Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Survival at the Big Game Show

One of the great things about sports shows, besides seeing all the new gear and shopping for special deals, is the wealth of information you can get for free. It’s also amazing what you can learn if you just ask a couple of questions.

Sunday I went to the Greater Virginia Sports and Big Game Show at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds. Stacey Rowe, who along with her husband Max, owns and manages the show explained one of the show’s main goals.

“Our passion is getting others involved in the outdoors,” Rowe said. “And if you can take one person and get them involved then it is kind of like a chain reaction.”

One person who takes a very interesting approach to getting folks engaged in the outdoors is Tim MacWelch, founder and head instructor of the Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival.

Earth Connections offers more than twenty classes in subjects like wilderness survival, primitive technology, deer hide tanning, friction fire making and wild, edible plants. The school has two locations, a 10-acre farm in Somerville and another sixteen-acre wooded lot near Durham, N.C.

Outdoor skills are as important as they are interesting. No one goes on a hike or a hunting or fishing trip with the idea they might get injured or lost, but it happens. Hunters, anglers or anyone who spends a lot of time in woods and mountains here in the Valley should have a basic understanding of wilderness survival.

“We teach as many things as we can put under the umbrella of self-preservation, self-sufficiency and self-reliance,” said MacWelsh. “We teach modern wilderness survival with modern techniques, tools and technology and we teach primitive, Stone Age survival skills with sticks and mud and rock and dirt and string and whatever you can make out of the materials at hand.”

I asked MacWelsh what type of people came to his schools.

“We have one of the broadest demographics I have ever seen. I have high school kids up through retirees, who are from every possible region, every income level and all the adults we have come through [are] from every walk of life,” MacWelch said. “I have carpenters and doctors in the same class, I’ve got mechanics and lawyers in the same class. I’ve got computer people and I’ve got landscapers in the same classes.”

One of the most interesting things he showed me was how simple and easy it was to build a snare. He used a tabletop demonstration of a spring pole snare trap to teach me.

Here is how he explained it.

“What we have is a slender sapling, it’s a little tree and it is bent down under tension and its held in place by a string, which goes underneath of a hook and is held in place by a toggle. The toggle wants to slide out but it is held in place by a little small peg. The peg would have bait on it that would entice an animal to go in and investigate it and hopefully nudge it a little bit,” he said. “While they are investigating the peg they have their head through a noose to be able to reach that peg. And if they disengage the peg then the snare engages and hopefully they are caught around the neck or by the foot.”

The trap was pretty simple to build. Everything you needed could be built without tools. It was just a matter of finding a branch, breaking some twigs and adding a length of twine.

Like I said you can learn a lot if you ask a couple of questions.

You can enjoy another sports show and the National Archery in the Schools Program Tournament this weekend.

The 22nd Annual Western Virginia Sport Show takes place at Augusta Expoland in Fishersville today until March 1. You can get more information on the show’s Web site at westernvasportshow.com.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is conducting the First Annual National Archery in the Schools Program Tournament on Saturday. The tournament is being held in cooperation with the Western Virginia Sport Show.

Take a kid or a friend and go enjoy the show.

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