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As is befitting the top county for deer hunting in the state, Bedford hosted a top-notch outdoor show this past weekend.
The show, held at the National Guard Armory, was put on by the Bedford Outdoor Sportsmen's Association (BOSA) and attracted visitors from near and far, alike.
David Looney, of BOSA treasurer, reported that the show had the biggest turnout of any of the previous events.
Taxidermy displays seemed to be one of the top draws at the show. Larry Johnson was spotted admiring a wall of well-racked deer heads along with his grandson, Logan. But the Johnson's were also checking them out for Logan's future endeavors. "I got my first deer when I was five," said grandpa. "So Logan's got a couple of years to get his." The young man seemed unfazed by the challenge.
Tim Templeton looked on as his eight-year old son, Evan, checked out a stuffed black bear. "We come to this show when we get a chance, to look at the taxidermy and the outdoor stuff," said pop. "He and I hunt and fish together."
Evan bagged a four-point buck last season.
One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the Bill Parker Award. This year's recipient of the prize, for outstanding contribution to outdoor activities, was local legend Barry Arrington.
In presenting the award to Arrington, BOSA President Steven Grant stated, "This man has done more for this community than you can possibly imagine."
Arrington was obviously touched by his selection. "It's quite an honor," he said. "I knew Mr. Parker when I was a little fellow. He was a big presence in my life."
Arrington, in addition to being an accomplished hunter of turkey and deer, is a processor for the Hunters for the Hungry program. He works with Wheelin' Sportsmen, a program for handicapped hunters, is involved with the youth program of the National Wild Turkey Foundation and organizes trout fishing tournaments for kids.
"If you can make a difference in just a few kids' lives, it's all worthwhile," he smiled.
Certainly making an impact on some of the kids were those putting on the retriever demo at the show. John and Kathryn Cowlbeck and Ron and Marge Samuels headed up the interactive show, aided ably by their magnificent Labrador Retrievers (full disclosure: this reporter has a yellow lab and he is decidedly NOT magnificent).
The dogs, including Samuels' yellow labs Gage, Chigger and Roux and Cowlbeck's black labs Maddie, Gypsy and Bertie were crowd favorites. After the pros led the dogs through their retrieving paces, children from the crowd were encouraged to give it a go.
Without fail, the dogs obediently followed the guidance of the young handlers. In all about 25 kids stepped up to give it a try. "When asking for children to be handlers, we were very pleased to see such a positive and fun reaction," stated John Cowlbeck. "Even the youngest and the most shy were eager to join in the fun of handling a trained retriever."
Cowlbeck felt that Gypsy was the most popular dog. It should be noted, however, that he might be biased in that regard.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries was at the show in force. Local warden Frank Neighbors enthusiastically manned the DGIF booth. "It's the busiest I've ever seen," said Neighbors. "There have been lots of kids who are really into it." The DGIF laser simulator was one of the shows top attractions.
What show would be complete without Hunters for the Hungry? The organization, which facilitates hunters' catches onto needy tables, set another record in terms of venison distribution this year. "We're here for awareness," said H4H's Mitzi Boyd. "This is where the hunters are and we're getting a lot of interest and support."
Tommy Watson, of Robertson Equipment, also knew that the hunters would be at the show. His outfit sells outdoor wood furnaces that heat buildings. "This is a good show for us to meet outdoorsmen and folks that have access to a lot of wood." With the price of oil and natural gas skyrocketing, Watson reports that sales of the wood burning units are up considerably.
Even those interested in multiple sports were spotted at the show. Liberty High School centerfielder John Overstreet was admiring the taxidermy display. "I like the outdoors, but haven't gotten one that big yet," he said as he looked at some of the impressive deer heads. "I like hunting, but I love baseball."
One area of wild game management that gets overlooked is trapping. Representatives from the Virginia Trappers Association were at the show, displaying fox, otter, mink, possum and muskrat pelts, all taken in Bedford County.
All in all, it was a nice show, filled with interesting displays and helpful people. The stated objective for the show was to generate interest in the outdoors among young people. If the large number of engaged and smiling kids was any indication, this one looks like it was a success.