One of the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show's most popular attractions is the free antler-scoring service provided by biologists from the state Division of Natural Resources. Show-goers can find out how their trophies measure up on the Boone and Crockett Club or Pope and Young Club scoring systems.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Promoters of the Mountain State's most popular outdoors show know a winning formula when they see one.
Perhaps that's why the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show seldom changes much from year to year. Regardless what the three-day exhibition has on its list of attractions, organizers know that roughly 15,000 cabin-fevered hunters and anglers will troop to the Charleston Civic Center in what can only be described as a midwinter pilgrimage.
Even when the fickle January weather fails to cooperate, hordes of men, women and children show up. Glen Jarrell, a spokesman for the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association, the group that has put on the show for the past 27 years, said it takes some pretty extreme weather to put a dent in attendance.
"About the only thing that will affect it is a real bad ice storm," he said. He added, though, that he and his fellow Trophy Hunters are hoping for good weather during the upcoming Jan. 17-19 event.
Jarrell believes the show's carefully cultivated "family atmosphere" is what attracts so many attendees.
"There's something for everyone," he said. "Of course, the guys are mainly interested in looking at gear and talking with outfitters about hunting and fishing trips. The women do some of that too, but a lot of them are there to observe the things their menfolk gravitate toward, and they take notes about future gifts for their guys.
"There are a lot of things for kids to see and do, too. There are educational exhibits that teach about conservation and nature, hands-on exhibits where kids get to try their hands at archery or a virtual hunting simulator, and always there are vendors that cater to kids' tastes."
All of the vendor slots for this year's show sold out long ago. Jarrell said there are 350 booth slots on the Civic Center floor, and they've all been snapped up by some 240 vendors.
"As always, a bunch of the exhibitors will be outfitters," he explained. "We'll have hunting guides and outfitters from Africa, Canada, Alaska and several western states. People will be able to book hunts for African 'dangerous game' such as Cape buffalo or lion, or plains game such as antelope and wildebeest. They can also book hunts for Alaskan moose or grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain elk, Canadian black bears and any number of other game species."
Fishing outfitters are well represented too.
"We have them all the way from Canada, down through the Great Lakes and on into Florida. People will be able to book trips for everything from walleye and steelhead to inshore and offshore saltwater species."
Exhibitors won't be the only attractions. Jarrell said the show's big day, Saturday, will feature three hour-long presentations at the Civic Center Little Theater.
"At noon, the folks from the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center will do a show that features live birds of prey," he said. "That show is always popular, for kids and adults, both.
"And at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Jim Clay, a native West Virginian and two-time world all-around turkey calling champion, will do presentations on coyote, deer and turkey calling."
At least three attractions will take place in the Civic Center lobby.
First is the booth for the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. People headed into the show will be able to see, up close, live hawks and owls. Second is Trout Unlimited's Trout in the Classroom exhibit, which features a cold-water aquarium teeming with juvenile trout. Third is the National Rifle Association booth, at which show-goers can take part in a special promotion.
"Anyone who isn't an NRA member already, and signs up to become a member at the NRA booth, will receive a free ticket into the show," Jarrell explained. "The NRA folks did the same thing last year, and it worked out really well."
Law enforcement officers for the state Division of Natural Resources will be on hand throughout the show to man their popular "shoot-no shoot" trailer, an electronic simulator that allows people to test their aim and judgment in realistic hunting situations.
DNR biologists will be on hand, as they have in the past, to measure and score the antlers of buck deer. The deer do not need to have been killed in 2013; trophies from past years also will be scored. Scheduled hours for scoring are from 3-8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Archery kills that score at least 110 and rifle kills that score at least 130 will be eligible for inclusion in the West Virginia Whitetail Hall of Fame, a standing exhibit of trophy whitetail mounts from throughout the Mountain State.
"The Hall of Fame is always one of the most popular things at the show," Jarrell said. "People really like to look at big bucks, and we hope to have about 200 of them in the exhibit."
Two other always-popular attractions are scheduled to begin Saturday afternoon - a silent auction at 4 p.m., and a live auction at 5 p.m.
"Larry Boggs will be the auctioneer, and he'll bring his entire staff with him," Jarrell said. "He runs it very professionally. Some of the items to be auctioned are hunting and fishing trips, firearms, bows, knives, art, and all kinds of apparel. It's a lot of fun, and all the money raised goes to organizations like Archery in the Schools and Hunters Helping the Hungry."
Admission is $8 for adults and $1 for children age 6-12. Children under age 6 are admitted free. Show hours are noon-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Reach John McCoy at email@example.com or 304-348-1231.