The Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show has a way of hooking people – and we’re not just talking about the occasional snag in the seat of the pants at the kids’ fishing pools.
At first glance, the crowd seems to be moving steadily through more than 200 exhibits at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center.
But what began 49 years ago as a small event for hunters to compare their big-game trophies has evolved into a show that has something to rivet almost anyone’s attention.
On Friday, a young girl studied a wildlife education display to see how the sharp ripping teeth of a flesh-eating coyote differed from the nipping and grinding teeth of a browsing deer.
At the other end of the table, a blind woman smiled as she felt a beaver pelt and marveled as she petted a mounted porcupine – with a gentle warning to stroke only in one direction.
Alex Newman, of Wilbur, used a rod and reel to battle with a sailfish at the Virtual Fishing simulator.
“It was impressive,” he said, noting that “we don’t have fish like that around here.”
Sportsmen were scoping out trophy mounts and hunting and fishing outfitters while families were checking out jet-boat and rafting companies. Dozens of kids were learning to shoot an arrow with a bow.
Egos were built and shattered at the new laser shooting simulator that accommodates up to four people competing in a rifle shooting game against stampeding wild boars.
An earthquake may not have pulled three young men from a video of a bowhunter bugling in a bull elk. Ditto for the people with their faces pressed against the warm glass cages holding exotic snakes, turtles and lizards.
Nothing could distract Jim Kujala at the air rifle range as the volunteer coached an 8-year-old girl taking her first aim at a target with an air rifle.
Fly tiers were netting interest by demonstrating techniques for fly patterns that work in local waters. Spokane Walleye Club members were spreading local fishing lore to anyone who asked.
Dog trainer Pat Murphy demonstrated bird-dog training techniques with a lively young Lab. Game-calling pro Dave Murphy had the undivided attention of fledgling turkey hunters during his calling seminar.
The bleachers were packed for the 4 p.m. program featuring live black bears. The Dock Dogs competition was a splash with the capacity crowd as dogs long-jumped into a pool.
A 3-year-old Catahoula leopard herding dog drew a big cheer with a 23-foot, 3-inch leap. “His best is 27-8,” said his owner, Matthew McCluskey, of Mountain Home, Idaho. “And he’s gone 7-7 in the vertical leap.”
To the delight of a few hoop fans, the beer garden had big-screen TVs tuned to the NCAA basketball tournament.
But nobody had more focus than the Miller brothers from Elk – Christian, 10, Jesse, 9, and Dallin, 8 – as they zeroed in on the rainbow trout at the Fishing World Ponds.
“This is the proverbial catching fish out of a barrel,” said their father, Brad. “Looks like we’re having fish for dinner.”
The show, sponsored by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, continues at the Fair & Expo Center through Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.