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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Outdoor Shows: A Sure Cure for Cabin Fever

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Jan. 19, 2008.)
Offset Groundhog Day pessimism by heading
for one of our area outdoor shows.
In a couple of weeks Punxsutawney Phil will probably forecast that old man winter isn’t ready to release his wintry grip. You’ll then be wondering how to cope with that dreaded disease of cabin fever, and what medicine that will break that fever. You could go ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing or coyote hunting, but if those activities don’t appeal to you, what then?

You can offset Groundhog Day pessimism by heading for one of our area outdoor shows. The shows may not bring an end to winter, but seeing the latest hunting and fishing equipment, talking to outfitters, looking at the taxidermy they have on display, telling stories and debating the finer points of hunting and fishing can be a day well spent.

Here in northwest Pennsylvania we have lots of good options in sport shows. An easy drive will take you to some of the nation’s top shows where you can attend seminars to improve your hunting and fishing skills, get some good deals on new outdoor products, and meet professional guides promoting their trips. So mark your calendar, grab a friend and go.

Sport shows are a great place to begin investigating options for that hunting or fishing trip you dream of. Yes, guides and outfitters are there to promote their services, but they know the public relations game is also important. The small price of admission buys their time.

Even if a trip isn’t in your immediate future, it’s never too early to begin meeting outfitters and collecting their brochures. By eavesdropping on the questions other people ask, you'll pick up tips on what to ask when you get serious about planning your own trip, and you’ll develop realistic expectations.

National conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation often set up booths at outdoor shows. They’re explaining their goals and signing up new members. You can also get better acquainted with state and regional organizations. Consider joining one or two that align with your personal interests.

This is a good time to add to your inventory of hunting, fishing and camping equipment. Representatives from some of the biggest manufacturer's, plus smaller creative entrepreneurs, are there to demonstrate their products. You can see, hear, touch (and sometimes smell) their wares. The latest camo, game callers, bows, rods, reels and scents are plentiful at the shows. Take along a backpack or shoulder bag – and a little cash to spend on things to put in it.

The closest shows are the Erie Sport & Travel Expo, February 29 through March 2 at Erie’s new Bayfront Convention Center, and the Western New York Sport & Travel Expo, March 6-9 at the Hamburg Fairgrounds just south of Buffalo. Besides outfitters from all over the world, both of these shows feature Musky Hunter Magazine field editor Larry Jones, plus duck and goose calling contests, buck scoring and lots of activities for kids. In addition, you can attend seminars on fishing, in-line muzzleloaders, and shed antler hunting.

Also nearby is the Kinzua Outdoor and Travel Show at the Bradford Mall, February 22-23. As small shows go, this is a good one. Also within easy driving distance are the Allegheny Sport, Travel & Outdoor Show February 13-17 at Pittsburgh's ExpoMart, and the Cleveland Sport, Travel & Outdoor Show March 12-16 at the I-X Center near the Cleveland Airport. These shows always have plenty of exhibitors and outstanding seminars.

If you want to immerse yourself in the largest show of its kind anywhere in North America, it’s the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show February 2-10 at the State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This huge 9-day show draws about a million people and features enough exhibitors, contests and auctions, clinics and seminars, plus activities for children, to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Mid-winter sportsman's shows are cabin fever fests for the entire family – and a sure way to chase away the winter blues while you wait for the spring turkey and trout openers.


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