For Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren, paddling the 1,800 miles from Fort Snelling to Hudson Bay was just one part of the journey known as “Hudson Bay Bound.”
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?
Flat calm conditions are not normal on massive bodies of water like Lake Winnebago covering 137,708 acres of east-central Wisconsin. A massive body of water 30 miles long by 10 miles wide, it is a lake fed by the Wolf River and Fox River and drains north into Green Bay.
The lake is full of a wide variety of game fish and an impressive forage base—enough to keep the game fish growing large and chunky. I recently had the opportunity to fish this tremendous body of water and was impressed with all that it had to offer.
Troy Peterson was my guide for the day and a mixed bag was what I was hoping for us to pursue. A professional angler for over a decade, Peterson’s nickname is “Mr. Bluegill” because of his affinity and skill at catching massive bluegills.
“There are big bluegill in Winnebago and there are great lakes in the area but today we’re going to go after smallmouth bass and then walleye,” he told me upon meeting in the morning.
I had the option to go after whatever, but having never fished Winnebago or the area lakes, I was open to whatever he felt was best.
He came highly recommended from the Fond du Lac Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Not only did those folks help me find a guide, they also helped me find a great room and showed me around town. Their office in town is a great place to visit to learn more about the amenities in town or you can visit them online at www.fdl.com.
We started off the morning in pursuit of smallmouth bass on a large boulder field in 15 to 18 feet of water. Three and four-inch tubes were the lure of choice and it wasn’t long until we’d both caught half a dozen chunky smallies.
After a few hours chasing fat, green smallmouth bass, we headed out to the mud flats in the middle of the lake in pursuit of walleye. Like most lakes around the upper-Midwest, Winnebago is about two weeks behind schedule for typical summer patterns.
“The mud bite just got going earlier in the week and we might have a tough time out there finding them, but it’s where the walleye are going to be for next few weeks so I think we’ll do good,” Peterson said.
Wisconsin allows three lines per person so we put planer boards out, three on each side of the boat, armed with spinner rigs of varying colors and blade styles. As a native Minnesotan, I’ve only fished one line per person in the boat. I’ve run boards before, but Peterson provided me with a quick refresher and it wasn’t long until I was proficient at setting them up.
It’s a tactic that would work with multiple anglers in the boat, no matter what size boat. With six lines out and multiple doubles, we still managed to reel in fish after fish without a single tangle. It’s simply a matter of thinking three dimensionally and being able to slide rods up and down the rod holders as the fish dictate.
We caught a ton of sheepshead, a species prevalent in the Winnebago system, in addition to two limits of walleye. None were over 24-inches long but all were healthy and chunky, not to mention strong fighters (especially for walleye).
Before I left, Peterson showed me a great new baitshop in town called The Reel Shot. It features an 11,000 gallon demonstration aquarium stocked with fish and accessible to anglers for sampling lures, reels and rods.
He also extended to me an invitation to return for his favorite species to pursue, big bull bluegill which, according to Peterson, are prevalent in that portion of Wisconsin.
.The Lake Winnebago Area
There are several cities located along the shores of the lake including Osh Kosh, Appleton and Fond du Lac. For my trip, I stayed in Fond du Lac and fell in love with the town.
I had a Hobie kayak along with for the ride and spent a few hours plying the waters along the southern end of the lake. The Supple Marsh is a beautiful series of channels surrounded by wetlands chock full of fish and birds.
Located in the middle of town, I might as well have been in the middle of nowhere. It was a great place for some solitude and peacefulness in the middle of an otherwise vibrant city.
Even though I had a great room at the Country Inn and Suites in town, and needed to be up at 4 a.m. for a morning fishing expedition, I found myself sliding through the waters of the marsh until well after sunset. I’d probably have stayed longer but the mosquitos urged me to get some sleep for the night sooner than I was ready.
Another great town on the lake is Osh Kosh, which is where I met my guide and where we set off for the day. More than just the brand name of kid’s clothing, Osh Kosh is a great city that truly embraces the lake as part of the town.
Still, Fond du Lac is my city of choice because of its unique location on the south end of the lake. There are massive beaches, numerous parks all along the shoreline, delicious restaurants, canals and river channels enough to shorefish and explore, and a great view of both the sunrise and sunset.
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