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CHAMBERSBURG – The Franklin County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America will host its second annual Gun Show and Sportsman’s Outdoor Sale from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, August 20, on the league’s own Waltonian Meadows located off of Cornertown Road in Chambersburg.

More than 60 vendors including both professional dealers and private individuals will sell and barter all manner of outdoor sports gear that will appeal to fishermen, campers, hikers, shooters, archers, trappers and more. While there may be some fine furniture featuring wildlife art at the show, general flea market, yard sale and household items are not allowed.

In addition to the vendors, there will be conservation-centered educational booths featuring representatives from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Trappers Association, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and more.

Food and refreshments will be available and there will be plenty of free parking. For attendees who require assistance traversing the spacious 23.8 acre property, Forrester Farm Equipment, 1475 Orchard Rd., Chambersburg, will provide on-site mobile transportation.

Not just a gun show

When Craig Minnich, coordinator of the show, originally proposed the idea of the Gun Show and Sportsman’s Outdoor Sale, he envisioned 20-25 vendors peddling their wares to a few dedicated outdoorsmen. On the day of the event, there were more than 50 vendors serving more than 300 attendees.

This year, the plan has been adjusted to accommodate more than 60 vendors, and the new layout takes full advantage of the Waltonian Meadows pavilion, creek access and natural shade.

“Gun shows are quite popular,” said Minnich. “But we didn’t want to make it just a gun show. We wanted to open it up to all sports.”

The Gun Show and Sportsman’s Sale is a celebration of the sporting lifestyle as well as a fundraiser for the league, but it is also an outreach effort to introduce a new audience to the group’s mission of conserving, restoring and promoting the sustainable use and enjoyment of natural resources, including soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife.

“I was born and raised here, but I never knew what they were,” said Minnich of the group that is known to non-members primarily for its pavilion that can be reserved for events. “When you tell them ‘Izaak Walton League,’ they don’t know what we are or who we are, but they know where the property is. They’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I was down there for a wedding.’”

He added: “It’s a conservation group. It’s not like a hunting club or a gun club or an archery club.”

Broad appeal

By not limiting itself to any single aspect of conservation, the league appeals to people interested in all of them. Minnich is a gun and bow hunter who laments the decline in small game hunting in the region. Chapter president Tom Cutchall is knowledgeable in waterfowl hunting. Other members are experts on trees and forestry. Izaak Walton himself was a fisherman who published “The Compleat Angler” in 1653. The book is still considered a classic of nature writing because of Walton’s ability to describe fishing in a way that is “at once an environmental, social and spiritual experience.”

Rod Cross, president of the Falling Spring Chapter of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, will be on-hand to give two fly-casting demonstrations. Trout Unlimited is a conservation group dedicated to serving and protecting America’s cold-water resources, and they have collaborated with the Izaak Walton League as part of Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing.

“They’ve found that fly fishing is a very therapeutic way to exercise or regain focus,” said Cross. “It really helps the men and women out. The Izaak Walton League has been an excellent partner with us with their property along the Conococheague and support of everything that we do.”

Friends of the earth

Cross stressed that Trout Unlimited – like the Izaak Walton League – is a conservation movement rather than a fishing club.

“Having clean water is paramount,” he said. “The fish and the insects in the stream are like the canaries in the coal mine. We’re looking at different things, but we’re in it for the same quality of habitat.”

Cross is a bit concerned with a recent increase weed growth in the region’s waterways, but overall there is a consistent flow of water that is the right temperature and pH for trout. The biggest risk to fishing in town is complaints from residents who own property along the creek about fishermen being disrespectful and not following the Fishing and Boating Commissions regulations. He said that the land-owners have been gracious to allow artificial lure, delayed harvest fishing on their property, but if the fishermen refuse to do it responsibly then that could come to an end and those portions of the creek could stop being stocked

Ken Lehman, owner of Vintage Collector Arms, Inc., located at 346 Cumberland Ave. in Chambersburg, along with his wife Phyllis, was successful at last years show and will be returning this year.

“They’ve been very accommodating and have planned well,” said Lehman. “They’ve made some changes since last year, which think are going to be positive.”

Specifically, he referred to the fact that this show allows vendors to drive right into their spaces, set up their tables and canopies and begin selling right away. This is contrasted with indoor events where vendors have to park outside and haul their merchandise and displays inside and then spend an equal amount of time tearing down at the end of the day.

For vendors, these events aren’t so much about business transactions as they are about getting together with other hunters and fishermen.

“My experience in the firearms industry has been that any time I go to a show and set up, it’s more of an exposure opportunity for me than actually selling individual items,” said Lehman. “It opens the door for people to come [to my shop].”

Instant background checks

Lehman is one of several Federal Firearm Licensed dealers who will be at the show, and the league has already been in contact with Harrisburg to make sure that they can handle the increased number of instant background checks the event is expected to generate.

“As long as there is good phone service, it’s not complicated,” Lehman said. “The process is exactly the same as in my store. A person has to go through the Pennsylvania Instant Background Check to purchase a handgun or a long gun from a dealer.”

Lehman also participates in the Izaak Walton League’s other fundraising venture, an annual banquet where items donated by local businesses are auctioned off.

The Izaak Walton League of America was formed in 1922 by 54 sportsmen. Today the league has more than 43,000 members in 240 local chapters who are dedicated to conservation efforts at the national, state and local levels. The Franklin County chapter has more than 50 members who meet on the second Thursday of every month.

According to the league’s website, almost every major, successful conservation program that America has in place today can be traced directly to a league activity or initiative. People interested in becoming a member of the league can contact a current member or visit www.iwla.org.

General admission to the Gun Show and Sportsman’s Outdoor Sale is a $5 donation per person; kids under 10 get in free.

The event will be held rain or shine.

The GPS coordinates for the Izaak Walton League: N 39 Degrees 97.104* W 077 Degrees 62.800.

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