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Rita Tulloh of Auburn, treasurer of the New Hampshire Falconers Association, introduced attendees of the Fishing & Hunting Expo at Rockingham Park in Salem to Scarlett O’Hara, a female red-tailed hawk, and educated them about the sport of falconry. (Darrell Halen Photo)

Falconry, fishing, hunting draw outdoorsmen to expo

SALEM – Thousands of hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts recently attended the Fishing & Hunting Expo in Salem to check out everything from custom baits and taxidermy services to wildlife art and animal traps.

The two-day event, which drew nearly 13,000 people, included educational seminars, fun activities for kids, and thousands of gear, clothing and products for anglers and hunters to look over and purchase. The popular event was held Saturday, Jan. 5, and Sunday, Jan. 6, at Rockingham Park.

“Attendees can meet a wide variety of exhibitors in one place,” said co-promoter Rob Frye of Sandown. “It’s totally local businesses from the area and from afar trying to push their business, their hobby.”

Frye, who organizes the annual event with his wife, Sue, hosted the first expo in 2002, featuring 68 exhibitors, as a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Bass Federation. The expo is now a for-profit event, and a share of this year’s proceeds will support paralyzed veterans in New England and the Barry Conservation Camp in the White Mountain National Forest.

Theresa Elmer and her husband, Rodney, owners of Mountain Deer Taxidermy in Northfield, Vt., were one of this year’s 181 exhibitors. Standing next to a display of mounted animals, including a smallmouth bass, a wild turkey and a brown trout, the couple spoke with approximately 1,500 attendees during the first day.

“(We’re here) to expand our potential client base,” said Theresa. “It’s been going very well. This afternoon was pretty busy.”

Gaining public exposure was also why Paul Lemire of Paul’s Bait Rigs & Tackle, a wholesale supplier based in Litchfield, brought his merchandise to sell. And why David MacDougall of Brentwood brought several samples of his custom fly rods.

“I sell a few,” said MacDougall, a bricklayer, who makes the rods as a hobby.

Making each rod requires about eight hours and MacDougall can personalize them with names and military and collegiate decals. Most of his business comes from word of mouth.

Some of the other exhibitors included the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, which sold hunting and fishing licenses, RV and boat sellers, sporting camps, knife dealers, snowshoe makers, fishing publications, and paintball suppliers.

And this year, for the first time, a safari company from South Africa manned a table at the event.

Frye estimates that most attendees live within a 50-mile radius of Salem. Among the attendees were Tim Sullivan and his 15-year-old son, Max, of Bradford, Mass. The teenager, an avid bass fisherman, bought several lures.

“He talked to (people) about deer hunting,” said Tim, whose son, dressed in camouflage, received a hunting bow for his birthday a few months ago. “We looked at boats.”

Education was a key component of the event. Four seminars were held every hour. They covered a wide variety of topics, including sea duck hunting, ice fishing for lake trout and perch, scouting wildlife with trail cameras, catching big stripers and monster bull moose hunting.

At the table for the New Hampshire Falconers Association, member Rita Tulloh showed Scarlett O’Hara, a female red-tailed hawk, to inquisitive adults and children. They learned that falconry is the sport of hunting wild game with a trained bird of prey.

“A lot of people don’t know this sport exists,” said Tulloh, an Auburn resident. “They’re amazed we hunt with these birds – it’s a sport.”

Fun for kids at the expo included trout fishing, archery and paint ball ranges, air guns, and a laser shot shooting simulator.

At the trout pond, youngsters who reeled in a fish won a coupon for a half day of deep sea fishing with Yankee Fleet in Gloucester, Mass. Among the winners was Jenna Murray of Chelmsford, Mass., just 4 years old, who reeled in a rainbow trout with the help of expo volunteer Paul Wentzell.

Frye is donating a portion of the kid’s activity proceeds to the Barry Conservation Camp in Berlin, which is co-sponsored by the UNH Cooperative Extension 4-H program in cooperation with New Hampshire Fish and Game. Thousands of kids have learned to hunt, fish and appreciate nature at the camp.

“I’m excited about it,” said Mark Beauchesne of the department’s public affairs division about the donations to support the camp. “It’s a great place to send kids.”

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