MANITOWANING— The crowds attending this year’s Deer Show in Manitowaning were steady and enthusiastic, easily establishing that although a relatively new scene on the Manitoulin Island summer schedule, the celebration of the Island’s historically favourite fall pastime is a definite hit with Islanders of all ages.
Walking into the main surface area of the Manitowaning community arena, memories of pouring over the sports pages of the Eaton’s and Sears catalogues as a young Northerner, calculating how long it would take to save up to finally purchase that 22-calibre rifle to replace the pellet rifle hanging on my bedroom wall, washed over this writer.
That same light could be seen reflected in the eyes of the younger attendees at the show as they gazed at the tables, laden with rifles, shotguns and bows of every conceivable vintage and style as their parents discussed the various merits of different sporting rifles with the attending salespersons.
Al Clark admits to owning several firearms already, but although there are more years between him and that young man dreaming over those long-age catalogue pages, the avid hunter gleefully (in a reserved avid hunter sort of way) unwraps his purchase to show off the modern coloured stock of his Savage purchase.
Mr. Clark likes the thumbhole style in the stock, and it certainly provides a steady straight through grip. His purchase comes complete with scope and, although used, looks as clean and sharp as the day it came out of the gunsmith shop at Savage.
Walking into the Deer Show, volunteers Sophie Bondi, Elena Hovingh and Sarah Hovingh are piling up the volunteer hours as they anticipate their first year at Manitoulin Secondary School. The young women handle their admission duties with calm friendly competence, selling Deer Show merchandise along with their admission duties.
Inside the hall, vendors such as young entrepreneurs Peter Hall and Alicia Butty of Bidwell are plying their wares. This is the young businesspeoples’ first “trade show” and their many metal cutout silhouettes are proving to be a popular item. Heather and Dennis Crowder of Morphet’s Sideroad raise alpacas and the wool-lined inserts among their products look like a warm shoe-in for any hunter’s boot.
Other booths tout hunter safety, hunting television programs, ATVs and the perfect clothing and accessories for the bush conscious hunter.
“We have eight new vendors this year,” said organizer Jackie White, who credited her “incredible volunteers and committee of Ron Cooper, Steven Wood, Mike Sprack and Paul Methner” with making the event a success. “They are the ones who make this happen. I also have to say that we owe a great debt of gratitude to Perry’s Gun Shop of Sault Ste. Marie and Rylan’s Clothing of Mindemoya for taking a chance on us when we first started. They really helped to establish us as a serious event.”
Among the serious events were a series of workshops and presentations going on throughout the day on subjects as varied as conducting a successful hunt, establishing a network television show and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
Outside, bow expert Sheila Madahbee was shepherding young archers on the firing line with the assistance of partner Raymond Beaudry. Together they provide bow courses at Wikwemikong High School, so they have had plenty of experience with passing on their passion for the sport.
Back inside the arena, cook-off judges (hunt camp veterans all) Bob Purdy, Buck Phillips and Larry Robinson prepare to dig into venison pies. In the end it was Keith Williams who stepped out the door with the trail camera prize (and was looking forward to having the remainder of his pie for dinner).
There is little doubt that the Manitoulin Deer Show will continue to grow larger with each passing year as word of its quality production and value to the hunting community spreads.