Due to the Covid pandemic shut-downs last year at this time, the largest outdoor-themed outdoor show was cancelled, but it returns to the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex Feb. 5-13.
The all-encompassing NRA hosted Great American Outdoor Show is set to kick off at the Farm Show Complex and will feature up to 1,100 exhibitors that will, throughout the nine halls of the complex, showcase the latest in fishing, hunting, camping, RV’s, boats, ATV’s, trucks and other outdoor related equipment.
The “Harrisburg Show,” as it’s known locally, draws sportsmen from not only Pennsylvania, but surrounding states who visit to see and buy the latest in fishing/hunting gear and book trips with the myriad of outfitters that come from in and out of the country.
Aside from all of the above, the show will continue to have the Weaknecht Archery hosted 3D archery contests along with a category for 12 and under junior archers. Also for kids, the trout fishing pond returns along with the Eddie Eagle learning section for kids.
Featured celebrities this year are fishing legends Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin who will answer anglers’ bass fishing questions.
Dock Dogs competitions return and it’s a test of the best among hunting dogs.
The show traditionally offers numerous free seminars and this year’s schedule offers some excellent ones. Here’s a sampling: Cold Water Smallmouth Fishing, New to Concealed Carry, Tracking and Stalking Whitetails, Venison Skinning/Butchering/Cutting/Fabrication, Becoming the Ultimate Predator Hunter, Best Way to Use a Drag Rag and Scent Post, Calling Predators at Night, Elk Hunting and many more.
Of course, major gun manufacturer’s like H&K, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, SCCY and others will display their latest and greatest.
NRA’s Wall of Guns returns and features a collection of rifles, shotguns and handguns. For a $10 chance, you can own one of these 40 choice firearms on display. And there’s only 100 chances sold so your chances of winning are increased.
For the ladies and gents, there will be a series of cooking demonstrations of wild game with, of course, some sampling.
Show parking is available at three locations. There’s the Elemerton Ave. and Sycamore Dr. lot; Harrisburg Mall, 3501 Paxton St. (free shuttle by Bass Pro Shops); and on weekend, the Harrisburg Area Community College at 1 HACC Drive 17110 where a free shuttle is also available to the show. All parking areas are $10 per vehicle.
Great American Outdoor Show tickets are $15 for ages 13 and up; $13 for ages 65 and up; $8 for children 6-12; and kids ages 5 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. The show also offers a two-day pass for $25.
Expo hours are Saturdays 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.. Admission is free to those who sign-up for or renew their NRA membership at the show.
The Great American Outdoor Show is located at 2300 Cameron St. Harrisburg, PA 17110. There will be scooters and wheelchairs available for rentals but should be reserved in advance.
To avoid waiting in line to buy show tickets, go to www.GreatAmericanOutdoorsShow.org. The tickets can then be printed online so you get them immediately. The website includes a listing of all exhibitors, seminars, events, booth diagrams, show times and directions.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is undertaking the largest statewide wild turkey project ever. It involves asking the general public to help find turkeys for an ongoing and new turkey project.
The agency is asking Pennsylvanians to report any turkey flocks they see between now and March 15. Their reports are being collected online at https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey.
According to the PGC, reporters to the site will be asked to provide the date of the sighting, the location and the type of land (public, private or unknown) where birds are seen, among other things. PGC crews will subsequently assess sites for potential trapping of those turkeys to leg band them and released them on site. They will not be moved says the PGC.
In four Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) a sampling also be fitted with GPS transmitters, then released to be monitored over time.
New this year, the PGC will put GPS transmitters on 100 hens – 25 each in WMUs of 2D, 3D, 4D and 5C. The four study areas have different landscapes, turkey population densities and spring hunter and harvest densities, explains the PGC. These studies are being done in partnership with Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Futures Program.
Just like the last two winters, the PGC will put leg bands on male turkeys statewide. Hunters who harvest one of the banded turkeys, or people who find one dead, are asked to report the band number by either calling the PGC or emailing the email address on the band.
Said Mary Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist, “This gives us information on annual survival rates and annual spring harvest rates for our population model.”
The study will result in the PGC learning turkey population and movement and at how landscape and weather impact hen nest rates, nest success, predation, habitat and movement. The disease portion of the study, examines how disease prevalence varies based on landscape and impacts things like the survival and nesting rates of hens of different ages.
“Approximately 100 additional transmitters will be deployed each winter through 2025 so that in the end – with transmitters from hens that die being recovered and re-deployed – the PGC will monitor 400-plus transmitted hens,” explained Casalena. She added that finding birds to trap is the key to launching all of that work and that’s where the public comes in.
More than 3,800 people on average submit Wild Turkey Sighting Survey reports each summer. That information plays a key role in tracking annual turkey reproduction across the state. And it’s hoped the public will once again help in locating winter flocks statewide.
Like deer and Canada geese, wild turkeys have become adaptable to urban and suburban areas. In some areas, they’ve become a nuisance by chasing people and motorists. I recall a photo a friend took at Mack Trucks test center next to Queen City Airport where turkeys meandered around the office. They've also learned to feed at bird feeders. But in other areas, their populations have dwindled or have become non-existent. Hence this study will help determine their future in Pennsylvania.
Thanks to cold, freezing temperatures, we now have an ice fishing report and information on lakes and ponds.
Willie from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon reports several of his local customers took a trip to several Pocono lakes and found fishable ice on most of the waters they checked.
According to Willie, Upper and Lower Promised Land lakes both are averaging at least 4 inches of ice as does Minisink, Mud Pond and Shohola. The exception was Tobyhanna who had 5 inches, however some spots had 2.5 inches. Anglers were hooking pickerel, perch and a couple sizable bass mostly on waxworms.
Mike from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, also reported that both Promised Land lakes were holding about 6 inches of ice as did Tobyhanna. Shohola had 4 plus inches while Brady’s Lake had 4-4.5 inches. Per Mike, waxworms and shiners on tip-ups were the two most popular live baits that were attracting pickerel and panfish. With most snow cover gone from these lakes, ice formed quickly according to Mike.
As for equipment, the toughest part of ice fishing is drilling holes. Some ice anglers still use manual ice augers. But they do take lots of muscle power and time to drill a hole. The trend for some time has been gasoline-powered drills but it seems they are on the wane. As Willie explained, anglers who have them find that over the summer and when not in use the carburetor’s often clog-up requiring maintenance or replacement. Plus, they’re heavy.
Said Willie, many of his customers have switched to either propane powered ones or battery powered drills. But he believes the latter should be of the brushless kind and of enough torque and battery amps to drive an auger.
The preferred portable drill batteries are of 9 Ah and 12 Ah power ratings. More amps means longer run time. And they should be able to last the day on ice but that’s dependent upon how thick the ice is and how many holes are drilled. Or you can simply carry along an extra battery.
Smaller drills that are common household tools, often referred to as “picture hanger” drills, won’t cut it and they’ll likely burn out. The drill should have a half-inch chuck to accommodate most auger adapters. High torque drills from DeWalt, Milwaukee and Rigid should work, but it’s wise to check the warranty in case ice drilling fry’s the motor.
It’s also recommended the drill have an auxiliary handle so it doesn’t strain the wrist, or worse, get hit by the spinning drill if losing a grip on it.
Additionally, augers are offered with shaver blades or chipper blades. Shaver blades are preferred as they consume less power and cut the ice quicker.
Adapters can be purchased at Cabela’s and other sporting goods stores but they, says Willie, should have a cord or strap (life-line) that can be attached to the drill in case it comes lose from the drill chuck. You don’t want your investment falling into the drink.
Lastly, and some anglers may not know it, but Berkley offers their 100 percent Fluorocarbon Ice fishing line specifically for ice fishing. From their press release it says the line is thinner diameter per test pound, more supple, low stretch, low memory, and remains limber during cold temperatures. May be worth a try.
The recent blast of cold air (with more to come this week) is producing some ice on lakes and ponds, but mostly in the Pocono area. And it’s no secret that ice anglers are anxious to be able to walk on water for some early ice fishing. But early ice has its problems.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) says that no ice is 100 percent safe, especially early ice. And with a blanket of snow on top of an ice-covered lake, it actually insulates the ice and slows the growth of ice plus hides potential hazards or weak spots.
Signs to look for are ice with a bluish color that is safer than clear ice. Anglers should avoid slushy or honey-combed ice and it’s best to stay away from dark spots on the ice. The agency says don’t walk into areas where snow cover looks discolored. Any off-colored snow or ice is usually a sign of weakness.
Here are some other ice fishing safety tips from the PFBC:
*Test ice thickness with an auger before going farther out onto a lake. Four inches of solid ice is the minimum recommended thickness for a single person. Seven inches is the minimum for a small group.
*This last point brings up a suggestion to spread out. Concentrated crowds can put too much weight onto one area.
*Be aware of ice thickness across a body of water. Check ice thickness frequently. Perimeter ice is weaker due to shifting, expansion and sunlight reflecting off the bottom. New ice is usually stronger than old ice.
*Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants and docks. These areas absorb heat, weakening the surrounding ice.
*Avoid areas with multiple or intersecting cracks and standing water over ice. If the ice doesn’t look right, don’t go on it.
*Always carry safety equipment such as ice picks, floatation device and safety rope, plus a whistle to call for help. A first aid kit wouldn’t be a bad idea as well.
*Let someone know where you are going and when you’ll return.
So far, the only lakes reporting any ice are the Tobyhanna with three inches as of last week and Promised Land Lake. Shohola too has some ice but no promising reports have surfaced as yet.
I took a ride to Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County on Saturday and found that there’s only skim ice in the North cove.
The three Pocono waters mentioned and a few others should have more ice as forecasts are for below freezing temperatures for several says in the row. At that time, there should be some additional reports.
The numbers are in and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association, has revealed that the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) processed 687,788 background checks during the week leading up to and including Black Friday. FBI’s NICS recorded 187,585 on Black Friday alone, ranking it among the Top 10 Highest Days for NICS checks and a .50 percent increase from Black Friday 2020 (186,645). The NICS checks are unadjusted, representing raw data from the FBI and are inclusive of all background checks related to firearms.
“This figure of over 687,000 background checks is truly remarkable,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “2021 has already been shaping up to be the second strongest year for firearm sales on record, second only to 2020’s record-breaking number of 21 million background checks for a firearm sale. When tallied, we anticipate, based on annual data, that firearm sales will have increased in December 2021, coinciding with hunting seasons and holiday sales. This figure, though, underscores the appetite for lawful firearm ownership in America and the resilience of the firearm and ammunition industry to meet that demand.”
Attached are the breakout tables for each day of unadjusted FBI NICS background checks and The Top 10 Highest Days of FBI Background Checks.
So far Mother Nature has not been cooperating with ice anglers. Temperatures have been too warm to form safe ice on popular area lakes and ponds. There is only an inch or two of ice being reported on a couple of Pocono Mountain area lakes. This may change though as night temperatures this week are being forecasted to be below freezing. This may produce thicker ice conditions up north. but still may not be enough to produce safe ice for local Leaser Lake or Ontelaunee Reservoir in Berks County. This pair traditionally requires at least two weeks of continued below freezing temperatures for ice fishing conditions. Stay tuned for updates.
Attention waterfowl hunters: the Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking your cooperation in a study that will evaluate to what extent contaminants such as PCBs, dioxins and heavy metals are affecting ducks and geese.
According to the PGC, waterfowl, like fish, can store contaminants at levels that affect their own health and pose a risk to hunters who harvest and consume them. The agency says that existing statewide guidelines recommend mergansers should not be eaten; other diving ducks, if properly prepared, should be eaten only occasionally; however dabbling ducks and geese can safely be eaten if properly prepared.
Information from this study will help determine if the existing health advisory is still warranted, or should it be updated in any way. PGC assures hunters that results of the study will not impact hunting regulations.
Hunters wishing to participate in this study should be willing to donate mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, green-winged teal and Canada geese upon request. Participants will be asked to provide information on where and when the bird was harvested and provide a photo or two of the bird’s wing. The bird must then be stored frozen. The PGC will contact the hunter within 48 hours if the bird will be collected for testing. After which, the PGC will send a biologist to collect the sample.
Interested hunters should register at http://cwhl.vet.cornell.edu/webform/contaminants-in-waerfowl.
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.