What is the future of hunting and fishing around the country?
I'm not really sure, but after attending the Wild & Wonderful Hunting, Fishing & Conservation Expo at the Greenbrier Resort, I feel pretty good about it.
The Greenbrier hosted the three-day event last weekend, and when things kicked off on Friday, I was probably a little skeptical. Rain was coming down in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and with much of this event being outside, things looked a little dreary. I caught a shuttle bus outside the main entrance and proceeded to the considerable grounds of the Greenbrier. The signs for the expo in front of the resort's spacious main building warmed the heart of this old squirrel hunter.
For more than a century, the Greenbrier has been known as a sportsman's paradise. With 11,000 breathtaking acres set in the Allegheny Mountains, the resort features the topography, water and wildlife that is sought by outdoorsmen from around the world. Fishing, bird hunting, archery, skeet and trap shooting, sporting clays, off-road driving and falconry are just a sampling of the outdoors offerings featured daily for guests of the Greenbrier, along with more than 50 other activities, indoors and out.
Providing an ideal location for vendors, speakers and outdoors enthusiasts to showcase their products and skills is at the heart of the expo, and the team at the Greenbrier has some major goals for this event. They want to spread knowledge about the incredible sporting opportunities available on the property and about the expert instructors on staff and manage the outside perception of West Virginia. They also want to spread awareness of its beauty and everything it has to offer. This event will hopefully foster an awareness and appreciation of outdoors sports among youth throughout the state and beyond. The event will also provide outdoors opportunities for military veterans, and it will partner with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources on conservation efforts.
Opportunities are what I saw at the event as many companies in the outdoors, shooting, hunting and fishing world were present. Sig Sauer, a firearms and ammunition company, had a booth in the Colonial Hall at the Greenbrier, as well as an impressive shooting range nearby. By simply signing up, the public could go to the range and shoot a variety of Sig Sauer rifles and pistols and their ammo, all free of charge. At the long-range rifle station, with a little coaching, the staff could have you hitting a target at 1,000 yards. That's right, 1,000 yards.
"We think this is a great opportunity for us to reach people in this part of the country," said Hana Bilodeau, director for training and special events at Sig Sauer. "Our hunting-related guns and optics are newer in our line; hunting is a sport that transfers through the generations, as you know, so to have a newcomer to this, it is very important that we meet the people in the hunting industry world, and this event allows us to do that."
Along with Sig Sauer, I saw the Midway Foundation, a giant in the world of supporting youth shooting sports, which held a sporting clays match for teams at the Greenbrier Sporting Club range. Inside the Colonial Hall, I saw Irish Setter Boots, Smoky Mountain Knife Works, the suppressor company Silencer Central, Mec Outdoors (makers of clay target throwers), Big Game African Safaris, the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, Miss Mayfly (makers of ladies' waders and other fishing accessories), Project Healing Waters (which does a fantastic job working with veterans by taking them fly fishing), and just to be honest, the number of vendors with booths were too many to list.
This list does not include, you understand, the many, many displays that were outside, with Airstream trailers, James River fishing equipment, Paradise RVs and Quiet Kat electric bikes but a few of the things to be seen. (You could ride the Quiet Kat bikes! I want one!)
The West Virginia DNR was there, along with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, all supplying information to the public. The DNR officers manned a booth to answer questions and also supervised an archery station so youngsters could try their hand with a bow-and-arrow. During the expo, there was also a match sanctioned by the popular National Archery in the Schools Program. The team from Eastern Greenbrier Middle, coached by teachers from Alderson Elementary, won this competition.
Along with all this, among all the booths and companies, all in the midst of the grandeur of the Greenbrier, I saw something else. Several times during the day, there would be seminars given in the Colonial Hall. Ronnie Snedegar from Maxwelton had a booth and gave talks on the wonders of hunting squirrels with a dog, or as he says it, "squirrel doggin'." Kish Justice, from right there in White Sulphur Springs, gave impassioned talks on the world of hunting bears with hounds, and these were extremely interesting. Also present were a couple of other icons in the hunting world, Jim Clay and Jim Crumley.
Mr. Crumley holds the title as the inventor of the very first camouflage for hunting: Trebark. His story and how his camouflage and product came to be is very interesting to anyone who hunts, and I was glad to see that in his audience there were young hunters, like some of the guides who work at the Greenbrier.
The same goes for Mr. Clay. Many turkey hunters in West Virginia and other states remember and will tell you they used his Perfection Turkey Calls for years and still do. When it comes to turkey hunting and making and using turkey calls, he has been there and done that. Again, it was good to see him interacting with young hunters who stopped by the booth.
There are many hunting and fishing expos around the country, but I don't think many have the people attached to their banner like Clay, Crumley, Justice and Snedegar, all in the setting of the Greenbrier Resort.
I have no doubt that next year's Wild & Wonderful Hunting, Fishing & Conservation Expo will be even bigger and better.
Better get it on your calendar now.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.