Gerald Almy: Outdoor sports show runs Feb 3-11

Gerald Almy

It has become an event that many sportsmen look forward to with more excitement than holidays or birthdays. Every year in February the largest outdoor sports show in the world takes place in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the Farm Show Complex. In one way, this is a good time for a sports show. Hunting seasons are over and most anglers haven’t started hitting the lakes and rivers yet.

But there’s always a question of what kind of weather will be in store for visitors. Some years there has been 3 feet of snow on the ground. That can curtail attendance, as can bitter cold, like we experienced earlier this winter.

Hopefully this year the weather will be cooperative with no precipitation and moderate temperatures, because this event has much to offer for men, women, and children.

Called the Great American Outdoor Show, the event takes place this year from Feb. 3-11. Over 1,100 exhibitors have booths at the complex, 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. There are so many outfitters at these shows that you could easily spend several days and not visit all the booths and talk to the guides thoroughly.

To make the most of your time, focus on outfitters from a few regions you are considering traveling to, or those who focus on one or more species you are interested in, whether it’s caribou, elk, bass, or salmon. Once you make some initial contacts, be sure to check with references before booking the trip.

Once you walk into 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.

Examining 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 show personalities 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.

Many world-famous tournament pros will give talks and legendary guide Ken Penrod will discuss the fishing opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic for both smallmouths and largemouths. Penrod is an expert on the Potomac River and has written an excellent book on that fishery.

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 topics hunting experts will cover are how to score on mature bucks and how to pattern 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 hundreds of live 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. That is one of my favorite contests to witness as a spectator. The athleticism of these dogs is incredible.

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. The show location is about a 2 ½-3 hour drive for most residents of the Shenandoah Valley.

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