with a vision by its founder, Richard Kessler. Richard Kessler made his fortune in the hotel business, but decided a few years ago to retire from the general hotel/motel business, and to open a select few high-end resort properties. Kessler Canyon was a 23,000 acre cattle ranch which had been pretty much overtaken with sage brush and scrub-growth trees. Flying over, it most likely looked like a lot of other canyons in western Colorado, but Richard Kessler looked past what it was, to what it would become.

The transformation from cattle ranch to Kessler Canyon took several years, but about three years ago, it opened as the premier place to stay in the western US. Entering the Kessler Canyon property, the view is magnificent, traveling down the private road for several miles before reaching the Homestead. Along this road, I noticed that all utilities, such as the electric service, are run underground, so as to not spoil the natural beauty of the property with poles and lines. Further down the road, several magnificent sculptured horses appear to be running across the road. These horses are each different, and are made of bronze or copper. I could not tell which, and did not really care, as the artwork and the immense amount of labor involved was predominant in my mind at the time. Also along the road, stand dozens if not hundreds of stacks of rocks, shaped and arranged into truncated pyramids, slightly smaller at the top than the bottom. I also wondered about the hours of labor involved in that project.

Finally approaching the Homestead, the dry Colorado desert canyon transforms into a lush, green valley with large ponds and beautiful landscaping. Large oaks, along with coniferous evergreens surround the rustic but stately Homestead. The Homestead is the main house, which has nine private rooms, a wrap-around porch, a large dining room, and a huge fireplace overlooking the small lake. Also in the Homestead is the main office, a gift shop, and the kitchen where the world-class chef prepares the meals. More on him later. On the lower floor of the Homestead is a wine cellar, exercise room, pool table, and a huge theater, should someone decide to watch a movie or television. I don’t think that room was used at all while we were there. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch television with such a magnificent show outside.

The guest rooms in the Homestead are enormous, and combine a rustic setting with lavish luxury. It is hard for me to get this keyboard to convey to the reader the comfort and tranquility of this place. Upon arriving, we were each shown to our rooms by Debra, the executive assistant to the general manager. While that is on my mind, the general manager of Kessler Canyon, Bruce Ruggs, picked us up at the Grand Junction airport, and that level of service was continued throughout our stay. Anyway, as Debra showed us to our rooms, I noticed that each was unlocked, and no keys were issued to us. For the duration, none of us locked our rooms. There is no need to do so. However, keys are available and there are locks on the doors, for those who wish to use them. I was assigned room number nine. The rooms are a combination of rustic woods, hammered copper, and handmade furniture. The first thing I did was to open the windows to enjoy the gentle breeze and to take in the scenery. The first day there was just relaxing, with nothing scheduled, so after dining upon the best filet mignon that I ever slid down my neck, I headed up to my room, where upon entering I noticed that someone had started some soothing music on the Bose stereo. Nice touch. Thankfully, there was no television in the room, so I did not turn on the news, as I have a habit of doing. I do not know what happened with the stock market, and never heard the name “Obama” for three days. Perfect. The mattresses were like nothing which I had ever slept upon. Sinking into the soft but dense comfort of that big, rustic bed, I slept better than I have ever slept when away from home.

Kessler Canyon offers the opportunity to just sit and relax, or if desired, a vast array of activities for its guests. For us, Weatherby had arranged a half-day of bird hunting. I am not a bird hunter, and not much of a wingshot. I tend to want to aim a shotgun like a rifle, which is fine for turkey hunting, but not so good for shooting fast-moving birds in flight. I have hunted turkey with success, but up until that morning, had never shot at a moving bird, and had seldom shot at a clay target. I am a rifle and handgun shooter. I like a good bird gun, and own a few, but am not by any means an expert in their use. I was concerned that I would most likely embarrass myself,, and the gun industry in general. We were divided up into five groups, with each group having a writer, a Weatherby representative, a guide, and two dogs. Roger Whitchurch, the Weatherby Quality Control Inspector, was assigned to me. Our guide was Steve Hazlett, who did a great job working the dogs. The dogs were the real heroes of the day. We would not have found a single bird without their hard work. The birds that we were hunting were pheasant and chukar. As luck would have it, the first bird to flush flew my way. Without thinking about it, that twenty-gauge Weatherby auto came up to my shoulder, I pulled the trigger, and the bird fell immediately. I wish that I could report that I was as successful on every bird to flush in my direction, but I was not. Some I got on the first shot. Some on the second shot. Some flew away. Still, I managed to take several, as did Roger, and by the time to head back in for lunch, we had a pretty good showing for our morning’s hunt. I was well-satisfied with my performance, as well as that of my hunting partner, the guide, the guns, and the dogs. Back at the Homestead, I questioned each hunter on the performance of the shotguns. Some had autoloaders and others had pumps, but no malfunctions were reported by any of the dozen or so shooters that morning.

After a great lunch of barbequed ribs and brisket by the day cook, Buck, we were all given a choice of activities. Several went to the sporting clays range, others to the rifle range, and I chose to go fly-fishing. I had only been fly-fishing once before in my life, out in Wyoming in 2008, and I was anxious to do it again. Steve set me up with a fly rod and attached a suitable lure. After about a half-hour of beating the water with the line, I finally got the hang of it again, and could put the lure somewhere close to where I wanted it. Before long, I hooked a pretty good trout, very ungracefully tugged on the line until I got him close to the bank and out of the water, where I quickly lost him. I did at least get a good look at that fish, but he lived to tell about it. Ed Weatherby did better, and landed two nice trout the previous afternoon, which was the appetizer before supper that night. The head chef, Lenny McNabb, fixed those trout encrusted in something and displayed on a platter. They were almost too pretty to eat, but we managed to devour every bite of them in short order.

While on the subject of Lenny McNabb, he is not your ordinary chef. Lenny is a master at his craft, and when Jim and Renee served each course at night, Lenny would stand at the head of the table, and tell us what we were about to eat, as proudly as a father showing off his newborn son. A couple of times, I was a bit concerned. After the salad, Lenny announced what we were about to eat. It appeared to me to be a small pie, but was in fact a small crust filled with tomato jam and topped with basil ice cream. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That’s what I was thinking, too. I was looking for somewhere to hide mine without being noticed. However, after 32 years of marriage, I am no longer afraid of anything, so I dug in, and to my surprise, it was delicious. He followed that up with a main course of elk tenderloin, and that was carnivorous perfection! I had never eaten elk before, but that was as good as any piece of beef that I have ever tried, and much better than whitetail. Lenny did it up right.

As we were finishing our desserts, Jim announced that we would be entertained by the Black Mamba. I was happy to discover that we were not about to be entertained by a venomous reptile, but that the Black Mamba was a musical entertainer, who looked very much like Lenny McNabb sans the apron, and adorned with a rhinestone jacket just tacky enough to be on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. With guitar in hand, the Black Mamba performed the songs of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dave Loggins and others. However, the Black Mamba is no one-man cover band. He performs in a style all his own, and I can pretty much guarantee you that you won’t hear him on a Nashville radio station any time soon. Nashville is not ready for the Black Mamba. He has already been there and made that discovery. He puts on a show each night, and to see him, you have to go to Kessler Canyon. The Black Mamba alone is worth the trip.

Kessler Canyon offers jeep tours of the property as well, and I had a brief one up to the top of the mountain. The view was spectacular from up there, looking down almost a half mile below into the canyon. Atop the mountain are a couple of cabins, for those who want a more secluded experience, and they are also there to accommodate hunters when elk and deer hunting is in season. These “cabins” are nothing like a hunting camp cabin, but are luxurious as well, with every amenity. “Luxurious” is a good term to describe everything at Kessler Canyon. It is as if everything there was built without regard to price, but instead to the highest standards. It is what you would build if you could use someone else’s money, with an endless supply.

Kessler Canyon is an ideal getaway. It is great for hunting, fishing, or just relaxing. Kessler Canyon is a perfect place to have your wedding. The rooms are luxurious, and the setting is serene and breathtaking. Would you rather have a relaxing wedding and spend a couple of days with ten of your closest friends, or a hectic couple of hours with 250 people that you barely know, and mostly don’t even like? Forget the confusion of a traditional expensive wedding. Gather your real friends and go to Kessler Canyon. Kessler Canyon is also a great place to hold corporate events, such as this one held by Weatherby. Weatherby is a first-class operation, and wanted the best of the best for this writer’s event. In Kessler canyon, they found the perfect place. They found paradise. The pictures shown here do not tell the whole story, and if I get to go back to Kessler Canyon again, I will shoot some good video of the scenic views. Look for upcoming details of the new Weatherby products shown to us at this event on as the firearms come in for review.

Kessler Canyon is where anyone can go to get away from everything. It is where you can go to work in seclusion, if needed, or to have corporate meetings. It is also a great place to go, leaving the cell phone, I-pad, notebook, and every other aggravating device behind, and just spend some time doing whatever you like, or just doing nothing at all. The view from the porch is fantastic. You can sit and rock your cares away as the day fades into night. Kessler Canyon is like no place that I have ever been. It is where God would go to relax.

Check out Kessler canyon online at or call them for reservations and more information at 970-283-1145.

For a closer look at the entire line of Weatherby firearms, go to

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Visitors to Kessler Canyon are greeted by some magnificent horse sculptures.



Ed Weatherby with one of the large trout he caught at Kessler Canyon.



Our Weatherby seminar was held at the outdoor pavilion.



Rack of Weatherby shotguns used for our bird hunt.



Some of the new Weatherby firearms shown at the seminar.



Chef Lenny McNabb with some delicious elk tenderloin steaks.



Jeeps are used for tours, and to haul hunters & dogs.






Buck (left) and Jim (right).



Debra and Danielle in the office.



Guides cleaning some of the birds killed on our morning hunt.



Good-looking Ring-necked Pheasant.



Gazebo built on top of the mountain is a great place to relax.



Exquisite art collection scattered throughout Kessler Canyon.



Very comfortable theater.