Gerald Almy: Outdoor shows opens Saturday

Gerald Almy

Every year in February the largest sporting show in the world is held in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at the Farm Show Complex. And every year the management of the National Rifle Association, sponsor of the massive outdoor show, holds its breath that no blizzards will strike and curtail attendance.

Hopefully this year the weather will be cooperative, because the event has much to offer. So far the long-range forecast looks promising.

Called the Great American Outdoor Show, it takes place this year from Saturday through Feb. 12. Over 1,100 exhibitors have booths at the event, a large number of them offering guided hunting and fishing trips. This is a great way to find out about expeditions you may want to take in the future for fish or game. But there are so many outfitters at these shows that it would take days to visit all of their booths.

A good tactic is to focus on guides from a few regions you are considering traveling to, or those who outfit for one or more species you are interested in, whether it’s caribou or king salmon. Once you make some initial contacts, be sure to check with references before handing over a deposit and booking the trip.

After you enter the vast show complex, which covers some 650,000 square feet, consider stopping in at the NRA Foundation’s Wall of Guns Raffle where a $10 ticket buys you the chance to win a prize from a wall displaying over 40 firearms. Also consider attending the NRA Foundation Banquet & Auction, with chances to win hunts, sporting merchandise and unique firearms. Both events raise money to support the future of the shooting sports.

After exploring as much of the exhibit space as time and your endurance will allow, check out several entertainment options for the evenings that are held as part of the show. Details on these events are found on the show website, greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.

Looking over the newest products in hunting, fishing, camping, boats and RVs is one of the main attractions of the show. You’ll see all the latest innovations in these fields from both retailers and manufacturers, including tree stands, blinds, firearms, calls, camouflage clothing, trail cameras, tents, packs, and fishing gear such as rods, reels, lures, flies, and depth finders.

Anglers will be able to learn some of the most modern techniques pros use for catching bass at the Hawg Trough, a massive 2,500 gallon fish tank in the Fishing Hall, with live demonstrations and audience participation every day of the show. Well-known TV personality anglers will be giving talks and demonstrations there and in other seminar rooms during the show. Bass University will give you a chance to probe the minds of pro anglers on their favorite tackle, lures, and techniques for catching largemouths and smallmouths.

Hank Parker, a legendary tournament bass angler, will give a number of talks, and guide Ken Penrod will discuss the fishing opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic for both smallmouths and largemouths.

Demonstrations will be held on field dressing and butchering big game, wild game cooking, decoy carving, turkey calling, filming your hunt, predator trapping, and a variety of other topics. Contests will also be held for many of these activities.

Among the hunting experts featured, Bill Winke will give a talk on patterning whitetails. Al Morris will speak on predator hunting, and Jim Shockey will give presentations on big game hunting and international hunting. Alan Probst will teach show attendees how to trap coyotes.

The Harrisburg show is a great place to take the family. Lots of activities will appeal to kids, such as Bulls Eye Darts, Safe Archery, wildlife identification, magnetic fishing, a laser shooting gallery, and other events at the Family Fun Zone. A Kid’s Trout Pond will have real fish available that anglers young and old can try to catch, and a Kids Casting Contest will also be held.

Over 1,000 people are expected to participate in the 3D Bowhunter Challenge. If you have a retriever, you can bring it along and enter it in the world’s premier canine aquatics competition at Dock Dogs in the Large Arena.

All told over 200 seminars will be given at the show, by some of the most well-known hunting and angling experts in the country. For more information including schedules of events and speakers, visit greatamericanoutdoorshow.org. You can also purchase tickets in advance online through that website.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.