Game Fair Still Going Strong After 35 Years

I figure it has been about 20 years since I last attended Game Fair in Anoka, Minnesota, so when the invite reached my desk to come back I was certainly anxious to check it out once again.

For those who are not familiar, Game Fair is the annual event held over two weekends each August to prime everyone’s pump, so to speak, for the fast-approaching hunting seasons.   It’s an event celebrating guns, shooting, dogs and just about everything related to the shooting sports we all enjoy each fall.   Situated on 80–acres of land containing woods and waters, the location provides all the sights, sounds and tactile pleasures that sportsmen associate with the best season of the year—fall.

I was amazed at all the changes that had occurred over the past 20 years.   Now, with over 300 outdoor exhibitors from 28 states and provinces, this has easily tripled in size from what I last remember back from the mid ’90s.   Duck and goose calls, decoys, dog equipment, home decor, you name it…if it appeals to the outdoors person it will likely be found at Game Fair.

I think the biggest purpose Game Fair serves annually is to scratch the itch many outdoors oriented people get about this time of the year.   With big game seasons now happening in the western states in a matter of days, and seasons in many Midwestern states only weeks away, there’s nothing better than to rub elbows with like-minded folks who share the same passions of life.

Now, because Game Fair is rather visual, I think the best way to further explain the unique experience is with pictures(and captions).

When most people think of Game Fair they think of dogs--you'll see just about all of the sporting breeds.

When most people think of Game Fair they think of dogs–you’ll see just about all of the popular sporting breeds on display.

Indeed, dogs receive lots of attention at Game Fair.

Indeed, dogs receive lots of attention at Game Fair.

Some dogs even put up with more attention than they care to receive. Ha!

Some dogs even put up with more attention than they care to receive. Ha!

But for sure, Game Fair is about enjoying the companionship sportsman have with their canine partners.

But for sure, Game Fair is about enjoying the companionship sportsmen have with their canine partners.

Game Fair is one of the few events where bringing your dogs (on leash) is encouraged.

Game Fair is one of the few events where bringing your dogs (on leash) is highly encouraged.

No dog? No problem. At Game Fair you can come without a dog and go home with a energetic puppy willing to provide years of love in your home.

No dog? No problem. At Game Fair you can come without a dog and go home with a energetic puppy willing to provide years of love in your home.

Then again, some folks come just for the FREE dog training lessons taught by world renowned experts like Tom Dokken.

Then again, some folks come just for the FREE dog training lessons taught by world renowned experts, like Tom Dokken.

Tom Dokken is truly one of the most generous guys sharing his time and experience to turn your pet into an obedient partner.

Tom Dokken is truly one of the most generous guys sharing his time and experience to turn your pet into an obedient, capable partner.

So, you think your dog is already well trained? Prove it! Game Fair offers several events where your partner can prove he's Top Dog in the field.

So, you think your dog is already well trained? Prove it! Game Fair offers several events where your canine partner can prove they’re “Top Dog” in their field.

Some of these timed events give dog owners an opportunity to showcase just how good their canine partners will be performing this fall.

Some of these timed events give dog owners an opportunity to showcase just how good their canine partners will be performing this fall.

But events aside, Game Fair is also a chance for dogs and their owners a chance to socialize and enjoy a late summer day.

But sanctioned events aside, Game Fair is also an opportunity for dogs and their owners to socialize and just enjoy a late summer day.

Most folks, however, are content to walk the grounds and enjoy Game Fair without dogs.

Most folks, however, are content to walk the grounds and enjoy Game Fair without dogs.

They walk around enjoying all the exhibits and the food.

They walk around enjoying all the exhibits and the great food.

You never know just what you might find checking out the exhibits.

A person just never knows what they might find checking out the exhibits.

It can range from someone hand lathing a new duck call from a chunk of wood....

It can range from someone hand lathing a new duck call from a chunk of wood….

To vendors selling 100s of different wild game calls where there is one to suit your needs.

To vendors selling 100s of different wild game calls where there is surely one to suit your needs.

All the way to vendors who want to ensure your home decor reminds you about your passion in the outdoors.

All the way to vendors who want to ensure your home decor reminds you about your passion in the outdoors.

Quite honestly, Game Fair will find a way to put a smile on your face. Guaranteed!

Quite honestly, Game Fair will somehow find a way to put a smile on your face. Guaranteed!

The event covers two weekends (Friday-Sunday) each August to allow 6 full days for fun.

The event covers two weekends (Friday-Sunday) each August to allow 6 full days for fun.

Wildlife art has long been a part of Game Fair with some of the best artists in the world on display.

Wildlife art has long been a part of Game Fair with some of the best artists in the world on display.

Best of all, Game Fair is an OUTDOOR event unlike many other shows held in stuffy convention centers.

Best of all, Game Fair is an OUTDOOR event unlike many other shows held in stuffy convention centers surrounded by bricks and cement.

...So bring your sunscreen and rain gear, depending on what the weather forecast promises for the day.

…So, bring your sunscreen or rain gear, depending on what the weather forecast promises for the day.

Game Fair also caters to kids as they are the future. Supervised games that allow kids to put down their iPhones and pick up a slingshot, shotgun or bow are highly encouraged.

Game Fair also caters to kids as they are the future of our outdoors heritage. Supervised games that allow kids to put down their iPhones and pick up a slingshot, shotgun or bow are highly encouraged.

Indeed, Game Fair is often the place where kids discover shooting a slingshot is more fun than a smartphone app.

Indeed, Game Fair is often the place where kids discover shooting a slingshot is actually more fun than most smartphone apps.

Game Fair is also learning about the natural environment. You can talk to expert hunters, trappers, and conservation officers to get all of your questions answered.

Game Fair is also learning about the natural environment. You can talk to expert hunters, trappers, and conservation officers to get all of your outdoors questions answered.

It's also a place to meet Master Falconers like Frank Taylor who has spent a lifetime working with these special birds of prey.

It’s also a place to meet Master Falconers, like Frank Taylor, who has spent a lifetime working with these special birds of prey.

Game Fair's new Birds of Prey display allows attendees an up close look at these marvelous birds.

Game Fair’s new Birds of Prey display allows attendees to get an up close look at these marvelous birds.

Folks from the Minnesota Falconers Association share their love for these creatures and explain how this form of hunting has evolved over time.

Folks from the Minnesota Falconers Association share their love for these creatures and explain how this form of hunting has evolved over time.

Let's not forget Game Fair is also about shooting.

Let’s not forget, Game Fair is also about hands-on shooting.

Game Fair allows hunters to touch and feel (and yes, shoot) some of the newest guns, bows and similar equipment on the market.

Game Fair allows hunters to touch and feel (and yes, shoot) some of the newest guns, bows and similar equipment currently on the market.

Game Fair also gives attendees an opportunity to view the masters who are at the top of the shooting world.

Game Fair also gives attendees an opportunity to visit with the masters who have skills that are at the top of the shooting world.

But let's face it...people also like to come to Game Fair to eat.

But let’s face it…people also like to come to Game Fair to eat.

And unlike most events, the one comment I heard folks saying is how reasonably priced the food here is.

And unlike most public events these days, the one comment I heard folks say is how fairly priced the food is at Game Fair.

After all, who likes to be price gouged when you're trying to enjoy some cotton candy?

After all, who likes to be price gouged when you’re trying to enjoy some cotton candy?

If you haven't made plans yet to attend...it's time to make tracks this coming weekend before it is all over again for another year.

If you haven’t made plans yet to attend…it’s time to make tracks this coming weekend before it is all over again for another year.

For more information about Game Fair click HERE.   This coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday (August 19-21) is the final weekend in 2016.

Random Images From Minnesota’s 2016 State High School Clay Target Championship

I wanted to get these pictures posted up for a good friend of mine, Todd Rost.   As you may have heard, high school clay target competition has become one of the fastest growing high school sports in the nation.   That’s incredible, and certainly a big positive for the shooting sports.   And with over 7,000 Minnesota student athletes competing in various categories, it took the entire week of June 14–21, 2016, to hold the competition in Alexandria, Minnesota.

The following pictures are random shots showing the Faribault Bethlehem Academy team getting their chance on the big shooting stage.   I hope this gives you a feel for what it was like to be there from opening ceremony singing the National Anthem all the way to the competitors in serious action.

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She Touched A Leech!

This past weekend was the Minnesota Fishing Opener so I did what any good dad should do…take their kid fishing.   Of course, the fishing opener is much more than just fishing.   It’s a time to gather in the entirety of the experience, passed on from one generation to the next.

Our fishing outing began by stopping at Cabela’s.   You see, accompanying me fishing was my soon-to-be 8y/o daughter who has been anticipating this experience for several weeks.   What’s a good dad to do…well, you build excitement over the event because as experience has taught me…sometimes early season fishing can be downright slow.   Especially for younger children.

While at Cabela’s we were in search of a “lucky fishing hat” suitable for a little red-haired girl.   Eventually we found one that looked capable of not only blocking the harsh sun rays, but also delivering on the piscatorial fortune we had attributed to the hat.   After all, if you believe something to be “lucky” isn’t that half the battle?

Next, we had this pink, plastic Plano tacklebox that needed more “stuff.”   You know, the kind of “stuff” fishermen cram into their boxes to help complete it for just about any fishing situation.   We purchased bobbers, hooks, sinkers, pliers, lures, bait…you know, all the good “stuff” that any self-respecting fisherman should carry.

By now, our cart was filling up with plenty of fun fishing items to help fuel the fishing fires burning inside both of us.   It was about that time Elsie asked, “Dad, can we go over to look at the bait?”   Sure, that is next on our list.

We approached an employee who seemed eager to help us with all of our live bait needs.   Elsie peered into the tanks to look at the fathead minnows, the shiner minnows, taking in the lovely sights and smells that only a dedicated fisherman could possibly enjoy.

It was about that time when the employee asked if Elsie would like to hold a leech.   He took his dip net into the big tank and flopped out a big black ribbon leech onto the counter.   Elsie stared at it for a moment watching it squirm and wiggle.   As it did its little dance trying to escape back into the water, Elsie reached down and picked it up.   She cupped her hands and watched it slither and wildly squirm for about 30 seconds.

I then told her to throw it back into the water tank and let’s get going.   As I proceeded to thank the employee for his time, he made a comment that could not have made me more proud.   You see, what I learned is this employee likes to scoop leeches up and encourage young kids to play with them.   Part of it is to encourage contact with a form of bait not always pleasant to touch.   Another aspect is to learn more about the kids.

As we were about to walk away he told me your daughter just did something that most boys her age will NOT do.   “Really,” I said, “boys won’t touch leeches…what is wrong with them?”   The employee went on to explain how most young kids her age will refuse to touch them.   He actually stated how it warms his heart to see a young child so eager to explore their natural world horizons.

At first I thought, WOW!   How could inquisitive kids who come into a Cabela’s store not want to touch a leech.   When I was that age I wouldn’t have given touching a leech a second thought.   But, things have changed.   Society has changed.   By nature, and I hate to say this, but many kids are not automatically drawn to engage in such experiences like kids once were.

I never for a minute considered that Elsie would have an aversion to touching a leech.   That’s not how she is being raised.   If you want to fish you touch crawlers, minnows, grubs, leeches and other such things that fish like to eat.   Indeed, not only do you bait your own hook when fishing with me…but when you can do it safely you also remove your own fish.   It’s all part of the experience of…well, fishing.

Now, certainly I’m not saying that touching a leech is some sort of magical litmus test for whether kids will grow up to be positively engaged in the outdoors.   Nevertheless, I’ve taken every opportunity possible for Elsie to be present when I clean game and fowl.   After all, she dreams of being a veterinarian someday so why would I want to delay her first-hand exposure to the innards of God’s creatures.

And all of this is such a good reason to take a kid fishing.   Not only does it help develop a lifetime enjoyment with one of the best outdoor recreations available, but it helps to push kids beyond their normal comfort levels.   Kids need to realize how death does not only occur on video games and in the outdoors, as in life, there are no reset buttons or “do-overs” if things don’t go well.