T he sportsman’s life can be a difficult one. Logistics can be our ruination. In order to practice our pastime the way we want and need to, we need to be properly outfitted with the best equipment we can afford.
The problem is that the different pieces of equipment we desire can be spread out to the winds and a simple shopping trip can turn into a full-blown scavenger hunt. A reel may be at one store, and the sun-proof hat at another. Our favorite soft plastics may be at still a third location, or worse still not available in our area.
The truth is, hunters and fishermen don’t have the time or resources to gallivant all over Texas to properly equip a good expedition. Not only that, sometimes, the cost from catalogs and specialty stores can be prohibitive.
The solution to the issue is the phenomenon known as the outdoor expo. The expo is a combination gun show and fishing show with a little extra all rolled into one big, multi-day event. Outdoor expos are usually held in a large building such as a civic or convention center, In short, everything that the ambitious outdoorsman could desire is housed under one roof.
Many companies such as Stiffy Push Poles, Laguna Rods, and various boat companies purchase booths and put up displays at these events to have a more direct contact with customers to answer product questions, listen to consumer suggestions, and meet people.
Events such as the Texas Hunter and Sportsman’s Expo in McAllen in McAllen, Texas are also an opportunity for the vendors of esoteric and hard-to-come-by products to display their wares and grow their presence in the marketplace (in some cases, it is the only opportunity they may have).
I have yet to meet an outdoorsman who doesn’t look forward to an outdoor expo when it comes to his town or one nearby. The events usually sport full parking lots from the opening of the doors on the first day, to the moment the doors close on the last day.
This is especially true of events astutely scheduled during the summer months, as Chris Curl, owner/promoter of the Texas Hunter and Sportsman’s Expo did with his. It isn’t surprising, in fact, for patrons to visit the same event every day.
The greatest asset of an expo is its sheer variety of merchandise and attractions. It is an understatement to say that there is something for everyone at one of these outdoor shows. A visit to the 2012 THSE found displays for tackle companies, hunting and fishing outfitters, game and meat products, tackle shops, gunsmiths, knife-makers, jewelry, toys, farm equipment, storage sheds, trucks, boats, deer blinds, sunglasses, and on and on.
There was a portable video arcade for young—and not so young—children who may have found the volume of goodies boring. The show took up the big room in the McAllen Convention Center, an additional smaller room, and the east parking lot.
Among the myriad booths and displays, you will usually find products that you may not otherwise find locally. Looking for an extra-long push pole? You got it. Do you prefer a Laguna rod? Yup. How about a special outdoor-show-only deal on that boat or pickup truck you’ve been eyeing all winter? I’m sure there are a couple of sales representatives hanging around those bright shiny vehicles and boats.
Meeting members of the consumer public is especially important at these expos. Kelly Moore of Castaway Rods once told me that events such as the Texas Hunter and Sportsman’s Expo gives him the opportunity to meet the people who use Castaways, and learn what they like and don’t like about his product. This sort of feedback is valuable because it serves as an added scaffold in the framework of producing rods that consumers like and buy.
Independent vendors and craftsmen make the bulk of their profits by literally wearing out the tires on their trucks and trailers as they drive from show to show to sell their products. These are men and women who aren’t able to market their wares in shops and stores or catalogs and rely on these expos and their salesmanship to make a living.
Often their products are innovative and unique and are actually the sort of product you look at and say, “Yeah! That’s pretty cool!” You won’t find them at your local big box store, but you will at an outdoor show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that these outdoor shows are important for organizations such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The TPWD Enforcement Division takes a trailer to several of these shows to raise awareness of Operation Game Thief, and the results of poaching and law breaking.
Hundreds of patrons stop every day at the trailer to see the mounts of record-class fish and wildlife that were taken illegally, as well as displays of illegal harvesting devices such as gillnets and snaglines. Usually the children ask questions about the fish and deer mounts, but there are always parents nearby, listening and asking follow-up questions. Even a little knowledge helps raise awareness, and that can’t be bad.
Finally, these expos are just plain fun and family friendly. For a nominal fee–usually between 10 and 15 dollars, you can go, walk around, whistle at all the cool stuff, and eat yourself into a proper stupor. (My wife has been known to eat an entire package of Deer Sticks at one of these shows.) If you walk out with a new rod or knife, or even a boat or truck, well, so much the better, right?
I guess I needn’t suggest you go to the next one near you. If you haven’t already gone, you’re thinking about it.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]