International Sportsmen’s Expositions are more than you imagined
Each year in early December, the television commercial would appear. A trumpeting elk buck and images of people rushing off to that annual rite of passage known as the International Sportsmen’s Expo, Sacramento. With a very heavy lean towards fishing and hunting pursuits, informed regulars know it as the “hook and bullet” show. Clearly popular, the Cal Expo parking lots are packed each of four days. My curiosity got the best of me and thought I should take the plunge. I have a passion for California and outdoor recreation, but had resisted joining the throngs. I don’t hunt. And while I’ve enjoyed a few fly-fishing excursions including Montana’s Big Horn River, I am hardly the avid angler. In 2013, I was an ISE virgin. One show and I was (pardon the pun) hooked!
The energy at the show is palpable. Vast exhibit halls and numerous outdoor displays house more than 600 vendors, seminars and demos. I suggest you come well-rested, wear comfortable shoes and bring a goodies backpack and your outdoor adventure spirit. I am not squeamish, but am aware there’s plenty of taxidermy and maneuver around some of those exhibitors. My love for the outdoors is more than sated by the wealth of hiking, biking, kayaking, off-roading, camping, boating and (yes) even cooking and food suppliers. Remember, the show is H-U-G-E! Despite the Expo map and exhibitor listings, it can be challenging locating certain vendors or displays. Wandering the aisles and buildings is half the fun, but a plan of attack is highly recommended.
Representatives from my favorite California destinations attend the Sacramento show. A devotee of the Eastern Sierra, I customarily make a beeline to Mono County Tourism and, in 2018, I look forward to time with the Bishop Visitors Bureau. The gateway to Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau is no stranger to outdoor recreation. At the California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau booth, I’m reminded that many extraordinary adventures are in my own backyard. These folks know all the hidden gems. Lots of people vacation in the same place and never venture anywhere else. The ISE provides new perspectives for birding, photography and wilderness outings. Even for this seasoned traveler, there’s plenty to learn and vendors are eager to answer any and all questions.
This year Todd Jostes, National Academy of Outdoor Survival, will conduct multiple mini-clinics from the Expo's new Wilderness Camp. Learn true life-saving skills including how to build a primitive fire and emergency shelters. In the Adventure Theater, Saturday, January 20, 2018, don't miss the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) seminar about the Lands Pass program, which has been expanded to more CDFW properties as a way for all visitors to contribute to the management of the places we enjoy and appreciate. This is important information for the birding and nature tourism community. On Lands Pass properties, each visitor who is 16 years of age or older is required to carry a daily (one day) or annual Lands Pass while on the property.
I look forward to meeting Santa Cruz-based Tepui Tents. Large enough for singles, twosomes or more, their rooftop car tents are designed to fit on the roof racks of trucks and cars including my Subaru. There are limited retail locations to actually see and touch Tepui Tents, so ISE is a rare opportunity to compare and contrast. With your daily driver as your adventure mobile, you can park these tents anywhere. Another newcomer, Stealth Bikes is also on my list of must-sees. These ultra cool eco-friendly, electric bikes are not only good for that morning commute, but also an off-road experience.
I first met Nan’s Gourmet at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show. Now an ISE star, samples of olive oils and vinegars and grilling sauces are deliciously displayed for everyone who loves to cook including the hunting and fishing foodies. At ISE you’ll find everything from salsa and olives to jerky, hot sauce and even dog treats!
Yes, it's true. At the International Sportsmen’s Exposition, I’ll run out of time before I run out of fun. My favorite Costa sunglasses is an ISE regular. I’ll drool over dozens of Hobie kayaks and recreational vehicles. I’ll be tempted to plan another Alaska or maybe a houseboat vacation. The possibilities are endless.
Check the schedules, arrive early, and stay all day!
A freelance writer, I have been exploring and telling California travel stories for more than 27 years. I am the Outreach Coordinator for California Watchable Wildlife and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California, Bay Area Travel Writers, and California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks & Tourism. Follow me!
If my Subaru can't get me there,
that's a good reason not to go!