As one of a really small subset of political animal — an urban liberal with guns, an account at Cabela’s and a freezer full of ducks — I find myself both delighted and appalled by the International Sportsmen’s Expo, which wraps up today at CalExpo.
Delighted because I love my huntin’ retrievers, and I love being outdoors with my huntin’ retrievers. And I love looking at gear for huntin’ retrievers. The ISE is a great place to do that, better than the biggest Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop combined. For me it’s all about the dogs, the celebration of the bond between a working dog and handler, and a retriever doing what he was bred to do, with enthusiasm and style. I have come to accept rather grudgingly that what my dogs do involves the occasional demise of some very pretty waterfowl. Sacramento, by the way, is smack dab in the middle of some of the best waterfowl huntin’ areas in the nation.
Appalled, because hunting is still tough for this city girl to get her arms around. More honest and almost certainly kinder than buying your factory-farmed meat shrink-wrapped, but still, I find myself sometimes thinking we’d all be better off as vegans. While it’s debatable whether wildlife as a whole would be better off (game management and so on) it’s a pretty good bet that any individual duck or deer would be vehemently anti-hunting if asked for an opinion.
And then there’s the whole weirdness that is a steady stream of overweight middle-aged men in undersized T-shirts with slogans celebrating blood lust. The idea of enjoying the killing kinda squicks me out. For me it’s about everything except the actual killing, which I hate.
As I said, it’s damn conflicting to be a gun-totin’ liberal city girl bird-dog lovin’ hunter. And all the conflict comes into play at the ISE, which is a total celebration of all things killin’, with more booths offering more ways to off birds and deer than you can possibly imagine. But then: Cool camo! Duck calls! Braided kangaroo leather whistle lanyards! Swoon.
Much as I enjoyed all the huntin’ dog gear (there’s fishin’ gear, too, but I couldn’t care less about that), I was really there to see the action and compete at SplashDogs.
The sport’s concept is easy to understand: Dock, pool, dog. Throw something into the pool for the dog and a computer measures the length of the dog’s jump after he runs down the dock and leaps into the pool. World record is excess of 28 feet, which my retriever didn’t come close to in three enthusiastic official jumps. But, we got soaking wet (great thing on a 40-degree morning) and had a swell time watching it all. Some of those dogs catch some serious air!
With a little practice, I bet my ‘triever could double his best effort. It’s all about speed off the dock and elevation, I observed. For my retriever, it was all about the Tennis Ball. He’d jump into hell after one, I swear.
The show opens for its final day this morning at 10 a.m., and the SplashDogs start warming up shortly after. Official SplashDogging starts at noon, just over the bridge from the main entrance. All dogs are welcome to try the sport. (Tell ’em at Will Call you and your dog are there to compete and you’ll get a pass on the entry fee. You’re still on the hook for parking, and SplashDogs costs $20 per dog per round). The best jumping will be at 3 p.m., when the finals start.
One soaking wet morning is plenty for me this time around, but we’ll be back next year, for sure. Where else am I going to find such a superb opportunity to overthink my huntin’ angst while having so much fun?