It’s the outdoor show of outdoor shows, and the largest in the country.
The NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show rolls into the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg this weekend (Feb. 1-9) for its nine-day extravaganza. This show is unlike any other in that it annually draws over 170,000 visitors and features the top firearms/fishing manufacturer’s showing their latest offerings. It annually features hunting/fishing outfitters and charters from around the world.
This year’s show will feature over 200 seminars from outdoor experts and celebrities with demonstrations and contests in archery, casting and for the youngsters, the Eddie Eagle Zone area that will hand out more than 5,000 prizes for kids while providing life-saving gun safety and accident prevention instruction. There’s also the kids Basketball Court, Wildlife Identification, face painting and crafts for youngsters of all ages.
Last year, nearly 7,000 shooters of all ages took their best shots at NRA’s Air Gun Range – firing 85,000 airsoft rounds into more than 500 targets.
Back again is the 3D Bowhunter Challenge and Spot Challenge contests with prizes awarded to the top shooters.
This years NRA’s Country Concert features singer Chris Janson with Jon Langston and Jacob Bryant country artists.
Over 11 dogs will compete in the Dock Dogs competition in the large arena with the dogs being judged in several categories.
Personalities include Phil Robertson of Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty TV show, the hunting duo of Lee and Tiffany Lakosky and many more.
Buy a ticket to NRA Foundation’s Wall of Guns trailer of rifles and handguns which will be raffled off from the display case.
Then there’s the Friends of NRA Banquet on Feb. 7 where members and prospective members can meet and hear a state of the Second Amendment presentation by NRA officers.
In addition to these, there will be the latest truck offerings from RAM, Yamaha ATVs and several aftermarket companies plus new boats, kayaks and marine products will be displayed.
To save time at the admissions gate, showgoers can speed their entrance by buying advanced tickets online.
Adult tickets are $15; 2-Day tickets $25; Child (6-12) $7; Seniors (65 and over) $12; Groups (10 minimum) $12; and Late Afternoon (after 3 p.m.) $8. Previously purchased Bounce-Back tickets allow free admission on the final day. Children under five are free with a paying adult and NRA offers free admission for those joining NRA at the show.
Show hours are Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Feb. 2 and Feb 9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Feb. 3 and Feb. 7, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Parking is offered at several sites with shuttle service offered from outlying parking lots.
The Farm Show Arena is located at 2300 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110. For added information check www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.
For those needing an electric scooter, they are available for rental but should be reserved prior to attending. There’s free Wi-Fi and a mobile app that can be downloaded by visiting the above website where there’s a map of the facilities and a host of questions/answers about the show.
If cabin fever is beginning to set it, you can enjoy and sample a taste of the great outdoors by attending Blue Mountain Resort’s 11th annual Winter Fest on Jan. 25 and 26.
Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, the event will cater to all, including youngsters.
The two-day event will take place at the Summit Lodge at the top of Pennsylvania’s highest vertical on School Hill on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The Winter Festival will include ice carvings, real sled dogs, Snow Making Tours from Blue’s Mountain Ops Team, Snowga (yoga on snow), snowshoe demonstrations and a variety of vendors plus a kid’s area that will include an ice sliding board.
In addition to the event, the USA Olympic Luge Team will host their 2020 Luge Challenge from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday (weather permitting).
Guests can experience the exhilaration of the Winter Games by riding a luge on the only natural East Coast USA Luge track that will be open to the public. USA Luge Team coaches will be on-site to evaluate each luge run and will be scouting for potential candidates. For example, in 2017, Brianna Gosnel was recruited for the USA Luge Team after she impressively ran the track at Blue Mountain.
Then on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m., a fireworks display will be set off by Skyshooter Displays, ZY Pyrotechnics, all viewable from both the Summit and Valley lodges.
For skiers/boarders, Blue Mountain offers 40 trails, 16 lifts and up to 34 tubing lanes that will be open and available during the event from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, and from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, check www.skibluemt.com.
According to On the Water Magazine, anglers were recently catching and releasing trout below the outlet at Beltzville Lake. Anglers are reminded that the section of the Pohopoco Creek from the outlet of Beltzville Lake, downstream to the cable across the creek at the Hideaway Hunting & Fishing Club, is designated as a Class A Wild Trout Stream and Stocked Trout Water. The Extended Trout Season on this section of stream is open from September 3, 2019 through February 29, 2020 and is a No Harvest – Catch and Immediate Release Only area.
Trout action on Mauch Chunk Creek, and the Lehigh River at Glen Onoko area, has been productive in recent weeks. The Lehigh, however, has been flowing higher than normal due to recent rain events. Buckwa Creek and Aquashicola Creek are streams that may also provide good trout fishing opportunities. Then there’s Sand Spring Run, located at Hickory Run State Park, is also a good choice to catch brook trout.
Anglers fishing Mauch Chunk Lake near Boat Launch A had some nice catches of perch and bluegills. Beltzville had produced decent bass action near the dam breast and in the upper reaches of the Pohopoco Creek bay area of the lake. Anglers were also catching a few striped bass from the shore near the boat rental building. Majority of the stripers were caught using live bait or chicken livers.
Most of the ice that formed on Mauch Chunk and Beltzville lakes has now deteriorated due to the recent rains and warmer weather. Future ice fishing opportunities will hopefully occur if and when colder weather arrives.
Southwick Associates, the folks who do yearly surveys on hunting and fishing preferences, has released their recent October Hunter/Shooter Survey showing the most popular hunting, shooting equipment purchases by sportsmen and sports gals, and the species they pursued.
The panel, composed of hunters and shooters from across the country who volunteer to participate, track hunter’s/shooters’ participation and purchases for the prior two months.
The survey begins with the most popular species hunted. As expected, whitetail deer with 71.3 percent of respondents say they pursue. That’s followed by small game (rabbits/squirrels), 21.5 percent; upland birds (quail, pheasant, grouse) 18.7; dove, 14.6; turkey, 13.3; predator calling/hunting (coyotes), 12.5; mule deer, blacktail, Sitka, 10.9 percent.
The next category was the percentage of and type of hunting equipment used: Rifle, 70.0 percent; handgun, 57.5; shotgun, 26.6; bow or archery, 17.2; crossbow, 9.2; muzzleloader, 8.2; air rifle (compressed air), 7.7 percent.
Percent of firearms purchased were rifles, 54.5 percent; handguns, 45.5; shotguns, 16.7; air rifles/air guns, 3.8; muzzleloaders, 3.5 percent.
Types of shotguns purchased were pump action, 46.2 percent; semi-automatic, 26.7; over/under, 11.4; side by side, 3.2; single shot, 8.2; other, 4.2 percent.
Types of muzzleloaders purchased: Inline 69.5 percent; standard, 15.9; flintlock, 9.6; other, 5.1 percent.
Types of handguns purchased: semi-automatic 63.2 percent; revolver, 34.2; break action, 2.0; not sure, 0.6 percent.
Types of ammunition purchased: Rifle ammunition, 57.8 percent; handgun ammo, 44.8; shotgun ammo, 39.0; air rifle/air gun pellets, 2.4 percent.
Types of shotgun ammo purchased: Lead, 65 percent; non-lead/non-toxic, 32.1; other 2.4; not sure, 0.5 percent.
Types of archery items purchased: Broadheads, 47.1 percent; crossbow bolts, 26.8; arrows, 21.7; strings & accessories, 17.3; nocks, 13.6; fletching’s, 13.3; stabilizers, 12.0; archery targets, 10.2; crossbows, 7.5 percent.
Types of traditional bows purchased: Compound, 72.1 percent; recurve, 23.5; long bows, 3.7; other, 0.6 percent.
Types of hunting gear purchased: Odor eliminator, 36.1 percent; lure scent, 34.7; game feed, 29.5; hunting knives/multitools, 21.9 trail cameras, 18.7; cover scent, 16.4; game calls, 13.1; game cleaning supplies, 12.9 percent.
Types of decoys purchased: Waterfowl, 72.80 percent; turkey, 4.70; predator, 4.90; big game, 17.60 percent.
Types of game calls purchased: Waterfowl, 35.90 percent; big game, 50.2; small game, 6.7; predator, 2.6; other, 0.5 percent.
sed: Ladder stands, 29.3 percent; climbing, 16.8; hang-on, 31.2; tripod stands, 6.4; tower/box stands, 5.7; ladder and steps, 8.1; harnesses & accessories, 2.5 percent.
Equipment purchases were as follows: Ammunition, 68.4 percent; hunting accessories, 40.3; clothing and apparel, 37.1; shooting accessories, 33.4; firearms, 28.7; firearm accessories, 25.8; archery, 20.8; firearms storage (safes), 20.4; optics, 18.3; hand loading equipment, 11.7; blackpowder, 8.4 percent.
The majority of these findings follow true for Pennsylvania hunters with the exception being crossbows that would be expected to score higher in the respective categories.
A fishing survey is upcoming from Southwick which we’ll publish in a future column.
With temperatures predicted to be in the low 60s, it’s the ideal time to think about summer and the upcoming camping season. And no better way to get ready for it is to visit this weekends 59th Annual RV & Campground Show at the Agri-Plex in the Allentown Fairgrounds. It’s one of the oldest running RV shows in the country.
This year’s show will feature 13 dealers featuring motor homes, travel trailers, fifth wheel, vans, folding campers, pop-ups and more.
And showcasing their latest offerings will be All Seasons RV, Berks-Mont RV, Fretz RV, Fast Lane Recreation RV, Campers Inn RV, Miller Trailer Sales, Pocono RV, RV Value Mart, Stolzfus RV, Susquehanna RV, Tom Schaeffer’s RV and Ziegler’s RV.
Aside from the vehicles, representatives from a variety of campgrounds will be on hand to offer their services along with Anderson’s Campground Directory booth that provides information on over 100 campgrounds on the East Coast.
In addition to filling up the 60,000 square feet of indoor space in the Agri-Plex, the show will also have a host of RVs outside for your inspection.
Show hours are as follows:
Friday, Jan. 10; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 11; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 12; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is $7 for adults, Children under 12 are free as is parking. Allentown Fairgrounds is located at 17th & Chew Sts in Allentown.
For additional information check www.allentowntradeshows.com or call 610-433-7541.
Although we were getting some below freezing temperatures, safe ice fishing is still some cold days away. And what seems like far too many rainy days, also prevents anglers to walk on water.
But as happens every year at this time, ice fishermen have to travel to the Pocono’s to find hard water. Places like Shohola, Promise Land, Gouldsboro, Tobyhanna and Fairview lakes usually freeze first.
According to local tackle shops, Promised Land (had seven inches of ice) and Shohola (had 4-6 inches) lakes have had some ice fishing action on panfish and pickerel on minnows, waxworms and spikes.
If below freezing temperatures continue for a week or more, Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County and Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks historically freeze next. However, two weeks ago Ontelaunee had two inches of precarious ice and a few anglers were fishing it.
It’s been tradition, it seems, that first and last ice of the season offers the best ice fishing periods. So now’s a good time to gather up your tip-ups, jigging rods, skimmer, ice auger and whatever else you use, to check their condition before hitting the early season ice.
On your jigging reels and tips-ups, it’s best to discard the old line on your rigs and put on some fresh mono or braid. Or, try some of the mono made especially for ice fishing that doesn’t become stiff in frozen water. Berkley’s Trilene makes Cold Weather or Micro Ice and Fireline’s Micro Ice Crystal is also good and allows for maximum sensitivity in deep water.
To improve your chances of getting bit, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission offers these tips for finding specific species.
WALLEYE: Because they are a schooling fish you want to intercept their cruising by spacing your tip-ups at intervals in a straight line from shore. Avoid weedbeds and look for clear bottoms. Of course a portable depth finder could help here. Use small hooks and light sinkers. Walleyes are notoriously light biters and will often hit a bait as it descends. .
PIKE & PICKEREL: Because of oxygen depletion and scarcity of food, these fish are not likely to be found near submerged vegetation in winter as they are in summer. Don’t overlook fishing open water and employ jigging with spoons. Whatever the bait, let the fish take it and avoid depths greater than 15 feet (can be measured with a marked drop-line and sinker).
PANFISH: Panfish too are schooling fish that travel slowly so the action usually lasts longer. Use light tackle and small, size 12 or 14 hooks impaled with grubs or waxworms. A little trick I learned from Jeff Heller, former owner of Pro Am Fishing Shop in Kuhnsville, is to use a high-low rig for perch. Tie one lighter jig onto your line then tie an 18-inch piece of line to the bend of that hook. At that terminal end, tie on a heavier spoon or jig. Don’t, however, use a swivel to tie this extra piece as it’ll probably tangle. Bait the lower one with a minnow, the higher one with a waxworm. It’s not uncommon to get two perch on at a time.
BASS: Bass metabolism is much slower during winter so they feed much less. Slowly bouncing bait in front of their noses is usually the only method that works as does fishing more varied structure. Look for rocky points and gravel bars near deep water.
Above all, be careful and check the ice before venturing onto it. Stay away from areas where cracks meet or intersect. Be extra careful where water levels vary as in rivers, streams, inlets, outlets, coves, eddies and springs. And areas with “stick ups” of protruding logs, brush, plants and docks that absorb heat from the sun, which weakens surrounding ice. Last but not least, you’ll probably find thicker ice on a waterway’s north, rather than on the south shore.
With the ski/boarding season heating up, Blue Mountain Resort is kicking off January promoting safety on the slopes.
“We will be highlighting aspects of the Skiers Safety Responsibly Code through promotions and interactions with our Ski Patrollers. The push of Safety Week is to create awareness that there are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. This week of safety activities and education is part of Blue Mountain’s participation in the National Ski Area Associations efforts to educate skiers and snowboarders about being safe on the slopes,” said Ashley Seier, Blue Mountain Marketing Manager.
On January 6th – 12th & 17th – 19th guests can participate in the following Safety Week Programs:
Chair Lift Simulator: Practice safe chair lift loading, riding, and unloading on our moving Safety Chair Simulator.
Bars for Bars: To promote keeping the safety bar down while riding the lift, Ski Patrol will be handing out candy bars to guests spotted riding our chair lifts safely.
Scavenger Hunt: School Groups are encouraged to participate in our mountain wide scavenger hunt. Anyone who completes the scavenger hunt by collecting hole punches from ski patrol will receive a free lift ticket.
Safety Video Contest: Guests can create and submit a safety video highlighting a safety aspect of the Skiers Responsibly Code. The winner of the contest will be selected on Blue Mountain’s Facebook page. Winners will receive a free lift ticket and $25 gift card.
Retail Discounts: Shoppers will receive 10% off protective gear in our True Blue Mountain Sports Shop.
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.