That lousy groundhog has doomed us all.

As much as I'd love to write about the top groundhog-hunting techniques, the hunting pressure would just force the meteorological marmot underground and doom us to an even longer, colder winter.

Even if you wanted to brave the cold and the snow to get in the woods this week, there were days when it was downright dangerous. After weeks like this, I don't need to tell you it's been a harsh winter. That's bad news for the area's outdoors enthusiasts, but great news for the folks behind the Great American Outdoor Show, which is taking place in Harrisburg this week and runs through Sunday.

You may recall the fierce debate that erupted just over a year ago. The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show was the largest expo of its kind. Folks flocked from all over the world to attend. But then its organizers banned the display or sale of so-called assault rifles. Scores of top vendors and countless attendees abandoned the event. Eventually it was canceled and the company that hosted the show decided to permanently cancel it.

This year, the National Rifle Association has stepped in. The pro-gun group now provides the area's sportsmen with one of the biggest offerings on the continent. The nine-day expo is packed with seminars, celebrity appearances, vendors, outfitters and, of course, plenty of gun displays.


One of the most important aspects of events such as this is not the sale of this year's hot gadgetry or the display of the latest high-end products. A vital function of these shows is to get more folks involved in our sports. It's nearly impossible to walk the 650,000 square feet of displays at the Farm Show Complex (where the event is held) and not get excited about the outdoors. It's energizing even when the landscape outside is an icy mess.

The NRA has done particularly great things to create a kid-friendly atmosphere at what could easily have been an intimidating event for youngsters. It is hard to miss the Family Fun Zone. It features camouflage face painting, magnetic fishing, suction-cup archery and even duck calling.

"The Family Fun Zone is a great place for mothers, fathers, daughters and sons to test their accuracy, knowledge and creativity in a fun-filled environment," said Jeff Poole, NRA shows and exhibits managing director. "The kids can compete and win prizes in many outdoor-themed events designed to peak their interest in the outdoor lifestyle."

In other words, don't let the nature of the sponsor fool you. The Great American Outdoor Show is not a gun show in disguise. It's an improved – and Second Amendment-friendly — version of the annual show that so many of us enjoyed. And yes, you can learn plenty about hunting groundhogs at the event.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at