This year I decided to try something new. Instead of flying across the country and paying exorbitant prices in Vegas at SHOT Show, I instead stayed in my own time zone and drove to the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
This show, a presentation of the NRA, spans nine days and 650,000 square feet of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The family-friendly event features more than 1,100 exhibitors, plus competitions, educational seminars, speakers, and celebrity appearances – including former President Donald Trump.
This show is kind of a cross between the NRAAM and the State Fair. Yes there are guns, but there are also boats, and fishing gear, and archery gear, and hunting gear, and more outfitters from more places than you could travel to in decades, and seminars about venomous snakes, and how to draw more deer to your property, and how to fish the Susquehanna River, and noises from turkey and goose calls every-fricken-where, And food … and food … and more food.
It was a completely different experience than SHOT Show and enjoyable in a different way. I went during the week to avoid some of the crowds, and I also avoided the time that Former President Trump was to be there. I hate crowds and it might have also been a security headache as well. I kept forgetting that merchandise was actually for sale there, (unlike SHOT) so my first day was for scoping things out and the second day was for shopping! Plus one brain point to me for staying at a hotel that offered free shuttle to the show and back.
So without further ado allow me to present (at least) five things you can do at this show that you cannot at SHOT.
1. Get a whiff of manure
The GAOS is held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, so there are reminders everywhere that this site is first and foremost an agricultural center. The Farm Show is in January and the complex is well cleaned afterward, but after generations of use there is still an occasional reminder of our country’s agricultural heritage. Being a rural gal myself this just reminded me of home. There are also many more Amish/Mennonite folks at this show than you will ever see in Vegas.
2. Eat a funnel cake.
This deep fried batter confection “used” to be a PA Dutch speciality, but now I think most people just consider it “fair food”. Nonetheless I consider it an essential element to having a proper gastronomic experience in Pennsylvania. I’ve personally never seen a funnel cake at SHOT Show.
3. Watch an in-person deer butchering demonstration (while eating the above funnel cake).
You can do some pretty strange things in Vegas, but I doubt that eating fried batter while watching meat butchering is one of them. There were subsequent demonstrations throughout the day in ways to use the various cuts and cook them up. You could literally spend all day just at the butchering/meat/cooking demonstrations and buy jerky, cheeses, and all kinds of snacks to boot (I recommend the sweet beef bologna sticks). If I “had” all day to do that I would have. I don’t have nearly enough experience in the butchering end of hunting.
4. Watch “Dock Dogs”.
While there are various LEO and service dogs at SHOT, none of them get wet. At the GAOS there were water dog competitions throughout the days that I attended. Unfortunately, every time I peeked into the arena I kept missing the big contenders. But I did get a look at a few puppers who were just not having any of it. They are probably champions in their own duck pond at home, but in a big arena with a chlorinated pool some of them simply said “Nope”. Ya had to feel for them, but they sure were cute.
5. Meet a foot doctor who invented a decoy system.
I’ll write a separate article about this later, but I met a fellow retired doctor who has patented his own innovative motorized decoy system for waterfowl hunting. The company name is “Quickcoys” and there’s the link. More on that in another piece.
As if all this weren’t a sufficient taste of why you should go to the GAOS next year, stay tuned for even more.