By Tom Tatum
After a COVID-19-induced hiatus, the Great American Outdoor Show is back, set to return this week and likely bigger and better than ever for 2022.
Owned and produced by the National Rifle Association, the show was canceled in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions after posting record attendance numbers in 2020. But there will be no cancellations this year when this show – which runs bills as the world’s largest outdoor show – opens February and runs through February 13 at the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg.
This nine-day event celebrates hunting, fishing and a wide range of outdoor traditions enjoyed by millions of Americans and their families. The show consists of more than 1,100 exhibitors ranging from shooting equipment manufacturers and outfitters to fishing boats and recreational vehicles, and archery art. Covering 650,000 square feet of exhibit space, the show also features a packed schedule of country concerts, fundraising dinners, lectures, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars , demonstrations, etc.
Among the most popular of these is the 3D Bowhunter Challenge on a course that features 30 shots at an assortment of 3D targets at distances up to 50 yards. Participants can compete in a class based on their age and ability level and shoot for fun or compete for a trophy or cash.
For those more fond of canine competition, the show will also host Dock Dogs events with four different competitions: There’s the Big Air Wave where dogs race down a 40′ dock and dive into a pool of water to fetch a object and are judged for length of their jump; the Extreme Vertical where the dogs compete in a high jump, rushing to grab a “bumper” suspended in the air. With each grab, the height increases in two-inch increments until a dog is crowned king; the Speed Retrieve where dogs are put on a clock to see how fast they can run down the dock, jump in the water, swim to the end of the pool and retrieve an object which is held by a d arm extension changed; and finally Dueling Dogs, a quick fetch with two dogs racing against each other where the dock and pool are split and each dog has a lane. The fastest dog to its bumper is the winner.
This year’s edition of the show, as always, remains family-friendly. In addition to the fun Dock Dogs program, youngsters can have fun visiting the Eddie Eagle Children’s Zone, a climbing wall and the ever-popular children’s trout pond.
Once again, the show offers a full range of outdoor-oriented seminars. These include presentations by fishing experts Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston and others. Sean Miller will be on hand with his dog training demonstrations and Sean Mann will offer his advice on waterfowl hunting. A host of hunting seminars will target deer hunting, turkey hunting, predator hunting and big game hunting in general. Licensed Alligator Agent Jason Clark will present a demonstration focusing on America’s most interesting reptiles, especially poisonous snakes. A number of seminars will focus on firearms issues and wild game cuisine.
Another popular attraction is the NRA Foundation’s Wall of Guns. With the purchase of an admission ticket, participants could be the lucky winner of one of the more than 40 different firearms displayed on the wall. With a combination of rifles, pistols and shotguns there is something for everyone, and with only 100 chances of being sold at a time to tip the scales in favor of the ticket buyer. All proceeds benefit the NRA Foundation and the future of shooting sports. Firearms will be transferred to the local Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer chosen by the winner. A $10 ticket gives you the chance to win a wall prize.
But my favorite aspect of the show over the years has been the endless array of outfitters and guides at your fingertips. With hundreds of hunting and fishing outfitters at the show, there’s no better place to shop and get the best deal available on a hunting, fishing or other outdoor adventure. In the past I have booked a mule deer and antelope hunt in Wyoming, a number of elk hunts in Colorado, white tail deer hunts in Maryland and North Carolina, a caribou in Canada and a bear hunt in Ontario. Although not all trips were successful in producing game, all of these outfitters provided top quality service. If you’re seriously considering booking a future hunting or fishing trip, there’s no better or more convenient place to do so than the Great American Outdoor Show.
And if you’re at the show on the last day, Feb. 13, you might want to check out the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association’s Annual Sportsman’s Auction which runs from 1-3 p.m. that day. -the. This is the 39th annual sports auction designed to benefit the Kermit Henning Youth Education Grant Program. All funds raised are given to state agencies for activities that include youth in the outdoors, such as conservation camps, field days, hunting and fishing programs, etc. To date, our sports auctions have raised close to $500,000.
Show hours are Saturday, February 5: 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.;
6 Feb. : 10am-5pm; February 7-11: 10am-7pm; 12 Feb. : 9am-7pm; Feb. 13: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, 2300 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA, 17110.
COVID-19 Protocols: The PA Farm Show Complex is following CDC guidelines for indoor events. No proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter the building and there is no mask requirement. In accordance with CDC guidelines for indoor events, anyone two years of age or older attending events at the Farm Show Complex is encouraged to wear a mask.
For more information about the show, including ticketing and parking, go to their website at https://www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org
**** Tom Tatum is the outside columnist for the MediaNews group. You can reach him at [email protected]
By Tom Tatum