Spring is in the air: Preparations begin for statewide sportsmen shows

Bill Graves, Special to The County
15 years ago

For many Maine outdoorsmen the first day of open water fishing season on April 1 means spring has arrived. Other sportsmen reserve judgment until the lakes free from ice and fiddleheads pop up along moist and muddy shorelines, usually a month later, in early May.

    Since cabin fever usually has me climbing the walls by mid-January, I use a different criteria.
The wide array of boat, gun and sportsmen shows which take place each March provide just the tonic for my winter blues and blahs.
Since I already own two boats, as well as a trio of canoes in various sizes and shapes, attending one of the regional boat shows is more a diversion than a buying trip.
On the other hand, a smart waterman always looks for deals and the option to trade up.
Also, just talking about and viewing various watercraft for cast and blast outings revives my winter weary sporting spirit.The same holds true for gun shows, just walking the aisles perusing and handling new, pre-owned and even vintage rifles, shotguns and handguns is extremely uplifting on a dreary March day. A lot of great hunting tales are exchanged at these events too.
Every once in awhile there’s even a good chance of finding a particular gun that you just can’t live without. Remember, there’s a very big difference in what you need and what you want, and I’ve always been a bit edgy around any devout sportsman who tells me with a straight face that he owns enough rods and guns.
Of all the March extravaganzas, the several sportsman shows are my favorite events because they are so multifaceted. There’s something of interest for men, women, and kids, from live animal exhibits, carving, photography, painting, taxidermy, demonstrations, slide show lectures, and booth after booth of outdoor-oriented businesses to check out.
Kids can learn to tie a fly, hunters can enjoy a bird dog training exhibit and ladies with a yen for water sports can personally try out a kayak or canoe in the pool, or at least view an expert put on a kayak handling show.         Usually there are several raffles and door prizes too, so some lucky sport goes home with a new fishing rod, firearm, boat and even wins a hunting or fishing trip to some special spot.
Presque Isle’s Fish and Game Club will once again be sponsoring their annual Sportsman’s Show in the Star City this month.     At Gentile Hall on the University of Maine campus in Presque Isle on Saturday March 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday the 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. a wide variety of attractions can be enjoyed.
An Old Town canoe will be awarded as a door prize and special attractions include a kid’s trout fishing pond sponsored by L.L.Bean, as well as a shooting range and an archery range.
Along with 75 exhibitors, fishing lodges and sporting camps from Maine, New Brunswick, Labrador, Quebec, and throughout New England, the Presque Isle show will feature its ever popular moose calling contest at 4  p.m. Saturday, and the winners will split $350 in prize money.
Demonstrations by the Maine Spaniel Club and North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, Canoeing/Kayaking demos and seminars on life saving and bass fishing will also be on tap.
For just $4 area outdoorsmen can forget about winter for a few hours and pretend spring is just around the corner, it’s a well deserved respite.
Those sportsmen who don’t mind traveling a bit can actually find one type of show or another every weekend this month. Sometimes multiple opportunities per week that help March fly by.         For example, L.L. Bean in Freeport is having their 19th annual Spring fishing expo on the 21 and 22.
The 71st annual Eastern Maine Sportsman’s show will take place at the University of Maine in Orono this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Bangor Boat show will be at the auditorium on March 20, 21 and 22, and the fifth Pine Tree State Sportsman Show will take place in Wilton on those same dates, while the Sanford Gun Show will be the same weekend but only on Friday and Saturday.         Lewiston’s 33rd Twin City Gun Show occurs March 28 and 29 and Presque Isle’s second annual gun show will be at the Northeastland Hotel on March 14 and 15.
Believe it or not there are still plenty of boat, gun, and outdoor shows on April’s agenda as well, starting with the state’s largest event, Augusta’s State of Maine Sportsman Show sponsored by The Maine Sportsman magazine.      For winter weary outdoorsmen any of these March and April shows are a great way to spend a day or a weekend.
There’s plenty to see, lots to learn, and it’s likely you’ll run into a friend or neighbor at some point.
The fact is there’s a darn good chance you’ll see me wandering around at several of the shows and that silly grin on my face will tell you that spring really is just around the corner.