“We Can Do It!” blares across the top of the famous poster from World War II featuring a woman flexing her arm in the rolled up sleeve of a blue denim work shirt.
The 30th annual Game Fair is only a week away and this year is looking to be another great one, if not the best one yet. Nearly two million people have visited the Game Fair over the years with about 50,000 a year for the last decade or so. Make plans to be there as the show runs from August 12-14 and 19-21.
I’ve been attending the Game Fair every year for the past 15 years and have been helping run the show out there the past five years. It’s a great event and the hosts of Game Fair, Chuck and Loral I Delaney, are a class act who are simply amazing. The amount of time and energy they put into hosting the event is phenomenal.
Almost all of the usual fan favorites will be there this year once again and there will be plenty of new things to see as well. This includes exhibitors, dog events, shooting events, archery courses, concessions and plenty of people watching.
One of the great things about Game Fair is that it’s a full family participation event. Bring the dog on a leash and walk around one of the few venues where dogs are more than just allowed, they are invited.
Bring the kids too and have your kids bring a few friends. There are so many kid events to keep them busy and having fun. The event is centered around hunting, but I have a lot of friends who go there every year and they don’t hunt. When I ask them why they go, their answer is that it’s fun to bring the dog and their kids always beg them to go every year.
Tough to beat that!
Located just outside of Anoka on Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard, the Game Fair grounds are simply gorgeous. There are 80 acres of oak trees, lush grass, wetlands and a good-sized lake.
One of the benefits of working at Game Fair, that even exhibitors are aware of, is how wild the grounds are when the fair isn’t going on. During the early morning hours the ducks are on the lake, sandhill cranes usually pay a visit, deer are not an uncommon sight and a ton of different species of birds.
Oh sure, they are all close by during the fair and often are seen by the lucky ones who can pull their attention away from all the fair events. With shotgun shooting exhibitions by Tom Knapp, dogs jumping off docks and cruising through obstacle courses, informational seminars and great new products to look at, the wildlife around you can be easily missed.
Fine art and taxidermy are also found at Game Fair. I spoke with Chris Knutson of Art Barbarians in Rogers, MN and he said his booth in the Art Barn will be a busy place as usual. “We’ll have Jim Hautman here the first Saturday of the fair. Scot Storm will be hanging out every day along with Bret Longley on both Saturdays and Sundays.”
For those who don’t know, Jim Hautman is a four-time and current winner of the Federal duck stamp. He’ll be doing demonstrations and chatting with visitors to the booth. Scot Storm is a great guy who I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. He is a phenomenal wildlife artist and winner of this year’s pheasant stamp. Storm and Longley will be doing painting demonstrations as well.
Something that doesn’t get talked about enough is the charitable nature of the Delaneys. They donate a lot to various organizations in the community and non-profits in the community are invited to utilize the Game Fair as a way of fundraising.
National and state conservation organizations are also beneficiaries of the Delaneys and Game Fair. Pheasants Forever has run their “Build a Wildlife Area” fundraiser out of Game Fair since its inception nine years ago and the Delaney’s have given generously to that cause over the years.
This year Federal Ammunition’s new pink shotshells will be available for those participating in the shotgun shooting events. Buy a box and make a donation to help find a cure for cancer.
Politics are tough to escape and Game Fair is no exception. A lot of Congressional representatives and both senators have a booth at the Game Fair along with the Secretary of State’s office. The Republicans and Democrats are both there showing their support of hunting and firearms along with several unions and labor organizations.
Even though it’s an off year for elections, there will be plenty of it to see and the organization “Sportsmen for Change” might even have a forum or two for people to chat with policy makers. I covered the gubernatorial debate last year at the Game Fair and have no doubt that as close as the election was, hearing from those folks firsthand regarding conservation issues probably swayed a few voters one way or the other and decided the election.
If you have never been out there, I encourage you to attend. Stop by the Information Booth and say hello to me (Ron Hustvedt). Say hello to Ron Schara (the “other Ron”). Say hello to Raven the black lab. Say hello to Chuck and Loral I Delaney.
For all the details about Game Fair 2011 go to www.gamefair.com
I’ve left out a lot of additional features of the Game Fair partially because any good blog shouldn’t be this long! The rest of it is for you all to fill in.
What’s your favorite part of Game Fair?
What are you looking forward to?
Some people don’t like it when bass are called “bucketmouths” or muskies are called “water tigers” but that’s a different argument for a different day. Those same folks might not like it that big bluegills are called “bulls” but I know how to change their mind.
Let them hook into one and try to battle it.
Big bluegills defy the term “panfish” because they exceed the size of your average pan. I’m talking trophy fish in the 10-inch and above range. The kind of bluegill that has a big bump on its head and looks almost freakish compared to the small ones that tend to hang out at every dock in the summertime.
"When these massive creatures turn sideways after a solid hook set, the term “bull” makes complete sense," said Bryan "Beef" Sathre of Fathead Guide Service in the Bemidji and Cass Lake area. Sathre is a bluegill trophy hunter who loves to tie into big bluegill, wrestle with them for awhile, snap a quick photo, then watch it swim away to fight another day.
"Pound for pound, bluegills are the toughest fish in the freshwater world. I tied into one the other day and swore I’d hooked into a pike until I got it closer to the boat," he said.
Right now is one of the best times around for catching big bluegill, Sathre said. That's because this is the time of the year when they are sitting on their beds and are extremely aggressive. It’s also the time of the year when they are at their most vulnerable state. For that reason, if you go after these bull bluegills, please be sure to practice catch-photo-release. "If you want a meal of sweet-tasting bluegill fillets then keep a few smaller ones for the frying pan. Anything 10-inches or larger should quickly be released in my boat. It’s a good rule to consider in yours too," Sathre urged.
He fishes for them like they do for tarpon in coastal areas, "We’re sight fishing a lot of these bluegill locations. What I look for are transition points in the bottom in shallow bays and flats. My Costa del Mar polarized sunglasses help me find their nests that stand out as sandy holes." This is the result of the bluegill fanning out a nest that they guard very vigorously.
Another fantastic location is in the six to eight foot emerging cabbage beds or reeds adjacent to this deeper water. This is where they stage before spawning and hangout as they recover and is a fantastic secondary location. "I’ll move in with the trolling motor until I’m 20 to 30 feet away and then cast to them with a slip bobber and small jig tipped with a waxworm or panfish leech. An ultra-light rod makes everything so much more fun and I really like the castability of the Bionic panfish line in four-pound test. It has low visibility but is strong enough to handle the largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, perch, pike and rock bass that are bound to hit your lure in these locations," Sathre said.
For lure selection, Sathre said he likes a 1/16th to 1/32nd firefly minnow or small jig. "If it’s windy I’ll go with the larger size. You don’t have to worry about spooking them with the cast or getting right on top of them. Get it close and they’ll come to you," he said.
Another great tactic is to go baitless and throw panfish Slurpies tubes on a float system. Case it up there, let the jig sink, reel it in a few feet, wait for the jig to catch up, pause, and repeat the process. "Super pro bobbers from Northland Tackle do a great job in all conditions. If it’s windy then I use the weighted bobbers. Either way, balance the bobber so that you can detect a subtle bite. The other day I had it so my bobber was barely above the water making for very little resistance once a bluegill hit my jig," he said.
Where does Sathre pursue these massive bluegill? Most anywhere in the state has the potential for big bluegill waters. Around the metro they are a well guarded secret but go ahead and try asking your local baitshop. Lake Minnetonka or Waconia might be the best bed in the west metro while Bald Eagle Lake and the Mississippi River backwaters might be the best choice in the east metro.
"In my neck of the woods up here in Bemidji I like lakes such as Turtle River, Rabideau, Grace, Wolf, Andrusia, Grant, Irving and Blackduck," Sathre said.
Just remember to catch-photo-release these trophies so they can continue to raise the next generation of bulls.
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