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Are you ready for area outdoor shows?

Always dreamed of hunting wild pheasants somewhere in the Dakotas? Want to finish a wild turkey grand slam? Long to have an elk bugle its way into bow range in Montana?

Thinking of buying a camper but not sure what your vehicle can tow? Want an ATV that you can use to plow snow, or plant a food plot? And what should you plant in the food plot?

Have you seen the latest in archery equipment? Deer lures? Predator calls and lures? Hunting backpacks and fanny packs?

Well, an outdoor show is a place you can go to talk with experts about all those things. There are two – Bloomsburg and Harrisburg – within an easy drive. Here are some tips to make the most of your trip:

1. Have a plan, especially if you’re heading to the Great Outdoor Show in Harrisburg. The show spans 9 buildings and can be overwhelming. If you visit the website first (www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org) you can search for specific booths to visit and possibly limit your tour to one or two buildings. For example, you can search by state or game animal. Do you want to hunt black bears? Fish for native trout? If you know the name of an outfitter, RV or ATV manufacturer, you can search that way too.

2. Wear a small book bag or backpack. There are plenty of handouts, from various outdoor organizations, outfitters, taxidermists and equipment dealers. Rather than limit myself to a plastic bag strained at the handles, I usually wear a small backpack.

3. Save Money Where You Can - I may as well stand up and admit it now – I’m a miser. (Perhaps a career has a reporter has contributed to that habit). I try to save money wherever I can. For example, rather than pay $10 for parking at the Farm Show Grounds, I’ll park behind Bass Pro for free and take a shuttle bus. You’re probably going to have to take a shuttle bus no matter where you park; I’d rather spend the $10 on something important, such as funnel cake. I’ll carry a couple water bottles in the backpack. At the Harrisburg Show you can also take advantage of a lower ticket price if you arrive after 3 p.m.

4. Remember the “Caribou-hoo-hoo” hunt. A group of friends and I once booked a woodland caribou hunt after making contact with an outfitter at an outdoor show (not a show in Pennsylvania). He had a brochure with cute A-frame cabins along the shore of a lake. He also had a list of references – we called them and got glowing reports.

In hindsight, well, of course we got glowing reports. Would someone list references who wouldn’t give glowing reports? When we arrived, we were showed to a small cabin where all five of us shared a room with really bad cots. The first morning, we had Spam and eggs. The lunch sandwiches were a slab of Spam between two pieces of bread. The evening meal, incredibly, was Spam as the headliner, with green beans and canned potatoes. The meals never varied. None of us saw a caribou – one of the guides told us the caribou were never in that zone during that time of the year.

So, be careful. Many outfitters have been to the same show year-after-year, and that longevity shows that show organizers have not heard complaints. Talk to the outfitter, take information, and do your research once you get home.

5. When you start to feel you are walking aimlessly, take a break. Remember that you’re there to have fun. Watch a seminar, or a demonstration.

I booked a North Carolina duck hunt at an outdoor show and it was a great experience. I’m glad my German shorthair Josey Wales, now deceased, got to go and he did a great job. Here he is on “Wait by Blind” duty.  LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS