The Everyday Hunter: A Winter Safari Cures Cabin Fever

A sport show is a great place to view quality taxidermy. You can see some memorable exotic animals, and get ideas on how you’d like your next whitetail mounted.
A sport show is a great place to view quality taxidermy. You can see some memorable exotic animals, and get ideas on how you’d like your next whitetail mounted.
Steve Sorensen
Steve Sorensen
Contribiting Writer

Whatever the groundhog said, don’t rely on his forecast. But my prediction is always reliable: spring isn’t right around the corner, and we need to shake off winter doldrums. One way of doing that is attending one of the sport shows in Pennsylvania or western New York.

The big one is the Great American Outdoor Show, a nine-day event in Harrisburg, PA at the State Farm Show Complex. Conducted by the National Rifle Association, the GAOS is the largest consumer outdoor show in the eastern half of the United States. The GAOS opened February 1 and will close February 9. It draws visitors from more than a dozen states.

It’s far too big to take in with a one-day trip unless you’ve been there before and know your way around. Inexpensive hotels are available within a 10 to 15 mile radius. It’s a pretty cheap stay if you can share a room with someone. You’ll see everything there that has anything to do with hunting, fishing, and the sportsman’s lifestyle.

Outfitters from all over the world — Is Africa or Alaska or Australia in your future. Start dreaming!Wyoming antelope? Colorado elk? Montana muleys? Very realistic! You might get that kick in the pants to help you check off a line on your bucket list. It’s well worth seeing what 400-some outfitters offer and they welcome your conversation. For you it’s day or two. For them it’s nine long days, and they want to pass the time talking to you.

New products — New bows, new firearms, new calls. New fishing gear, knives, clothing, firearm accessories, ammo, lifestyle products — you’ll see it all. What you’ve seen in advertisements you’ll see up close, plus you’ll get to handle it and ask questions.

Seminars — Some of the nation’s top experts will take you to the next level in your hunting skills. More than 200 seminars to choose from means you can find those that fit your interests and your schedule. This alone is worth the price of admission.

Personalities — Call them celebrities if you like. I call them personalities. The GAOS is where I’ve gotten to know several of them. This year I look forward to meeting Randy Flannery, reconnecting with Barry Wensel, and resume ongoing conversations with some of Pennsylvania’s top wildlife artists including Jack Paluh and Gerry Putt. Pick the brains of whitetail hunters, predator hunters and more, all at the top of their game.

Incredible Taxidermy — Here’s a big reason your trip to the GAOS will be like going on safari. You’ll probably never see so much taxidermy under one roof. It’s everywhere. Giant whitetails, enormous elk, immense bears, and more, plus animals you’ve probably never seen! And the PA Taxidermy Competition is on display. It’s all first class stuff, and you’ll come away knowing what good taxidermy is.

Much more — Besides finding great deals on virtually everything an outdoorsman can need, your favorite conservation organization will be there, plus activities for the entire family, a Saturday night country concert, competitions, dog demonstrations, the 38th Annual Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association Sportsman’s Auction and so much more.

If you’ve never been to “the Harrisburg show,” you owe it to yourself to go. But if it doesn’t work out this year you have other choices. Several shows are coming up in Pennsylvania including Monroeville (east of Pittsburgh), and Erie. And in New York, in Hamburg. If one of these doesn’t fit your schedule, chances are you’ll find a great smaller show nearby.

Space here won’t permit including all the logistical details or even a brief listing, so fire up your Internet search engine and make your plans. When show season ends, you’ll be ready for spring turkeys and trout season.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.