Champlain Valley Expo, Essex Junction, Saturday, January 19, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Last weekend was a bonanza for those whose sights were trained on acquiring the newest guns, ammo, bows, arrows and camo gear, and yet another reason for critters in the North Country to indulge their anxiety disorders. The area was host to both the Green Mountain Gun & Knife Show at the South Burlington Holiday Inn and the Yankee Sportsman’s Classic  at the Expo. The former was a more basic ogle-and-handle adventure in firearm display. I chose the latter, a more diverse and esoteric journey into the culture of animal dispatching. The nearly 150 exhibitors ranged from Army recruiters to smiling “start-up crossbow sets for kids” salesmen; from barkers proclaiming the fecundity of Québec’s animal populations to breakthroughs in taxidermy. Some highlights follow.
The eight-day archery and muzzle-loading season ended in December, but that didn’t stop hundreds of hunters from lusting after the guns that fit that unique qualification. Basically a highly evolved musket, the muzzle-loader can’t be fired as rapidly as a rifle and hasn’t nearly the range. In the wrong hands, it — like the crossbow and compound bow — stands a better chance of maiming an animal than killing it. But the .50 caliber MDM Muzzleloaders’ “Buckwacka” model ($350) will certainly provide a murderous racket, if nothing else.
Bowtech was attempting to market its “101st Airborne” compound bow ($595) by donating a portion of its proceeds to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which provides services to families that have lost a loved one during active duty in the armed forces. Less lethal items included a marshmallow gun made by C&M Sales in Malone, N.Y. A cool-looking collection of right-angled PVC pipes, the thing hurtles multicolored mini-mallows and requires just a shallow breath to operate. At $10, it was my “best buy” candidate for the show.
Among the hunter-aiding vehicles, Duck Water Boat’s “Stealth Fighter 17” was a standout. A collection of in-line swivel seats bolted to a camouflaged aluminum vessel, it’s essentially a shooting gallery disguised as a Navy Seal-like landing craft. At $12,500, many years will be required to recoup the cost in duck meat, but then, who can put a price on the joy of watching five friends fire shotguns simultaneously at an approaching mallard?