By Gerald Almy
Shenandoah Valley residents are lucky when it comes to outdoor shows. We have several easy-to-reach ones in western Virginia coming up soon. And we are within relatively close driving distance of what is actually the largest outdoor show in the country.
That one, called the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show, is coming up in just a few weeks. It will take place at the State Farm Show Complex near Harrisburg, Pa., just a 2-3 1/2 hour trip up Interstate 81, from Feb. 2-10. This is the 58th annual edition of the show. This year there will be hundreds of new exhibitors and several new features.
If you've had trouble keeping oriented at this event and knowing whether you have visited all of the different halls, you'll appreciate a newly devised system for navigating the complex. Halls will be color-coded with an on-line pre-show mapping program plus an easy-to-use mobile app.
Returning for the second year will be a new "Sportsman's Shop Gun Alley," featuring products from such well-known companies as Ruger, Thompson/Center, Benelli, Smith & Wesson, Stoeger, LHR Sporting Arms and Cross Canyon Arms.
The show will also include two archery halls, a full fishing and boating hall, plus hundreds of guides and outfitters.
Lots of outdoor celebrities and experts will be on hand to offer their latest tips and techniques. These speakers will give talks addressed to both the novice and more experienced hunters and anglers. You just need to study the seminar listings and find out the ones that appeal to your skill level and subject interests.
Some of the featured hunting celebrities will include Jim and Eva Shockey, Ralph and Vicki Cianiarulo, the Wensel Brothers, Matt Morett, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray, Fred Eichler, Larry Weishuhn, Stan Potts, Allen Morris, Abner Druckenmiller, Bob Mercier, Jason Michael, Jimmy Wren, Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Chuck Adams, the renowned bow hunter.
Among the fishing speakers are Mark Menendez, Tommy Skarlis, Blaine Mengel Jr., John Hansen III, Frank Angelo, Darrel Gesford, Dusty Wissmath and Rod Bates.
If you like to eat wild game, you'll want to see the cooking and game preparation seminars that are held each year, with free samples given out. Want to learn how to butcher a deer? There will be several demonstrations given. Making venison sausage and jerky will also be covered.
Contests are also a big part of the show. This year some of the events to be held include elk calling, owl hooting and turkey calling, including youth, youth-intermediate, amateur adult, professional open, and professional friction divisions. The Pennsylvania Fly Tying Championship, 3D Bowhunters Challenge, Keystone IBO Indoor Nationals, Gunning Decoy Carving Contest, and taxidermy, photography and deer calling contests will also be held.
Children can also participate in the Capital City Bassmaster Casting Kids Contest, held on both Sundays, Feb. 3 and 10 in the Maclay Street Lobby area of the show. Part of a nationwide fishing competition, this event was designed to instruct kids ages 7-14 on the basics of fishing and teach them to be aware of environmental concerns. Those who enter will get free fishing instruction and a bag full of goodies donated from sponsors and exhibitors at the show.
Besides all the fishing and hunting gear on display and seminars being held, there are lots of boats and recreational vehicles to look over or actually get in and walk through.
Everything from canoes and kayaks to cabin cruisers will be on display.
Several door prizes will be given away including a Yamaha ATV and a generator.
One of the favorite parts of the show for local hunters is visiting with the many outfitters that have booths. There are literally hundreds of them with slide shows, videos, photo albums and brochures to give you a feel for what they offer.
This is a great way to find out about potential trips you might want to take in the next year or two, whether it's a turkey hunt in Nebraska or a moose and mountain goat hunt in British Columbia. Just remember to check out the outfitter carefully before booking or giving a deposit. Take the information home, study it, call references and then decide if the trip is what you're looking for.
For more information on the show, visit the website at easternsportshow.com.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.