ORONO — After trying his hand at the archery range, an excited Adam Skillin said the 58th annual Sportsmen’s Show was right on target.
The 11-year-old outdoor sports enthusiast from Cambridge was having a great time checking out more than 100 exhibits packed into the University of Maine’s Fieldhouse and Memorial Gymnasium in Orono over the weekend.
From the motorcycle display to the fishing, trapping and taxidermy exhibits to the Maine Bow-hunters Association booth, Skillin said he was enjoying it all and was obviously anxious to prove that he could talk shop with sportsmen of any age.
“I’m old enough right now, I just have to take the course,” Skillin said of bowhunting.
In addition to the thousands perusing the exhibits at the Sportsmen’s Show in Orono, thousands of boat lovers were also dropping anchor at the 11th annual Bangor Boating and Marine Exposition at the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center over the weekend.
David Bouchard, a master instructor with the bowhunters association, said one of the main reasons the group brings an exhibit to the Sportsmen’s Show is to give people a taste of bowhunting.
“This is our way of putting something back into our sport,” Bouchard said.
Other exhibitors at the show, sponsored by the Penobscot County Conservation Association, expressed similar sentiment.
“A lot of it’s talking to people,” said Lynn Wardwell of LaGrange as she carefully weaved a snowshoe Saturday afternoon. “They get a chance to watch and see what’s actually involved in making a snowshoe. Some people stay and watch for the longest time.”
John Norris, who carves birds out of basswood, said the Sportsmen’s Show is also a chance for sports lovers to improve their skills by talking to others in their field.
“It’s an opportunity to get sound criticism,” the 66-year-old from Brewer said. The self-taught carver and “observer of wildlife” added that the show also gets people out of hibernation as the long winter winds down.
“It’s a chance to get out and get away from the house,” Norris said with a grin. “Spring is coming.”
Also for bird enthusiasts, one of the biggest crowd pleasers at the show was “Pappy,” a 5-year-old barred owl. The well-behaved bird didn’t seem to give a hoot if curious show attendees wanted to come up and pet his feathers.
“It’s more like fur instead of feathers,” said David Marancik, a 17-year-old from Orland who works with the Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary in Ellsworth.
Marancik added that people are initially a little intimidated by the owl but “Pappy” quickly grows on them. “They’re impressed by his tameness,” he said.
For those wishing to perhaps get a bird’s eye view of the Sportsmen’s Show, UM’s Maine Bound offered a taste of rock climbing. The group’s portable climbing wall was set up in the fieldhouse during the weekend and was one of the biggest draws for children.
“We want adults to try it, too, but I guess they’re not as brave as their children,” said Jay Beveridge, of Kenduskeag, as he attached harnesses to kids anxiously waiting to try the wall.
Beveridge, a first-year student at UM and a member of Maine Bound, said some of the climbers got a little nervous when they made the trip back down the wall. “It’s hard to trust the rope at first,” he said.
Keith Fox, a 13-year-old from Biddeford, agreed.
“It looks scary at first,” the camouflage-clad Fox said of the wall climb. He quickly added, however, that it was also a lot of fun.
At an exhibit a safe distance away from the ropes involved in the wall climbing, Mudd Sharrigan displayed his knives.
Sharrigan, of Wiscasset, has been handcrafting knives for the past 15 years, and said that for the most part no two of his knives are the same.
“I’m still learning right up until today. Every knife is a new experience,” said the 68-year-old who is a former house builder.
Sharrigan, who kept plenty of Band-Aids handy at his booth, said he was glad to see so many people turn out for the Sportsmen’s Show and he especially enjoys seeing children take an interest in outdoor activities.
“It’s nice not to see them next to a computer. It really makes me feel good,” Sharrigan said.
James Jordan, one of the outdoor sports enthusiasts crowding the fieldhouse during the weekend, said he has been to the Sportsmen’s Show for the past five years and usually sees something new each year.
As he watched a cedar canoe being handcrafted, the 23-year-old Brewer man added that he attends the show to see what new outdoor sports products are available and to check out the prices on hunting and fishing trips.
“It’s fun to come and look, and wish a little, I guess,” Jordan added.
There was also an opportunity for outdoor sports enthusiasts to “wish a little” at the Bangor Boating and Marine Exposition over the weekend.
“We get people who are just in here dreaming and people who are interested in purchasing and are looking for information,” said David Dunn of Bangor, who was taking tickets at the boat show on Saturday night. “From the boats I can see, there’s a lot of dreamers.”
The boat show offered those in attendance a look at more than 225 booths including sport boats, bass boats, inflatables, runabouts, day sailers, jet boats and outboard and inboard powerboats of various sizes and colors.
“I think boating has always been very popular in Maine,” said Dot Matson, a sailboat dealer who operates out of Bucksport.
Matson’s interest in boats began as a little girl when her father taught her to refinish the hull of a boat. Matson said she has had the sailing bug ever since.
“It’s good exposure. It gives you a chance to have everything under one roof,” Matson said of the Bangor boat show.