It’s the largest consumer outdoor show in the country. And it gets underway this Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. To sportsmen in the Lehigh Valley, it’s still known as the “Harrisburg Show,” despite it’s new name, The Great American Outdoor Show.
Hosted by the NRA, this year’s super show will feature over 200 seminars, 1,100 exhibits, hunting/fishing outfitter’s from around the world, equipment dealers including the top firearms manufacturer’s, ATVs, SUVs, trucks, boats, NRA Foundation banquet and a country music concert by entertainers Dustin Lynch and Granger Smith.
The seminar scheduled is jammed packed with a variety of interesting and informative topics. A sampling of which includes Long Range Hunting Shots, Coyote Trapping, Big Game Hunting with Jim Shockey, Tactical Carbine for Personal Defense, Lethal Force and the Law/Concepts Every Gun Owner Must Understand/Concealed Carry Reciprocity and Traffic Stops both seminars by Atty. Sean Maloney, How to Read Waters by bass pro Hank Parker, The Art of Cooking Venison by Chef Al Wutsch and many more.
For large arena shows its, Archery Trick Shots by Chris Brackett and Dock Dogs Jumping competition with several more.
New this year is Archery Tag, a family dodgeball participation game with bows and arrows. Two teams of 5 battle each other with bows and NRA’s patented non-lethal foam-tipped arrows.
Personality wise are movie and TV actor (“Full Metal Jacket” and 60 more films) R. Lee Erney and Glock representative, Jim Shockey, Paul & Mike Teutel from the TV series “American Chopper” and several more.
For the kids, there’s the Eddie Eagle Kid’s Zone that teaches children what to do if they come across a firearm with the commandments of Stop! Don’t Touch, Run Away, Tell a Grown Up. There’s also a photo booth where kids can dress up and have their photo taken, face painting, Basketball Challenge and the NRA Air Gun Range plus trout fishing pond.
Also returning are the 3D archery shoot, art exhibit and a mobile app (iOS and Android) to pre-plan your trip, traffic alerts, parking options, seminar schedules and overall show directory.
While at the show check out the NRA Foundation’s “Wall of Guns,” a collection of modern firearms that for a $10 raffle ticket, can win you one of the 60-plus guns in the collection.
For tickets to the country show, Foundation banquet and to the show itself, go to www.GreatAmericanOutdoorShow.org. At the site you’ll get a complete listing of all the events, stage shows, floor plan, ticket deals and general information including a Q&A on the show to answer your questions as to whether you can carry a backpack, a licensed firearm and firearm purchases. There are also directions to the Farm Show Complex.
For folks who need one, there’s scooter and wheelchair rentals but it’s advisable to reserve one in advance online. Incidentally, instead of having to stand in line to buy tickets, they can be printed from a home computer.
The show runs Feb. 4-12 and for GPS nav users, the Farm Show is located at 2300 Cameron Street, Harrisburg, Pa 17110.
Pennsylvania’s various fish and game associations that would get pheasant chicks and eggs for propagation from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), will no longer receive them.
The PGC announced that two long running programs, one that provided Pheasant Hen Chick Program, the other, Surplus Egg Program that provided day-old pheasant chicks and pheasant eggs free to sportsman’s organizations with approved propagation facilities, will cease because of a budget crunch.
As per the PGC’s press release, these programs augmented the pheasant releases the PGC conducts yearly. The birds that went to these sportsman’s organizations were released on lands open to public hunting.
This move coincides with the PGC’s closure of two pheasant farms that will now rely on the remaining two farms for all productions. In closing the farms, the agency released birds that would have been kept as breeding stock.
Rather than raising chicks from the eggs laid by these birds, the PGC will purchase day-old chicks from a privately owned breeder and raise those birds for release.
The PGC claims that purchasing chicks is more cost effective and as such the agency expects to save $1.5 million in the coming year.
They go on to say that organizations and individuals who have maintained their propagation facilities and who planned on taking part in the program in 2017, may still be able to obtain pheasant eggs from private propagators.
“Cost-cutting measures, like the changes we’re implementing on the pheasant propagation program, are necessary to balance the agency’s budget until a license-fee increase finally is approved,” said Matthew Hough, PGC’s executive director. Hough goes on to say, “But as we’re forced to make bigger and more significant cuts at the program level, there’s no avoiding the impact to services. Unfortunately, more cuts will be needed to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year, and Pennsylvania’s citizens and wildlife resources have begun to feel the impact.”
In an attempt to subsidize and fund the pheasant program, the Board of Game Commissioners are discussing creating a $25 permit that would be required for all adult hunters who hunt pheasants. This would be similar to the Duck Stamp and Migratory Bird permit fee’s that are required.
LANCASTER ARCHERY CLASSIC
If you’re an avid 3D and target archer and would like to see the best of the best in archery competition, the Lancaster Archery Supply Classic takes place Jan. 27-29 at Spooky Nook Sports, 75 Champ Blvd., Manheim, PA.
Over 1,000 archers from 13 countries around the world, will compete in this unique tournament that pays out over $150,000 in cash and prizes from Lancaster Archery. “It’s the largest indoor archery tournament on the East Coast, and the reason it draws many of the sport’s biggest stars like Mike Schloesser of the Netherlands, Stephen Hansen of Denmark and Reo Wilde of the USA, the top three archers in Men’s Compound,” said P.J. Reilly, from Lancaster Archery.
Also registered to compete are 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Brady Ellison of USA, top-ten World Archery Women’s Compound archers Linda-Ochoa-Anderson of Mexico and Toja Ellison of Slovenia as well as elite well-known archers Jesse Broadwater, Levi Morgan and Mackenzie Brown.
According to Reilly, the format is as follows: On Friday, Jan. 27, each competitor will shoot a qualification round of 60 arrows shot at targets 18 meters away. A perfect score would be 660, since the inner-most bull’s eye ring (about the size of a penny) scores 11 points. After ranking archers’ Friday qualification scores, the field in each of the 15 competition divisions will be whittled down to top finishers, who will shoot head-to-head elimination rounds in a bracket style competition on Saturday morning.
Finalists in each division will emerge from those brackets to compete in 12-arrow shoot-up style elimination rounds. Some divisions will compete in their shoot-ups Saturday afternoon while the remaining divisions – including Men’s Open Pro – will finish Sunday.
Besides the competition, more than 40 archery vendors will have booths showcasing their latest archery equipment.
Classic hours are 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday through Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. Spectators are welcomed to attend the competition free, however Spooky Nook charges for parking. For more information call Reilly at 717-575-3039.
Through the proceeds from the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg (the “Harrisburg show” as it has been known), the National Rifle Association (NRA) is donating $43,000 to five Pennsylvania organizations that promote the outdoor lifestyle through educational and recreational activities.
One of the five is our local Camp Compass, an Allentown-based inner city youth organization that introduces urban, middle and high school students to various outdoor activities.
For their efforts, the organization, headed by John Annoni an Allentown middle school teacher, will receive the second highest grant amount of $10,000 that will be used to supplement their social media outreach and public education for their Camouflaging Our Differences initiative. It’s designed to provide real-world educational experiences to youths and their families from inner cities while highlighting the beauty and significance of diversity, according to the NRA announcement.
Camp Compass is headquartered in the back of Joe Mascari’s Carpet store on Sumner Avenue in Allentown. Several years ago Joe Mascari donated the second floor of his building for the organizations’ use.
The first largest grant of $12,000 went to Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers Association of Harrisburg. Their grant money will go to support the organizations’ wide variety of youth activities and firearm training programs hosted year-round at their Dauphin County facility.
Shenecoy Sportsmen of McConnelstown, Pa., received a $10,000 grant to support two range improvement and expansion projects. The club plans to update their archery and rifle ranges and build a new pistol range complete with steel targets, with grant donations covering material and construction costs.
Hunt of a Lifetime of Haborcreek, Pa., will use their $7,000 grant to support their goal of providing unique dream hunting and fishing experiences for youths 21 and under who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation of State College, Pa., received $4,000 to help them support various youth programs throughout the year through the acquisition of an inflatable BB gun range.
These grants, made through the NRA Foundation, are not the first NRA gave out. In 2016, NRA donated $50,000 to similar groups. NRA points out that the success of the Great American Outdoor Show and the efforts of the NRA Foundation is the leading charitable organization that supports the shooting and hunting sports.
The nine-day show (Feb. 4-12), held at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, is the largest in the country as it features a myriad of the best of the outdoors. For more information and show tickets for the show go to www.greatamericanoutdoorsshow.org.
The Boone and Crocket Club (www.boone-crockett.org) has announced a potentially new World’s Record bow-shot elk.
Taken during the 2016 Montana archery season, and on public land, the elk scored an astounding 430 inches after the 6-day drying period.
The bull elk was taken on a solo hunt early in the Montana archery season by resident Steve Felix, who brought the bull to the attention of Boone & Crockett (B&C).
“History was made right here in Montana,” said Justin Spring, B&C Club’s director of Big Game Records. He goes on to say, “This is the fourth largest bull in our records, which dates back to before 1900, and the largest since 1968 and the largest from the state of Montana.”
According to B&C, the current B&C World’s Record taken with a rifle scored 442-5/8. The second and third largest typical elk were taken before 1900.
The last step in the process, in order to obtain an official score for Pope and Young Club (P&Y- www.Pope-Young.org) World’s Record status, is to have the antlers panel scored by a group of highly qualified P&Y and B&C Measurers. This will take place just prior to P&C Club’s Biennial Convention and Big Game Awards Ceremony April 5-8, 2017 in St. Louis Missouri, where this exceptional animal will be displayed and honored, say the folks at B&C.
Using the B&C scoring system for big game, the P&Y Club maintains records for archery taken trophies. B&C records animals taken by all legal hunting methods.
The current archery World Record typical elk scored 412-1/8 says B&C. And it was taken in Arizona during the 2005 elk hunting season.
Both organizations according to their press release on this elk, point to the fact that a free-ranging elk of this size, living a long life on good habitat, is just one more indicator that wildlife conservation and management is working well.
“Elk of his size are a sign that we’re doing something right out there, said Spring. “And the end result couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. He’s been hunting a lot of years and really gets in the spirit of the chase, the importance of conservation, and what records keeping is all about-honoring the animal and what it took to make sure we still have elk with us, and the opportunity to see and hunt them.”
Perhaps one day, with conservation and good management by the PGC (and no poaching), Pennsylvania’s elk herd will sport a record bull similar to this.
Now that we’re in the new year with new ideas, if one of those ideas happens to be in the way of buying a camper for some three season enjoyment, then slip on over to the Allentown Fairgrounds’ Ag Hall this weekend. There you’ll find a dozen RV and Camper dealers who will be displaying all that’s new for the 2017 camping season. And that ranges from pop-ups to Class A motor homes.
Since 1961, the Lehigh Valley RV and Campgrounds Show is the oldest running in the country and will once again occupy the 60,000 square feet of space inside the warm Agri-Plex building. Of course there will be 30,000 square feet of additional RV’s on display in front of the building for your perusal and consideration.
In addition, several local and not too distant campgrounds will be represented along with Anderson’s Campground Distribution booth that will have information for over 100 campgrounds along the East Coast.
Aside from the myriad of campers and RVs on display, peripheral vendors offer associated equipment that can benefit RVers and campers. One such item on display last year was a portable solar panel whose generated power can be used for appliances, cell phones, laptops and other electrical needs.
Participating dealers include: All Seasons RV; Berks-Mont Camping Center; Fretz Enterprises; Fast Lane Recreation; Indian Valley Camping Center; Campers Inn RV; Miller Trailer Sales; Pocono RV Sales & Service; RV Value Mart; Susquehanna RV; Tom Schaeffer’s Rec & Sports Center; and Ziegler’s RV Sales, Service and Rentals.
Show times are: Jan. 13 from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Jan. 14, 10 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Adult admission is $7 while children (under 12) are free as is parking.
For more information on the show check www.allentowntradeshows.com. The Allentown Fairgrounds is located at 302 N. 17th St., Allentown, 18104, with two entrances on Chew St. and two on Liberty Street.
Although we’ve had some cold, below freezing temperature nights, you would think it wouldn’t be sufficient for local lakes to freeze for ice fishing. Well some are. According to Chris Mohry, from Chris’ Outdoors Sports shop in Mertztown, die-hard ice anglers have been ice fishing Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks County for the past two weeks.
Mohry reports that Ontelaunee has from 2-4 inches of ice depending on where you are on the lake. “Two weeks ago there was 1-3 inches and some daring guys were on it. But since we had some cold nights, ice thickness has increased. But the edges generally only have an inch or so, particularly around Peters Creek Cove. Venture out farther towards the quarry and the ice is thicker,” Mohry explained.
Mohry goes on to say that if the cold nights continue, ice thickness at Ontelaunee normally thickens about a quarter to a half-inch a night when temperatures are 20 degrees or colder.
So far, he’s been hearing that ice anglers are catching lots of crappies, bluegills, a few bass and loads of white perch on fatheads, maggots and wax worms at Ontelaunee. In other words, the fish want meat. And if the old ice fishing theory is true, ice fishing is best at first ice and last ice.
As for Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County, Mohry says there’s probably ice there but no one has been on it as far as he knows. Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, echo’s Chris’ statement adding that he doubts anyone would fish there this early as he wouldn’t think the ice is safe.
Chris has customers who have been fishing the Pocono lakes like Promised Land Lake that had a reported 7-10 inches of ice and they’ve been doing good on pan fish with live bait. “The only place that hasn’t frozen for some reason from what I gather is Shohola, which is usually a hot ice fishing spot because it’s relatively shallow,” Mohry opines.
If you’re itching to walk on water, take precautions. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission has always recommended the following guidelines.
* The minimum ice thickness for ice fishing is at least 4 inches of solid ice.
* Drill holes or use an ice chisel/auger to check the ice conditions while working your way to a spot.
* Look for changes in ice color as it could mean thin ice or weak ice due to rain or warm temperatures.
* If the ice is clear enough you can monitor its thickness by looking at the depth of the cracks or bubbles.
* Fish with others in case trouble arises.
* Before heading out, tell a family member or friend where you’ll be fishing.
* Wear a life jacket of one of those new inflatable coats, in case you fall in.
* Commercial or homemade ice picks should be worn around your neck in case you fall through the ice and need something to grip the ice to pull yourself out.
* Keep a long rope with you so someone can help rescue you if you break through the ice.
If you’re new to ice fishing, you merely need the basics. A short ice fishing jigging rod and reel (or tip-ups), some small hooks, sinkers and some ice fishing jigs/ice flies/jigging spoons and the aforementioned live baits. To make a hole, a spud bar, ice chisel, manual/powered ice auger, or, some innovative anglers connected an auger bit to a DeWalt-type battery powered drill.
A plastic bucket with lid would be useful in that you can sit on it and it can hold tackle items, baits and your fish. Other than these, warm clothing and ice creepers on your boots are a necessity.
We’ll update ice conditions in forthcoming columns.
SNOWS HAVE ARRIVED
Yes, snow geese have arrived in our area. In our travels last week there was a small flock of about 50 birds on the Kasych cornfields on MacArthur Road and across from the cemetery and Whitehall Municipal building. And they shared the field with a few Canada geese.
Then on Saturday, Jan. 7, a sizable flock were feasting in the winter wheat field in Ruchsville and on land believed to be owned by Newhart’s Farms and Orchard. Snows been known to decimate a winter wheat field in a few days. So, waterfowl hunters may want to check out the hunting possibilities in these areas.
Large snow geese flocks have been seen flying high and southerly the last two weeks. If we don’t get heavy snows, the geese should stay in our area.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.