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Great American Outdoor Show is here!

The Great American Outdoor Show is here all this week, and you owe it to yourself to see it.

Unlike “gun shows” and related flea markets full of rusty junk and Mabel’s old kitchen odds n’ ends, the Great American Outdoor Show is 100% pure beef sprawling across acres and acres of Pennsylvania Farm Show Building. It is a completely unadulterated gear-queer’s heaven-on-earth, with everything from classy side-by-side British shotguns to endless arrays and permutations of tactical gear and “Black Rifle” accoutrements.

Trop Gun Shop usually has some sort of modern “urban assault vehicle” parked there; several years ago it was a 1960s VW van re-designed to look like a Bat Mobile replete with a mini-Vulcan automatic belt-fed rotary cannon on top. Super cool stuff.

Just about every major gun manufacturer is here, except for Kimber, I think, which is sad, because Kimber makes top quality handguns and hunting rifles. The public would benefit from being able to fondle, errr, become acquainted with their fine creations. For example, a friend of mine took a 140-inch whitetail buck this past winter in the Adirondacks wilderness, miles from any roads. His rifle was….a Kimber Adirondack in .308, with which he gets quarter-inch groups at 100 yards. Now that is an accurate gun.

And so with all these gun manufacturers on location, you can pick up and handle just about any handgun made in America today, as well as the Italian revolvers used by Cowboy Action Shooting folks. Concealed carry is a big deal these days, and every serious concealed carry handgun is available to test out. Except the Kimbers.

There are custom knives, mass-produced knives, a Persian guy selling low-cost Damascus blades made in Pakistan and China with God-knows-what-metals in them, duck boats, bass boats, ultra-deluxe fishing kayaks by Hobie, the Portable Winch, animal calls of every sort, specialty ammunition, a gazillion hunting and fishing outfitters from around the world, and everything else you could possibly imagine or want.

Well, JRJ Knives is not there this year, as he has missed the past two years. John has more demand than he can keep up with, and I guess he don’t need no stinkin’ show. But his presence is always enjoyed, and I miss seeing him here.

My appearance at the GAOS is always closely tied to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen & Conservationists, at whose booth I am an annual volunteer, holding down the fort with the likes of Grouchy Dennis, Happy Phil, Over-Mother Melody and many others who volunteer their time to help PFSC help sportsmen. And there is no other organization in Pennsylvania that helps sportsmen like the PFSC. In fact, right now the NRA does not have a representative working in Pennsylvania, and it is the PFSC lobbyist who is carrying the NRA’s load these days in the legislature.

Of course there is FOAC, and they do amazing work, but when it comes to conservation, science-based wildlife management, AND firearms rights, PFSC is it.

And so for me the GAOS is all about the PFSC, and serving the sportsmen.

The show goes on through Saturday, and you should see it to believe it. It is truly incredible.

 

Thank you to wildlife’s friends, my friends

When I started writing for Eric Epstein’s Rock the Capitol about eight years ago, one of the first stories I related to readers was an experience two of my children and I had with two pitbulls let off their leashes.

The readership statistics on this one essay were off the charts. Very high volume, and lots of comments. When I asked why, Eric and his website manager, whose name I now forget, told me that news items and stories involving animals claim the biggest share of attention on the Internet.

Fascinating, right?

And we all kind of see this fact in the strange way people routinely show concern for an injured goat in the news by donating a million dollars so the goat can get its broken hoof fixed, and then a truly sad situation involving some news story about a poor unfortunate child whose abusive parents tormented her for years raises just five bucks to get her into a better home.

It is true that people care about animals, and that is a good thing. But this care seems to extend mostly, really overwhelmingly, to domesticated animals; animals that depend upon humans for care and shelter. A natural and healthy empathy is aroused when some unfortunate critter is seen hemmed in by wire or caging, unable to provide for itself and yet not being provided for by the humans around it.

The type of animals people have the least identity with is wildlife. Most Americans, being urban or suburban, simply mythologize wildlife.

From this more urban view, all bears are universally perceived as aggressively dangerous (they are not, though grizzlies are definitely more aggressive than black bears). Deer run out in front of our cars, eat our crops, spread ticks with Lyme Disease, and nibble our yard shrubs, dammit. Squirrels are nasty tree rats with fuzzy tails chewing on our yard furniture, eating the produce of our gardens and fruit trees, and diving our trash bins. And skunks, possums and raccoons are a bunch of rabies-ridden trashcan raiders. And so on.

Wildlife by and large is not greatly appreciated by the general public, unless it is a close-up photo of some baby raccoon or fox kit. And no, I am not talking about wildlife photographers or the insane Humane Society as representative of the general public. These two categories of people are far distant outliers of one sort or another, and no generality can be drawn from their presence among or about wildlife.

So thank God there are sportsmen out there; that is, hunters and trappers. These are the Americans who really do truly care for and about wildlife, and they prove it every damned day with their financial donations and back-breaking work on wildlife habitat projects.

There is no better advocacy group or aggregation of active people who love wild animals and the wild places they need to thrive than hunters and trappers. Time has proven this fact, though the foolish flatlander will claim, with a mouthful of gross stockyard beef in her mouth, that hunting and trapping are “cruel.”

Most of our public lands were first acquired by and for hunting and trapping, at the urging of hunters and trappers. They knew in the 1890s and 1920s that human encroachment into formerly wild areas was leaving no room for the most interesting animals on earth. Many of these animals are more interesting than most of the humans we will encounter in any given day, week, month, or lifetime.

This weekend I really enjoyed my time among a special group of people, the state-wide leadership of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists (PFSC), what until yesterday was known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (PFSC). Most Americans no longer know that the word “sport” is about hunting, fishing, and trapping, nor do they know what a ‘sporting club’ is about. The lexicon has changed as the daily experience has changed. Meat is no longer acquired from a wild animal who knew it was hunted, but rather from a miserable creature tormented from its earliest days until its last moment alive and turned into a convenient styrofoam package.

The PFSC folks are the people who work every day for the benefit of wildlife, for wildlife habitat, for the defense and promotion of our state parks, state forests, and state game lands. These people do it humbly, quietly, generously, and usually all they get in return is some self-satisfaction from sitting back after a grouse hunt and, despite an empty game bag, intently watching a mysterious red Fall sunset streaked with white wispy trailing clouds sinking down behind shadowy trees shedding their colorful leaves. A deeply comforting stillness overtakes these people at these moments, alone or with companions, and when they go home that night, they know their decades of work fundraising for the latest land acquisition by the Wildlands Conservancy has paid off. It might be a relatively small nook in a big world, but it is a special nook nonetheless, where wildlife — wild animals unknown and unloved by most people — can call home until the next glacier comes through and re-orders the earth’s surface, as has already happened many times in the past.

Here is to you, a heartfelt thank you, my friends, my companions, my betters and my teachers among the outdoorsman fellowship. Thank you for your time and gift to me and to everyone and every living thing around me, whether they know or know not what you do for us.

Weekend with the PA sportsmen

Though being involved with the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs since about 2000, maybe 1999, I have never spent an entire weekend at one of the group’s annual conventions.

Founded in the 1920s, PFSC is one of America’s oldest conservation groups. Back in 1954, the group started what is now the Great American Outdoor Show, now run by NRA.

PFSC has been at the forefront of every major environmental issue (sometimes with the greens, sometimes not), conservation initiative, and gun rights fight since the 1920s. It is a group worth giving to in any way you can, and it seems to attract the most selfless, generous, interesting people.

This past weekend was my first full PFSC convention, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was eye-opening and heart warming. My new role as Perry County Delegate gave me a whole new view.

Here are some observations:

First, the group is politically, ethnically, genderly, and religiously diverse. Not just a bunch of “white guys with guns,” the group is administratively and professionally run mostly by three kind, patient, and bossy women, with an impressive second vice president on her way up to being president in the new few years. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Atheists, Deists, and probably a couple Druids. Republicans, Independents, Democrats, liberals, moderates, conservatives, and knuckle-draggers. Financially successful business people, blue collar workers with dirt under their nails, retired state, federal, and private industry workers. It is a rich and neat mix of very different people from across Pennsylvania, who share a few passions: Wildlife conservation, habitat conservation, passing on the outdoor heritage (hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing etc), and Second Amendment rights. But ageism reigns supreme, with not many young people showing up.

Second, the group is overwhelmingly in the “Oldster” category, with a few truly young people. There’s a lot of white hair and white beards. I am 52 and I am considered one of the “young guys.” But there are some active 20- and 30-somethings. Why lots of younger people are absent is probably attributable to these reasons: a) Like many other Americans, young sportsmen take a lot for granted, b) Like many other Americans, young sportsmen are happy to let someone else carry their weight, c) Americans are scattered all over the place with family and work obligations, and people raising young families are programmed from Friday at 4:00 until Sunday at 9:00 every weekend.

Something needs to change here, though, and young people must get involved with PFSC. There are a lot of forces out there quietly working against the interests of sportsmen, and if the guard is weakened or dropped, then the negative changes will happen fast and furious. Think your shooting range is grandfathered in, and protected from all of the new housing that suddenly surrounded it? Guess what, someone could challenge your range’s status in court for the 29th time, and finally get a lousy judge who decides to be the creator of law, not the arbiter. Only PFSC stands ready.

Third, these are the most generous, community-spirited people you will ever meet. They are devoted and happily spend their own money to protect what they love. Unlike the popular but nevertheless wrong method of demanding that everyone bend to some individual’s wishes, the sportsmen just keep giving and giving, and hoping that eventually everyone else will realize the trails, pretty birds, farms, and public lands they take for granted did not just happen because. Rather, sportsmen were there at the beginning, working hard to protect these resources for decades. Simply because they are visionary, passionate, dedicated and hard working.

Would you please lend a hand?

Buy a three-dollar raffle ticket?

Come out and work a Youth Field Day?

Join a club and pay a little money to keep the ranges looking spotless?

Join the PFSC as an individual, or simply donate five or ten bucks, to help pay for the FULL TIME lobbyist on Capitol Hill?

You don’t like lobbyists, you say. OK, who then is going to head off bad legislation aimed at destroying your Second Amendment rights, stealing your public lands, fouling the public waters, or allowing wildlife to only become roadkill?

Only the PFSC protects the interests of all Pennsylvania sportsmen. They have been doing it since the 1920s, and they are doing it today.

Join this small but spirited and accomplished crowd, be the best you can be, or just send them five bucks and help a worthy cause. It is your own cause, after all. http://www.pfsc.org/

First Super Bowl I’ve Ever Missed

This will be the first Super Bowl I have not watched or participated in some way.

Every year we have a nice party at our home. Lots of food, friends, good cheer and great company. People come, they go, they return, the kids play downstairs where they have their own TV. It has always been a fun time.

However, because the NFL has decided to become involved in anti-America politics, I am giving the NFL a wide berth this year. I have not watched even one second of one game this season, and I will not be watching the Super Bowl, either.

Instead, this Sunday I will be at the PA Farm Show Building, volunteering to cover the PA Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs booth at the Great American Outdoor Show. At the GAOS, I will be greeting fellow outdoors folk, talking up hunting, trapping, and fishing, and reminding visitors of the need for solidarity among sportsmen.

Reminder: The PFSC started the outdoor show that is now the GAOS, back in 1954. And it was I who wrote the call to boycott former show promoter Reid Exhibitions, after they refused to allow modern sporting rifles in the show, and it was PFSC leaders who spread the boycott call far and wide and started it going and which drove off the British-owned Reid Exhibitions and paved the way for the NRA to take over the show. So the PFSC has been central to the GAOS and all the good stuff that goes with it for a very long time.

Here in Pennsylvania we have an unusual arrangement that no other state has. We have a league of exceptional people, dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation, sound policy, and full-throated Second Amendment freedom. No other group in America, much less Pennsylvania, does what the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs does at the state level. Everyone benefits from PFSC’s daily work at the Capitol: Birders, wildflower enthusiasts, hikers, and yes, hunters, trappers, and fishermen, too.

One way GAOS visitors can support the outdoor sports is by purchasing a PFSC $5 raffle ticket. Every year people win nice guns and lots of money. It is a good investment, because even if you don’t win (and I never win), you are supporting PFSC’s full-time lobbyist and part-time support staff, so that all outdoorsmen have a constant voice in politics. PFSC is the main reason Pennsylvania bears no resemblance to our surrounding states, with their crazy anti gun laws and emphasis on animal “rights.”

Sorry, NFL, aka Kaepernick and Roger Goodell, you have made yourself irrelevant to me, and by acting so aggressively against America, you have reminded me and many other Americans of what is most important. It’s not entertainment, it’s not beer commercials (Budweiser has a pro-open borders ad, so kiss that beer goodbye from our future family purchases), it’s not hotdogs or even the company of friends. What matters most is bolstering the people and the values that have always made America great. And here in Central Pennsylvania, that means keeping company with fellow outdoorsmen.

See you at the GAOS!  And God bless America.

 

Great American Outdoor Show is in Harrisburg, and it is Fantastic

The Great American Outdoor Show, which used to be called the Eastern Outdoor Show until the former promoter turned anti-gun and tried to block vendors from showcasing their modern sporting rifles, is on and happening in Harrisburg through Sunday.

I have been volunteering a bit for the PA Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, not nearly as much as I have in the past, but still contributing and selling raffle tickets to friendly people who visit the booth.

Last year the Federation raffled off a Bushmaster AR-15, and this year we are just doing cash.  Right now the pot is a few thousand dollars, and by the time the raffle is drawn it’ll be much more.  Some of the proceeds go to support the Federation, so it’s a good cause.

I stopped in to visit the Unified Sportsmen booth the other day, but the person I sought was not there and the volunteers were just leaving, but I am looking forward to hearing their perspective on sportsmen’s issues.

The River’s Edge canoe and kayak sales by Neill and Evelyn Andritz  sold me on a Hobie kayak.  But let me tell you, these kayaks today are not your Nanuk of the North kayaks of old.  My friends, these things might as well be on the space shuttle for when our guys find water on Mars, because they are nothing like the sloppy, floppy, tipsy, floating death traps we used to squeeze ourselves into.  Today’s Hobie kayak is a blended hybrid, using the best qualities of canoes, surf boards, and kayaks to bring small-craft fishing into the 22nd century.  The Mirage Pro Angler 14 and the Mirage Outback were the two I had to choose between in the end, but being a “Big Guy” means that the 600-pound capacity of the Mirage Pro Angler is a must-have.

And beyond the fat-guy-and-all-his-gear capacity, the technical bells and whistles are amazing.  Stand-up stabilizing bars, leg-driven flipper drives that look and power like an orca tail, bait coolers, adjustable seats that would be at home in a Maserati, sleek rudder controls you can use with your elbow, hand, or foot, storage lockers running the full length for stashing kit so big you can harpoon the shark of your dreams, rod holders everywhere, holes for masts, and so on.

And all this above is about just one vendor with two small self-powered boats I liked in the Farm Show complex that is loaded to the gills with gear, knives, guns, outfitters from around the world, specialty clothing and footwear, trophy services, archery gear so sophisticated I feel like I am Stone Age when I handle it, RVs, ATVs, camping gear, bug-out survival gear, and so on and on for much more.

The Great American Outdoor Show is worth visiting if for no other reason than to say you went and witnessed one of the wonders of the world.  It is the biggest show of its kind in the world, and even if our new governor, Tom Wolf, isn’t interested in attending (incredibly that is true), you definitely should.

Some observations on knives sold at the Great American Outdoor Show

Knife production is reaching an apex, it appears. Never before in one place have I seen so many higher quality production knives as I have seen at the Great American Outdoor Show. Many booths selling hundreds and hundreds of better quality folding knives, with some custom and semi-custom knife sellers sprinkled around.

Oddly, you can’t find a sharpening stone in the entire Farm Show complex to save your blade’s life. No one is selling sharpening stones. Blades out the wazoo, yes. Ways to keep them functioning, no. Whether it is a sign of the throw-away society meeting Pleistocene Man, or too much optimism about modern steels’ edge retention capability, it is an odd sign indeed.

Once the purview of expensive custom knives, Damascus blades are now ubiquitous, although most are probably made in Pakistan and India, so their quality cannot be real high, and you’ve got no idea of their cadmium, arsenic, or lead content, either, although I am willing to bet these blades are positively toxic to human health. They do look nice, though.

[Damascus steel is a mix of different types of metals that when folded over and over and then hammered out reveal an appealing variety of patterns. Because metal types used in Damascus steel vary widely, quality varies widely. I use only Alabama Damascus in my knives]

Clearly, there is a bleeding over from the custom knife market into the high production market, where quality used to suffer badly. Knife buying Americans evidently have improved tastes and higher expectations for their over-the-counter knives. That’s a good thing. But do they have to be made in those rainbow colors? They hurt my eyes. Camo handles are humorous – drop your knife, never find your knife, lose your knife. Maybe those rainbow colored handles work, after all.

One other observation is the high number of bug-out bags being made. Man, Americans seem ready for the apocalypse. After seeing so many of these grab-and-run packs, I now realize that I need one, too. No, my oh-so-1970s Kelty backpacks do not seem up to snuff, even though they have served me well on rugged wilderness trips for many years. Nope, camo is de rigeur here, too.

Come on by the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs booth and buy a raffle ticket for our Bushmaster AR-15 M4. Just ten bucks gets you a lot closer to having your bug-out bag fully equipped with a state-of-the-art rifle.

So much to write about, so little time to do it!

Upcoming subject matter includes: Boy Scouts of America policy on sexualizing children (don’t do it), immigration ‘reform’ and the Boston bombing (don’t do it), trading off the Second Amendment for the First Amendment after Muslims blow up the Boston Marathon (don’t do it), the lack of coverage of mainstream media of the Gosnell Abortion House of Horrors and Freak Show (msm is not doing it), and the Obama administration’s odd handling of a young Saudi Arabian kid who was caught up in the Boston bombing and then whisked away by federal officials and scheduled for deportation, without being brought to justice in America….

Separately, thank you to Kim Stolfer and FOAC who organized yesterday’s wonderful Second Amendment rally at the PA state capitol. I enjoyed catching up with many friends and fellow activists, including Shira Goodman, an activist for the other team. Shira works for CeaseFirePA, a gun prohibition group. Yet Shira continues to surprise me, saying she reads this blog regularly (Hi Shira! Thank you!), and that she is taking shooting lessons (DO IT!).

Thank you also to the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, which held its annual Legislative Shoot yesterday at the Mechanicsburg Sportsmen’s Association. Well over 50, maybe 60 members of the PA House attended, as well as quite a few state senators. It was my great pleasure to teach a young Democrat how to shoot an AR-15, so he could see that it’s not a weapon of war, nor is it inclined to jump up and immediately start shooting people of its own accord.

Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show CANCELLED

Reed Expo (or Exhibitions) just announced that the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show is being “postponed,” which means it is effectively cancelled.

Reed Expo is canceling because of the enormous boycott of the show over their new anti-Second Amendment policy. That boycott started with a call to me from one of the show’s vendors over ten days ago. I sent a statement which was rapidly shared across the sporting community, and the sportsmen’s community (PFSC, HUSH, WFE Foundation, NWTF) leapt into action. Before you knew it, Reed Expos was getting kicked in the teeth by hurt, angry American citizens. The betrayal was too much to bear.

Reed Expos is a British company. Britain was once a great nation, and the British were once a great people, but they have decided to disarm themselves and to criminalize self-defense. Failed gun control of every sort is de rigeur in England, and Reed Expos took the dubious but very British position of banning from the show the one gun that most symbolizes the Second Amendment: The AR-15.

That upset their core audience. That core audience just fought back. And wait until the breach-of-contract lawsuits start flying against Reed Expos. The company will probably lose tens of millions of dollars. They may go bankrupt. That would be their own fault, however, because at every step over the past two weeks, they were asked to reconsider their policy change. Neither vendors nor paying visitors wanted to miss the show. Reed Expos stuck to their guns, and has suffered the consequences.

Message to businesses: If you stand with us, we will stand with you. And if you stand against us, we will stand against you.

Next stop: Hollywood, the least principled, most hypocritical, most destructive location on Earth. It’s like that one place is the epicenter of a continual tidal wave of crap that splashes all over the planet. It’s time to financially punish empty-headed actors like Danny Glover, who profited enormously from using guns in his movies, but who now says that the Second Amendment was designed to protect slavery.

Three cheers to the American sportsman: You did it. You united. You had an effect. You should be proud of yourselves.