THE EVERYDAY HUNTER: What to do at a sport show

May’s spring gobbler season is more than three months away and gobblers are huddled up for the winter. I can’t read their little minds, though many times I’ve tried, but I’m guessing they’re just as anxious as we are for the spring thaw.

Why wouldn’t they be?

They’re trying to stay warm and find enough to eat and they don’t even have television to pass the time.

What to do while we wait? It’s the show season. The just-completed Warren Sport Show at the Warren Mall was a good warm-up. Next comes the giant Eastern Sport and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg (February 2-10). If you’ve never been there, spend a day or two – you have nine whole days to see what it’s all about. It’s not just a show; it’s an adventure.

Right on Harrisburg’s heels is the Allegheny Sport and Outdoor Show near Pittsburgh at the Monroeville Convention Center (February 13-17). Then, the closest is the Erie Sport and Travel Expo at Erie’s Bayfront Convention Center (March 1-3).

What does a person do at a sport show? There is no denying that one reason they exist is to get you to spend your money. If you don’t want to spend money, then don’t take much. Other benefits are enough to make it worthwhile. Here are five things to do:

1. Cure cabin fever – If it’s too early for yard work, too muddy or snowy to get out into the woods and too cold for you to enjoy the outdoors, you still need to get out and move around. Do it at a sport show. Gawk at some monster whitetail mounts and other trophies and put them into your dreams for next season.

2. Attend seminars – Sport shows always hold seminars presented by some of the most successful hunters and fishermen in the nation. If you find yourself in a rut, there’s no better place to get exposed to new techniques and learn something you can use.

3. Talk to experts – A few “celebrity experts” always roam the shows, but many of the vendor booths are staffed by hunters and fishermen who know just as much, or more. I’ve been on both sides of the booth and I can tell you the people in the booths will welcome a conversation with you.

4. See new products – Sport shows often give a first look at the latest products for outdoorsmen. Yes, many of them are gimmicks. True, you don’t really need most of them. But I’ve discovered a few things at sport shows that I’m glad I have. And if you are planning a big purchase, a sport show might be the best place to handle products and make comparisons. Treestands, binoculars, game calls, knives, turkey vests – it’s an “Alice’s Restaurant” of sporting goods – you can get anything you want.

5. Dream – You might not be planning a hunting or fishing trip in the near future, but it never hurts to talk to the people who provide them. A sport show is the place to scope out the guides, grab some of their literature and start thinking about where and when. I remember one old-timer telling me about his hunting adventures in Canada and he asked me if I’d ever been out of state to hunt. At the time I hadn’t. He said, “Well, get going.”

Get going – that’s my advice to you. Don’t hunker down like a gobbler in the dead of winter. While you’re waiting for spring, grab a buddy or two and have a good time cruising the aisles at a sport show.